Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tench, Watkin

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TENCH, WATKIN (1759?–1833), soldier and author, is conjectured to have been born about 1759 in Wales; in his 'Letters in France' (p. 140) he refers to the 'happier days passed in Wales,' and in the dedication of his 'Account of Port Jackson' (1793) he acknowledges the 'deepest obligations' from the family of Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn. He became first lieutenant of marines in 1778 and served in America, being a prisoner in Maryland in that year. In 1782 he was raised to the rank of captain, and in 1787 was sent to Australia as one of the captains of marines in the charge of convicts. The expedition left Portsmouth under the command of Arthur Phillip [q. v.] 13 May 1787, and arrived at Port Jackson in January 1788. With some other officers he explored during six days in August 1790 the country inland (Collins, New South Wales, i. 131), and on 18 Dec. 1791 he left Port Jackson for England. He published in 1789 'A Narrative of the Expedition to Botany Bay, with an Account of New South Wales.' dated from Sydney Cove, Port Jackson, 10 July 1788. Its conclusions were perhaps over sombre, but its value is shown by the issue in that year of two more editions in English as well as by the publication of a Dutch translation at Amsterdam and a French rendering by M. C. J. Pougens at Paris.

Tench on his return seems to have fixed his residence at Plymouth. In 1793 he published 'A Complete Account of Settlement at Port Jackson in New South Wales,' with a dedication to Sir Watkin Wynn, and then entered upon active service again. He was on board the Alexandra with Captain Richard Rodney Bligh [q. v.] when, after a fight of two hours and a quarter, that vessel was captured and taken into Brest (6 Nov. 1794). On the announcement of Bligh's elevation to the rank of rear-admiral, Tench was selected by him as aide-de-camp and interpreter. From Brest they were sent to Quimper (17 Feb. 1795). Some time later he obtained permission to come to England, and he arrived at Plymouth 10 May 1795. Next year he brought out an interesting and trustworthy volume of 'Letters written in France to a Friend in London between November 1794 and May 1795.'

Tench was promoted to be major 1794, lieutenant-colonel 1798, lieutenant-colonel of marines 1804, and colonel 1808. He was appointed colonel-commandant en second in marines 1809, and was created major-general in the army 4 June 1811 (Gent. Mag. 1811, i. 669). At this date he was in command of the division of marines stationed at Plymouth, where Cyrus Redding [q.v.] often heard him describe the life at Port Jackson and give his views on the future of the settlement (Personal Reminiscences, iii. 259-78). His commission as lieutenant-general in the army was dated 19 July 1821 (Gent. Mag. 1821, ii. 175). He died in Devonport at the house of Daniel Little, a brother-in-law, 7 May 1833. His widow, Anna Maria, daughter of Robert Sargent, surgeon at Devonport, died there 1 Aug. 1847, aged 81.

[Boase and Courtney's Bibl. Cornub. ii. 710; Boase's Collect. Cornub. pp. 64, 975; Gent. Mag. 1833, i. 476; 1847 ii. 331; Literary Memoirs (1798), ii. 300-301.]

W. P. C.