Stephen Forwood, born abt 1737, was the Gunner on Captain James Cook’s HMS Endeavour during its epic journey of discovery. Stephen’s older brother Thomas had sailed with James Cook earlier in 1756 on HMS Eagle. Thomas attained the rank of Lieutenant and it may be through this connection that Stephen was appointed to the Endeavour in 1768.1
Stephen Forwood kept a journal during the voyage and on 11 May 1770 described the geography which was Port Stephens, Broughton Island and Mermaid Reef off Crowdy Head. He also mentioned the following day “three remarkable hills, which we called the Three Brothers”.2
Conditions on these wooden ships were appalling and have been well documented. Food was unpalatable with vermin abounding. Water was undrinkable and respiratory diseases and tuberculosis thrived, while scurvy meant at least 25 per cent of the crew perished. However, Cook introduced rum to mix with the water, sauerkraut for vitamins and instructed the crew to bathe and change their clothes regularly. In fact, Cook recorded that he had not lost a single man until he reached Batavia.
On Cook’s return to England he wrote to the Commissioners of the Admiralty recommending Forwood fill the vacancy on the HMS Surprise sailing on 18 September 1771, and applications for promotion find his name attached to the HMS Boulogne 17 October 1774. Stephen was twice married but had no children, ruling out the theory that he was the direct ancestor of the Forwood family who settled in Australia. In actual fact it was Stephen’s brother Thomas who was the direct line, one of which was my great grandfather Percival and his wife Harriett.
It is amazing to think that my seven times great uncle documented my home town on the NSW MidCoast 250 years ago this year (2020).3
Author: Marilyn Boyd
Note: The Three Brothers were coincidentally called the same name by the Biripi people. Here is a video of their story of the Three Brothers produced by Wiriya Sati, ABC MidNorth Coast.
1 John Robson, Captain Cook Society, viewed 13 September 2020, https://www.captaincooksociety.com/home/detail/stephen-forwood-1737-1775
2 Stephen Forwood, A journal of the proceedings of his majesty’s Bark Endeavour (1 January 1762). Vol 1 Part 1 (1762-1780), page 246. Viewed 13 September 2020 https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-343226933/view?sectionId=nla.obj-348101852&partId=nla.obj-343331195#page/n240/mode/1up
3 The research used for this story comes from a transcript of an address given by Lieutenant Reginald B Forwood RAN at the Australian National Library on 14 April 1970, as the Canberra and District Historical Society’s contribution to the Captain Cook Bicentenary Celebrations.