Charles Cozens

Soldier, bully, wordsmith
Arrived 1840 on Woodbridge
Some convicts left a lasting legacy; like Cozens, whose observations of life as a transportee have illuminated the convict experience for us today.

In 1839 Charles Cozens, a 24-year-old sergeant of the Royal Horse Guards, was sentenced to 14 years’ transportation for using threatening language. He arrived in the colony on the Woodbridge.

Lodged at the Hyde Park Barracks, this highly literate man, never stuck for words, encountered ‘every evil in human shape’.

Cozens, who stood 6 foot 3 inches (190 centimetres) tall, later spent 12 months with the mounted police before he was freed in July 1846. In his book Adventures of a guardsman, published in England the following year, he paints a vivid picture of convict life both at the barracks and on board ship. It reveals that amid the cramped and foul conditions below deck, filled with ‘hardened sinners’ and ‘juvenile offenders’, prisoners were ‘manufacturing seals, tooth-picks, tobacco stoppers, and other ornaments out of bones’.