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‘Why choose Australia as a penal colony?’ is the subject of the Overseas Group virtual meeting topic and is in no sense meant to be a derogatory comment, we’re sure that Australia made a fine penal colony but it is 12,000 miles away and logistically must have given the authorities quite a headache.

The starting point for the journey to Australia was Portsmouth harbour in Hampshire. Prison hulks lay at anchor and conditions upon them were perfectly dreadful.

These prisoners were in a pretty awful physical condition, diseased and malnourished, they would be at sea for months and when they arrived in Australia, there was much to do to make a settlement.

The following ships were prison hulks in Portsmouth and Langstone harbours; HMS Pegase, HMS Protee, HMS Vengeance, HMS Crown, HMS Stirling Castle, HMS Racoonn, HMS Leviathan, HMS Defence and HMS Briton. On the Gosport side of the harbour lay HMS York, HMS Lion and HMS Captivity.

The prisoners were eventually transferred to the ships that would sail for Australia and eleven ships finally sailed from Portsmouth on 13th May 1787.

Approximately 775 listed convicts were on board, most of them from London.

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