Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Charles Inches R. N.,

Convict Ship Surgeon-Superintendent

Date of Seniority Royal Navy 18 December 1821

Charles Inches was appointed to the position of Assistant Surgeon on 19 October 1812. He is on the List of Medical Officers who had served at War. He was Surgeon of the Cambrian at Navarin.

He was appointed assistant-surgeon on the Blossom in 1817[1] and the Cyrene in 1824 [2]


Charles Inches was employed on five convict ship voyages to Australia.

William Glen Anderson to VDL departing 2nd June 1831 for Van Diemen's Land

Portland to NSW in 1833 - departed Cork on 21st February 1833 and arrived in Port Jackson 26th June 1833

Westmoreland - departed London on 9th March 1835 and arrived in Port Jackson on 15th July 1835

John - departed 21st October 1836 and arrived Port Jackson 7 February 1837. John Inches' wife died at Portsea while he was on this voyage.[3]

London - departed Portsmouth 23 March 1844 and arrived in Tasmania 9th July 1844 with male convicts.

Quarantine Station

Three weeks after Charles Inches' arrival on the John in 1837 the fever ship Lady McNaughten arrived at Spring Cove. The surgeon had died and a new surgeon John W. Bowler had joined her as she was coming up the east coast. Bowler also became dangerously ill, although he recovered. Those passengers unaffected or recovered were placed in quarantine on shore and were accommodated in tents under guard. Their clothing and bedding were destroyed. Those still ill remained on board the ship.

Charles Inches was placed in charge of the patients on shore. His exertions on their behalf and at the Quarantine Station in general earned him a favourable mention by Governor Richard Bourke to His Majesty's Government.


He was afterwards engaged, for selecting and bringing out Emigrants from Hampshire and the adjoining Counties; or, if any unforeseen difficulty arose in obtaining Emigrants from Hampshire, then from Perthshire in Scotland, where he had connexions.[7]

He was appointed Surgeon to the Ocean at Sheerness on 27 May 1840, serving until 1842 [4]. H.M.S. Ocean was built in 1806. Her Captain was Sir John Hill and Commander Joseph R.R. Webb. Robert Gordon was employed assistant surgeon.

He suffered financially in the 1840s and took on one last appointment on the convict ship London to Van Diemen's Land in 1844.


Charles Inches died at Royal Crescent, Glasgow on 22nd November 1851 [5]. The Hampshire Telegraph reported that he was aged 58 and much respected as an officer and a gentleman, both in and out of the service and would be sincerely regretted by a large circle of attached friends and sorrowing relatives.

The late Dr Charles Inches was as generally known as he was deservedly esteemed in the Australian Colonies, with which he was long and intimately connected; not merely from having made many voyages as Surgeon Superintendent of convict ships, but in consequence of his having for several years satisfactorily filled the office of Australian Emigration Agent, in Scotland Yard, Whitehall.

Dr Inches three times experienced shipwreck – First, in the Cambrian, frigate, Captain Hamilton, immediately subsequent to the battle of Navarino. Next, on the east coast of Van Diemen’s Land, in the Leith Australian Company’s ship, Portland. And again in the Medora, from Sydney to London on the shoals off the entrance to Babia.

By the failure of the Bank of Australia, the savings of the best fifteen years of Dr Inches’ professional life were entirely swept away; and in 1844, his last visit in charge of convicts to Tasmania, by the ship London, was paid, in the sanguine but unavailing hope that something for his children might be saved from that gigantic bankruptcy. Dr Inches received several subsequent appointments from the Admiralty but these, due to declining health compelled him successively to relinquish. There are few who have possessed a warmer heart or a kindlier spirit than the late justly regretted Dr Charles Inches.- Ed.,[6]


[1] Edinburgh Magazine

[2]The Lancet

[3] Nautical Magazine

[4] Hampshire Advertiser 26 March 1831

[5] Gentleman's Magazine

[6] Southern Cross 15th June 1852 - Papers Past

[7] HRA, XVIII, p. 772, Bourke to Glenelg, 5 June 1837.

[8] Haultain, C. (compiled), The New Navy List, 1840, p. 213