Rear-Admiral Henry Lidgbird Ball (1756–1818) was a Royal Navy officer, best known as the commander of the First Fleet's HMS/HMAT Supply, for the exploration of environs around Port Jackson and Broken Bay, helping establish the Norfolk Island penal settlement, and for discovering and naming Lord Howe Island.

Henry Lidgbird Ball was born in 1756 at Birkenhead, Cheshire, England, to George Ball, Gentleman, and his wife, Lucy Stringer. Henry was baptised on 7 December 1756 in Holy Cross Church, Woodchurch, Cheshire, one witness being John Lidgbird, a wealthy local property owner.

Ball joined the Royal Navy when quite young, serving on various ships: HMS Venus, HMS Ramillies, HMS Raven, and HMS Lark. On 23 April 1778 he was commissioned a Lieutenant from March 1783 until April 1786 and commanded the cutter HMS Seaflower off the northern coast of Ireland.

In 1787, Lieutenant Ball was placed in command of the armed tender HMS/HMAT Supply as part of the naval escort for the ships of the First Fleet. Supply's armament had been increased in 1786 with the addition of four twelve-pounder carronades; the crew was augmented to 55. Additionally, a detachment of 16 marines from the New South Wales Marine Corps, under command of Lieutenant William Dawes, was embarked. The Supply had orders to create a penal colony in Botany Bay, New South Wales.

With Ball as captain, Supply sailed from Spithead, Portsmouth, on 13 May 1787 with the fleet commanded by Commodore Arthur Phillip. On 3 June 1787, the fleet anchored at Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain. On 10 June they began their voyage across the Atlantic to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, taking advantage of favourable trade winds and ocean currents. The fleet reached Rio on 5 August and remained for a month while resupplying. The fleet departed Rio de Janeiro on 4 September to run before the westerlies, reaching Table Bay in South Africa on 13 October, the last port of call before Botany Bay. On 25 November, Phillip transferred from HMS Sirius to the faster Supply, and with the fleet's faster ships raced ahead to prepare for arrival of the rest of his command. However, this "flying squadron" reached Botany Bay only hours before the slower members, so no preparatory work was done. Supply reached Botany Bay on 18 January 1788; the three fastest transports in the advance group arrived on 19 January; slower ships, including Sirius, arrived on 20 January.

On 14 February Ball on Supply sailed with Lieutenant Philip Gidley King, who was to establish a subordinate settlement on Norfolk Island. Ball learned the navigational and physical difficulties in approaching the island which were to affect future settlement there, but got ashore on 6 March.  On the return voyage he explored a small island sighted previously, which he named Lord Howe's Island after Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe; he also named Mount Lidgbird and Ball's Pyramid after himself. Ball's sketches, notes and descriptions of the landscape and fauna of Lord Howe Island and Ball's Pyramid were published in 1789 as a chapter in Phillip's book The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay.

On 6 May 1788 Supply left Port Jackson for Lord Howe Island to capture turtles, to supplement the food stores of the settlement, but discovered that the turtles were only present on the island in the summer. Phillip decided on an expedition to capture a native so as to learn their language and customs, so on 31 December 1788, Ball and marine Lieutenant George Johnston commanded two boats to Manly Cove where they captured Arabanoo. Supply made multiple voyages between the two settlements, Port Jackson and Norfolk Island, transferring men and supplies between them. She was also used to explore the waters and environs around the colonies.

On 5 March 1790 the Sirius and Supply left Sydney Cove to transport 300 convicts and marines to Norfolk Island, arriving on 13 March. Bad weather precluded landing personnel and provisions near the settlement, so the marines and some convicts were landed at Cascade Bay on the north-east coast. Here they had to jump individually from a boat to a rock; the jump was possible only when the tide was half out. By 19 March the weather had cleared and Ball and Captain John Hunter of Sirius started to unload the remaining convicts and provisions at the settlement on the southern shore. Ball noticed the current was pushing the ships towards the sunken rocks and signalled to Hunter before manoeuvring Supply away from the danger. Even though the Sirius was farther from the rocks than Supply, Captain Hunter was unable to save his ship from foundering. Supply, with assistance of the men on shore, was able to rescue every person from the sinking Sirius.

Sirius was supposed to continue on to Canton (present-day Guangzhou), to pick up supplies, so on 17 April 1790 Supply sailed with Lieutenant Philip Gidley King, who was to continue on to England with the Governor’s despatches, to procure provisions from Batavia, Dutch East Indies. Ball returned to Port Jackson 18 October, having chartered the Waaksamheyd to bring the rest of supplies, which arrived 17 December. Ball became very ill with a fever that had originated in Batavia. In March 1791 he sought leave to return to England both to recover his health and to attend to family affairs. Sailing the 25 November 1791 via Cape Horn, arriving at Plymouth 21 April 1792, completing a circumnavigation with Supply and carrying the first kangaroo to arrive in England.

Ball was promoted to Commander on 28 April 1792 for his achievements in New South Wales. He returned to duty in December 1794 with his appointment to HMS Flora, and conveyed the new British ambassador, Lord Bute, to Spain before returning from the Mediterranean in June 1795 when he was posted captain on 9 July. In September he was appointed to command HMS Ariadne, serving for the next eighteen months in the North Sea and The Downs.

In March 1797 Ball was appointed to HMS Daedalus, serving initially in home waters, before being transferred to the East Indies station. Off the West African coast in early 1798, Deadalus with HMS Hornet, was involved in the capture of seven vessels. Ball was off the Cape Colony when he encountered the French frigate Prudente and, in the action of 9 February 1799, after an eighty-minute battle, the badly battered French ship surrendered. The Daedalus lost two men killed and 12 wounded in the engagement; Prudente suffered 27 killed and 22 wounded.

Ball commanded three more vessels, first, HMS Zealand 1806–1807 and then HMS Gibraltar 1808–1810. During this time, in 1808, he unsuccessfully applied for the Governorship of New South Wales. His last command was Christian VII 1812–1813. In 1812 he went onto half-pay in semi-retirement.

In the summer, 1809 he was called as a witness at the Court-martial of James, Lord Gambier, which assessed whether Admiral Lord Gambier had failed to support Captain Lord Cochrane at the Battle of Basque Roads in April 1809. Gambier was controversially cleared of all charges. On 4 June 1814 Ball was promoted to flag rank as Rear-Admiral of the Blue.

During his time in Colony of New South Wales, Ball had a relationship with Sarah Partridge (also known as Mary Stokes), a convict who had been transported by the First Fleet in the Lady Penrhyn. They had a daughter, Anne Maria Partridge Ball, born 1789 at Norfolk Island. She was christened on 22 August 1789 at Sydney and travelled to England with her father in 1792 on his return voyage in Supply. Her mother Sarah stayed in New South Wales. No mention of Sarah or her daughter was made in Ball's will, but Ball's sister Mary made "my niece 'Ann Maria'" her heir in 1820.

On 17 June 1802 Ball married Charlotte Foster in London; she died a year later. He married again on 19 July 1810, at Kingston upon Thames, to Anne Georgianna Henrietta Johnston, who was 31 years his junior, she survived him and died in 1864.

He died on 22 October 1818 at Mitcham (then in Surrey and now in Greater London), England. He was buried in the churchyard at St Peter's Church, Petersham, in the family vault of his wife, Anne Georgianna Henrietta Johnston.

A plaque commemorating Ball was added to the Johnston tomb on 20 October 2013 at a service attended by the Australian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. –See Gravesite Plaques

The Fellowship of First Fleeters added their Plaque on 22nd October 2017 in recognition of Henry Ball. The Plaque was placed on the Churchyard Wall immediately above Henry’s tomb. –See Gravesite Plaques

Ball's Pyramid and Mount Lidgbird on Lord Howe Island, Ball Bay, Norfolk Island, and possibly Balls Head on Sydney Harbour are all named after him.

Ball appears as a character in Evelyn Cheesman's 1950 novel Landfall the Unknown: Lord Howe Island 1788.

Compiled by John Boyd January 2022.


-The Founders of Australia by Mollie Gillen pages 18,19, 20 &21

- Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia

- Parsons, Vivienne (1966). Ball, Henry Lidgbird (1756–1818) Australian Dictionary of Biography.  Melbourne University Press. ISSN 1833-7538  – via National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.

- Hutton, Ian (1986). Lord Howe island: Discovering Australia's world heritage. Canberra: Conservation Press. ISBN 090819840X.

- Phillip, Arthur (1789). Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay. John Stockdale, Piccadilly. Retrieved 2 January 2022 –  via Project Gutenberg Australia.

- Hunter, John (1793). An Historical Journal of the Transactions at Port Jackson and Norfolk Island. John Stockdale, Piccadilly – via Project Gutenberg Australia.





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