#AtoZChallenge Q: The Queens Colonial by Peter Watt

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.


The Queen’s Colonial is the first in Australian author, Peter Watt’s new series featuring Captain Ian Steele, commander in the British Army, in the mid 1800s.

The story starts in Sydney in 1845, where Ian Steele, is supporting his frail and widowed mother, while dreaming of how much he yearns to live a life in uniform, in Queen Victoria’s army.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, Second Lieutenant Sam Forbes, a gentle soul and a poet, from a wealthy and aristocratic, but treacherous, English family, wants nothing more than to leave the army, and live a more gentle life. Due to his family and his upbringing, he knows that is not likely to ever happen.

Later, these two men happen to meet in Sydney, and realise there is a striking likeness to their appearance. They very quickly devise a plan for Ian to take Sam’s identity and go to England, convince the family that he is their son that they haven’t seen for many years, and accept a commission into the British Army, who are about to face the Russians in battle.

My Thoughts

 At first I thought the story line about the swap of identities was ridiculous and unbelievable, but the author quickly convinced me that it made sense and it would work.

I have a love of history and war history, so this book was a pleasure for me to read. Even though The Queen’s Colonial is a novel, Watt has based it on thoroughly researched archival information. The battle scenes are taken from the actual eye witness reports of a newspaper journalist who posted war zone reports from the battle front via telegraph. These reports titled Reports From The Crimea were published frequently in The Times of London.

This is the first of Peter Watt’s books that I’ve read, and it seems that I’ve found a new favourite author. I will be watching out for the second book in this series.  I love the title, The Queen’s Colonial and very much look forward to the title chosen for the second book in the series. The book is beautifully presented with extremely beautiful artwork on the front cover.

My Rating: 4.5 star

About The Author

Peter Watt


Peter has been a soldier, articled clerk to a solicitor, prawn trawler deckhand, builder’s labourer, pipe layer, real estate salesman, private investigator, police sergeant and adviser to the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary. He has lived and worked with Aborigines, Islanders, Vietnamese and Papua New Guineans and speaks, reads and writes Vietnamese and Pidgin. He now lives at Maclean, on the Clarence River in northern New South Wales. He is a volunteer firefighter with the Rural Fire service, and is interested in fishing and the vast opens spaces of outback Queensland. – Pan Macmillan

Published in 2018 by Pan MacMillan. Paperback 396 pages, including author notes.

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1788: The Brutal Truth of the First Fleet

Title:  1788 The Brutal Truth of the First Fleet
            The biggest single overseas migration the world had ever seen

Author: David Hill
Publisher:  William Heinemann
Date of Publication: 2008
Genre: Australian History
Number of Pages:  400, indexed with a chronology, bibliography and research notes. Photos and charts ;included.


Hill starts at the beginning, where he describes in great detail, the circumstances and events of life in Georgian England, that led to the decision to send convicts to start a new Colony in an unknown far away country. He conveys the excitement that must have been felt by the officials behind the biggest mass migration scheme ever seen. He sets the scene of life in England at the time that transportation began and the reasons for the decision to transport the convicts to a new land.

The agonizingly long preparations for the journey are covered in great detail, along with the effect this had on the convicts, and the fear they felt at setting out on an unknown journey, to the other side of the world, knowing that it was unlikely they would see their loved ones again. While waiting for the journey to begin, prisoners were being housed in ships at sea, close to land, due to the overcrowded conditions in the gaols. The conditions and hardships on these temporary prisons were also overcrowded and unhygienic.  As a result, many of the prisoners were in a poor state of health when the journey began.

We follow the First Fleet on the long arduous voyage of eight months, over very rough seas to the new unknown land. The 11 ships that transported the convicts, marines and officers in what were atrocious, overcrowded and mostly unbearable conditions. We get to know many of the convicts with outlines of the crimes they committed and their sentences. There were over 1500 people transported with food that was expected to last two years, along with equipment needed to build the new Colony.

We learn more about why they took the particular route they did and their experiences at their various stop-overs enroute. The political arguments of the day are also outlined so that we can understand the reasons for such long protracted preparations and the many delays that occurred.

The book also contains information about how Australia was settled after the arrival of the First Fleet, and the hardships, problems and deprivations that were encountered, which seemed to be insurmountable and caused much despair and conflict. Conditions of famine, after failure of crops to survive caused rations to be continually cut, until the new arrivals were surviving on very meager starvation rations. Hill outlines the struggle for survival in the early days and years, which led to many deaths and finally to the settlement of Norfolk Island.

The Aboriginal people are not forgotten in this book. To read of the interactions of the marines and officers with the Aboriginal community in the context of today’s standards and understandings, is quite startling. However we must remember this was a different time with a different set of values.

We meet Governor Phillip and the officers who were consigned to set up and govern the new country. The insight into Governor Phillip is far more personal than any I have read previously. After reading this book, I feel I understand him more, and why he chose certain actions and outcomes that are sometimes criticised.

The author has included a chronology of events surrounding the First Fleet, from 1717 until the death of Arthur Phillip in England in 1814. Research notes are also included along with a comprehensive bibliography and suggestions for further reading.

Many text books have been written about this subject, but David Hill has used diaries, manuscripts and newspaper reports from the time, along with characterization, to bring the story to life, and to cause the reader to feel empathy for the convicts, and those given the task of starting settlement. This is a story of courage, tragedy, survival and the endurance of all involved. It is also a story of the short sightedness and uncaring attitude of the decision makers in the planning stages. In effect the First Fleeters were dumped in a new land, and left to make the best of i,t and survive the best way they could.

My Thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, as I am a lover of history, with a particular interest in the settlement of Australia. However, I was a little disappointed that there doesn’t seem to be any new information given at all. The information in this book could be found in many of the textbooks and histories currently available, if the reader could be bothered to look.

However, the author has written in such a way that this historical tale doesn’t read like a text book. It is written in the style of a novel, and is definitely a page turner. We meet many of the convicts and marines, and come to feel the pain they are suffering with the dreadful degradations and privations that they faced. The reader comes to understand and feel the hardships that the convicts and first settlers faced.


I would recommend David Hill’s book as an easy read and an introduction to Australian history for the new researcher. The subject matter can often be very dry and tedious to read, but the way the author brings the characters and events to life, makes it enjoyable and a page turner.  I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in history, Australian history, genealogy or family history. My recommendation also extends to anyone interested in just a good read. Even without a special interest in the subject, this book would be worthwhile to read.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About The Author

David Hill has had a successful career as Chairman and Managing Director of  the ABC, Chairman of the Australian Football Association, Chief Executive and Director of the State Railway Authority of NSW and Chairman of Sydney Water Corporation.  This is his second historical book. The first being The forgotten Children, which told the story of the children in England who were sent to Australia after World War 2, mostly without the consent of their parents.

Have you read this book. I’d love to hear your thoughts. I really appreciate the time it takes for you to comment and promise to reply to all comments.


Hell Ship by Michael Veitch


The true story of the plague ship Ticonderoga, one of the most calamitous voyages in Australian History.

Title: Hell Ship
Author:  Michael Veitch

Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Date of Publication: 2018
Genre:  Historical
Number of Pages:  260

This very well researched book tells the story of the dreadful voyage of the Ticonderoga, which left England in 1852, with a record number of passengers on board. The story of the Ticonderoga has been told for generations in Veitch’s family, as his great great grandfather James William Henry Veitch, was the junior doctor onboard.

As the ship sailed towards Australia, there was a huge outbreak of disease onboard, which took the lives of many passengers, and made the voyage a hellish one for those who survived. When the senior also became gravely ill, the authors great great grandfather was required to take over caring for the sick and dying.

As the ship sailed into Point Nepean, after it’s long and disastrous voyage, the yellow flag was flying, a universal sign that there was an outbreak of disease onboard. During the voyage, more than one quarter of the travellers lost their lives to typhoid. At the time of arrival, there were hundreds onboard who were very ill, and the ship wasn’t given permission to pull into port and disembark for days. Meanwhile many more died, while the ship was waiting for permission to dock and unload.

Most of the emigrants onboard the Ticonderoga, were victims of the Scottish clearances and the potato famine, travelling to Australia with hopes of finding a better life, after being victims of dreadful circumstances in Scotland. It seems very cruel, that these people who had already suffered so much, then had to face more suffering and sadness on this voyage.

My Thoughts
Hell Ship gives a very detailed account of the voyage, from official records. This voyage, was one of the biggest stories of the time, that is now almost forgotten. Not only is this account about the voyage and the disasters the emigrants faced, it is also about the people who were on the ship, and the tragic losses they faced, as the huge Ticonderoga made it’s way across the ocean, with it’s numbers of passengers decreasing quickly, as they were buried at sea.

Hell Ship is much more than the story of Michael Veitch’s family history. The book gives a remarkable insight into the hardships and horrors endured by emigrants on all ships, as they travelled to the other side of the world in the hope of starting a new and better life for themselves and their families.

I’m sure that anyone with an interest in history and especially 19th century history would really enjoy this book. Family historians and genealogists would find it extremely helpful in illustrating the conditions that the early settlers had in the long voyage to the new land.

This extremely well researched and historical document will now enable the story of the Ticonderoga to live again, and not be forgotten.

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Michael Veitch

This review has been reposted from my other blog Tracking Down The Family

Have you read this book. I’d love to hear your thoughts. I really appreciate the time it takes for you to comment and promise to reply to all comments.