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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/de Winton, Major George Jean

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de Winton, Major George Jean, F.R.G.S., son of Captain George de Winton, of Heywood Hall, D.L. for Somerset, by Emma Juliana, daughter of the late George Robinson, of Bath, and Rose Hill, Tonbridge, Kent, entered the army in the year 1841, at the age of seventeen, as an ensign in the 99th Regiment; and in 1843, with Lieutenant Elliot of the same regiment, embarked for Hobart Town in the barque Constant, in command of a convict guard. The surgeon superintendent was Dr. Stephen Hampton, R.N., afterwards Governor of Western Australia. Landing the prisoners at Hobart Town, the vessel proceeded to Sydney, and the detachment joined the headquarters of the regiment at Parramatta. After serving on detachment at Windsor, Newcastle, and Port Macquarie, he was, on promotion, on the occasion of the projection of a new penal settlement in North Australia, selected to command a detachment embarked in the Thomas Lowry, the civil staff and another detachment having before left in the ship Lord Auckland. The Lord Auckland went ashore in Port Curtis, her passengers encamped on Facing Island, and thus it came about that Lieutenant de Winton was the first to land and encamp on the mainland on the spot which is now Port Gladstone. On the first night the natives, by a shower of spears, signified their disapproval of the invasion of their territory. While taking precautions for repelling attacks, Lieutenant de Winton would not permit reprisals, being anxious to establish friendly relations with the natives; and in this, after a time, he succeeded, though on occasion at considerable personal risk. The Home Government, yielding to the strong opposition of the colonists of New South Wales to the formation of the projected penal settlement, it was abandoned, and the expedition returned to Sydney. Lieutenant de Winton was then sent in command of a detachment to Brisbane, being at the same time nominated on the commission of the peace. Brisbane was then little more than a collection of weatherboard huts, its commerce represented by three or four general storekeepers, a fortnightly steamer from Sydney, with an occasional small sailing-vessel, sufficing to supply its wants and those of the district. Its government was represented by the police magistrate, Captain Wickham, R.N., who had been a brother officer of Darwin in the Beagle, and the officer commanding the military detachment. Visiting the settlers and squatters on the Logan and the Darling Downs, Lieutenant de Winton was so impressed with the capabilities of the country to support a large population, that he, in letters to friends at home and to the London press, strongly advocated emigration to Moreton Bay. One of the letters, drawing a comparison between the wages of artificers and agricultural labourers in the Moreton Bay district and those ruling at home, was widely published, and drew the attention of many to the growing importance of the rising colony. In 1848 the detachment was withdrawn from Brisbane, and after a short period of service with the headquarters in Sydney, Lieutenant de Winton proceeded with a detachment of the regiment to Norfolk Island, remaining there for eighteen months, returning to the island for another two years, after an interval of service at Hobart Town. In 1853 Lieutenant de Winton was invalided from the island, and granted two years' sick leave. A sea voyage to England having much restored his health, he applied for employment, and was selected to form a recruiting subdivision at Preston. In 1854 Lieutenant de Winton was promoted, and went to command the depôt of his regiment at Chatham, and subsequently to command a detachment at Harwich. The Crimean war being then raging, Captain de Winton volunteered for active service, and was appointed Brigade-Major of the British Swiss Legion. After the peace Major de Winton returned to England, and shortly afterwards retired from the army. Major de Winton was one of the secretaries to the National Society for Aid to Sick and Wounded in War in 1870-71, was Deputy Foreign Commissioner of the South Kensington Exhibitions in 1871-2, and was connected with other exhibitions abroad. His name is not unknown in the literary world, he having for some time edited Colburn's United Service Magazine, and being still an occasional contributor to the press. Major de Winton married at Brisbane, in 1848, a daughter of Mr. Thomas White Melville Winder, of Windermere, Hunter River, New South Wales.