First Fleet Driver Reviews

Summary: The First Fleet, consisting of 11 ships and around 1400 people, arrived at Botany Bay, Australia in January 1788. This event marked the beginning of European settlement in Australia. The fleet reviews, or inspections, were annual events that took place during the first few years of the colony’s establishment. These reviews were important displays of military power and organization, and served to reinforce British control over the colony.

1. Purpose of the Fleet Reviews

The fleet reviews were primarily held to demonstrate the colony’s military strength and readiness to defend against potential threats. They were also important social events, with the Governor and other officials inspecting the troops and thanking them for their service. It was an opportunity for the residents of the colony to see the latest weaponry and tactics being used by the British Army.

Furthermore, these reviews served as a way to reinforce British control over the colony and maintain order. By displaying their military might, the British were able to intimidate any potential enemies or rebels within the colony. The reviews also provided a sense of stability and security for the colonists, who had left their homes and families behind to start a new life in an unfamiliar land.

The fleet reviews were also a way to show off the progress being made in the colony. With each annual review, improvements in areas such as agriculture, infrastructure, and population growth could be highlighted. This helped to boost morale and encourage further development of the colony.

2. Organization of the Reviews

The Governor was the highest-ranking official present at the fleet reviews. Other officials, including members of the colony’s judiciary, were also in attendance. The troops themselves were arranged in battalions and companies, with their commanding officers overseeing the inspection.

The reviews began with a parade, during which the troops would march in formation and display their weapons. This was followed by various military exercises, such as firing muskets and cannon, bayonet drills, and cavalry displays. The inspections themselves involved a detailed examination of each soldier’s equipment and uniform, as well as their physical condition.

The reviews were also accompanied by various forms of entertainment, such as music performances and sports competitions. These events helped to create a sense of community among the residents of the colony, while also providing a distraction from the harsh realities of colonial life.

3. Significance of the Fleet Reviews

The fleet reviews played an important role in shaping the early years of the colony. They served as a reminder to the colonists of their place within the British Empire, and reinforced the idea that Britain was the dominant power in the region. By highlighting the progress being made in the colony, the reviews helped to promote the idea that Australia was a viable destination for future settlers.

At the same time, however, the fleet reviews also had negative consequences. They reinforced the idea that the colony was a penal settlement, rather than a legitimate outpost of the British Empire. The presence of soldiers and convicts, and the emphasis on military might, created a sense of unease among the Indigenous population who viewed the newcomers as a threat.

In addition, the fleet reviews perpetuated the myth of the noble pioneer, with the focus on agriculture and infrastructure development creating a false impression of peaceful settlement. In reality, the establishment of the colony relied heavily on the dispossession and mistreatment of Indigenous peoples, and the exploitation of convict labour.


The fleet reviews were an important aspect of life in early colonial Australia. While they served to reinforce British control over the new settlement, they also helped to boost morale and encourage further development. At the same time, however, they perpetuated harmful myths about the role of colonizers in the region, and contributed to ongoing injustices against Indigenous peoples. Understanding the significance of these events is an important step towards acknowledging the complex legacy of colonialism in Australia.

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