Thomas Bunbury (British Army officer, born 1791)

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Thomas Bunbury (19 May 1791 – 1862) was a British army officer. He joined the 90th Regiment in 1807 and fought in the Peninsular War. He joined the 80th Regiment in 1822 and served in Australia, New Zealand and India.[1]

He was commandant of the garrison and convict settlement at Norfolk Island from April to July 1839. As commandant, he was confident in his ability to manage the hardened convicts under his command. He wrote that he could not understand why "a villain who has been guilty of every enormity, should feel shame at having his back scratched with the cat-o-nine-tails when he felt none for his atrocious crimes." He also claimed that "if a man is too sick to work he is too sick to eat" and claimed that the queue at the hospital was halved. Although his punishments were harsh, he replaced hand hoeing with ploughs, rewarded good behaviour with improved jobs and gave older convicts lighter work.

He earned the ire of the soldiers on the island by ordering the destruction of huts built on the small gardens they kept for their own use and for trafficking with the convicts. The soldiers mutinied, a warship was sent to restore peace and Bunbury was recalled in July 1839.

In 1840, after William Hobson, Lieutenant-Governor of New Zealand, suffered a stroke, Bunbury was sent to New Zealand with instructions to take over as Lieutenant-Governor if Hobson was incapacitated, but he had recovered. Bunbury took the Treaty of Waitangi to the South Island on HMS Herald and took possession of the island. He was made a magistrate in 1841 and acted as Deputy Governor in January 1844. Later in 1844 he was sent to India.[1]

He retired on 31 December 1849 and returned to England where he died in 1862.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Foster, Bernard John (1966). "Bunbury, Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas, c.b.". An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand.