TENCH, Watkin (c. 1758-1833)

TENCH, Watkin (c. 1758-1833)
lieutenant-general, author
was born, probably in Great Britain, between May 1758 and May 1759; he was 74 at the time of his death in May 1833. He was well educated, and entering the British forces was commissioned a lieutenant in 1778. On 13 May 1787 he left England as a captain-lieutenant of marines, so described in an official document, but he was generally called captain, and arrived at Botany Bay on 20 January 1788. He remained in Australia until 18 December 1791 and kept a diary throughout his stay. In 1789 he published at London A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay, a most interesting account of the voyage and the early days at the settlement. This went into three editions and was also translated into French, German, Dutch, and Swedish. After his return to Europe Tench wrote A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson, which was published in 1793. This carried his account up to the end of 1791 and is a well-balanced and interesting document. Towards the end of 1794 Tench became a prisoner of war, his ship, the Alexander, having been captured by the French. He published in 1796 an account of his experiences, Letters written in France to a Friend in London. He had been promoted major in 1794, became a colonel in the army in 1808, major-general in 1811 and lieutenant-general in 1821. The last years of his life were spent at Plymouth and Devonport, where he died on 7 May 1899. He married Anna Maria Little, who survived him.
A fellow officer, Lieutenant Daniel Southwell, described Tench as "polite and sensible". He was a good officer and appears to have had a charming personality, though like nearly everyone else, he fell foul of Major Ross. He did some useful exploring, and wielding a lighter pen than most writers of the time, his two books on the beginnings of Australia are both very readable and valuable
The Gentleman's Magazine, 1833, vol. I, p. 477; G. C. Boase and W. P. Courtney, Bibliotheca Corunbiensis, vol. II, p. 710; Historical Records of Australia, ser. 1, vol. 1, G. Arnold Wood, Journal and Proceedings Royal Australian Historical Society, vol. X, pp. 15-22; G. Mackaness, Admiral Arthur Phillip. Interesting references to Tench will also he found in Eleanor Dark's historical novel, The Timeless Land.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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