David Blackburn (Royal Navy officer)

David Blackburn (1753–1795) was a Royal Navy officer. He was the Master of HMS Supply in the First Fleet that established the British settlement in New South Wales, Australia in 1788.[1]

David Blackburn
Silhouette of David Blackburn
Born(1753-01-01)January 1, 1753
DiedJanuary 10, 1795(1795-01-10) (aged 42)
OccupationRoyal Navy officer
Known forMaster of HMS Supply in the First Fleet to New South Wales

Early life

Blackburn was born on 1 January 1753 at Newbury, Berkshire, England. He was eldest son of Rev. John Blackburn and his wife Elizabeth, née Martineau. His family moved to Norwich after John's death in 1762.


He joined the Royal Navy on 5 May 1779, serving as a midshipman in Victory. He was serving as master of Flora in the west Indies in 1785.

First Fleet

In April 1787 he was appointed master of Supply, part of the First Fleet that established British settlement in New South Wales. During this time he wrote a series of letters to family members and friends, many of which are still extant.[2] These letters describe the events of the voyage and the early days of settlement, including Blackburn's participation in the expedition to Norfolk Island to establish a settlement there in February 1788.[2] Blackburn's letters record the change in his feelings towards the voyage. Initially reluctant to join the Fleet,[3] shortly before the Fleet left he told his letter in a letter that "my dislike to the voyage begins gradually to wear off".[1] Supply was part of the advance party of ships which arrived in Botany Bay on 18 January.[4] Blackburn also joined Phillip's expedition in search of a better location for the settlement,[2] and describes Sydney Harbour as "excellent and extensive".[4]


He died of illness on 10 January 1795 at Haslar Naval Hospital, Gosport, Hampshire, England.[2]


  1. Hirst, Warwick (2005). "Blackburn, David (1753–1795)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Supplementary Volume. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 26 July 2015.
  2. "David Blackburn (1753–1795)". Discover Collections. State Library of NSW. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  3. "Elizabeth Blackburn – Letter received from her son David Blackburn, 1787". Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  4. "Margaret Blackburn – Letters (14) received from her brother David Blackburn, 1787–1791". Retrieved 6 December 2013.
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