Detecting an 1830s British Army Camp

By Dave (Jarhead) Holland

The British soldiers who formed part of the ‘lonely garrison’ – as duty in the colony of Australia was known – were as far from Mother England as it was possible to be (save for a posting to New Zealand) and had been assigned a duty that some considered beneath a soldier. But they were soldiers of the proud 28th and 80th Regiments of Foot and though there were no battles to be fought on this particular posting, they carried out their duties with discipline and to the letter.

Their duty was guarding the convicts who were building the first major roads in Australia, starting with the Great South Road that would link the breadbasket pastoral areas with Sydney. These roads would also enable the free settlers to expand southward and eventually link Sydney with Port Phillip (Melbourne).

The construction of this road called for a massive amount of convict manpower and this manpower was confined in stockades spread along the route. Generally the convict gangs left the confines of the stockades during the day to form road construction parties and at the end of the work day, returned to the stockade. Working parties that were unable get back to the stockades because of time constraints often stayed in temporary satellite camps that were located a few kilometres from the main stockade.

In 2004 I set out to locate one of these satellite camps. I knew the exact location of the main stockade and because it was heritage listed, I also knew it was off limits to detecting. I was doing some research into a regimental history when I came across a letter from the stockade commander mentioning the provision of supplies to a certain satellite camp. The letter actually gave the exact location of the camp beside a river and the name of the river bend location was the same then as it is today. This obscure reference was going to be my starting point.

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