The subject of Frederick Britten is one that needs further exploration. I actually covered his story in more detail than readers of Captain Thunderbolt and his Lady would realise. In fact, I wrote a whole chapter about him. But when the manuscript reached 127,000 words and my contract limit was 100,000 words (see On Writing Captain Thunderbolt and his Lady – coming), I realised that the entire chapter on Britten would have to go.
Fortunately, my decision to establish this back-up website – indeed my decision to produce these daily blog posts – has provided an opportunity to resurrect deleted material. The chapter on Britten is one of them (see Frederick Britten chapter).
Britten has me stumped in more ways than one. Who exactly was he? In gaol admission records, he said that he was born in Tasmania in the mid-1830s, but no reference to his birth has been found nor to any Britten/Brittain/Britain family he could have belonged to. He said that he arrived in NSW on board the Julia in 1845. While a ship with that name was journeying across Bass Strait in the mid-1840s, it was only travelling to Port Phillip and Adelaide. Had he come to NSW by land from Victoria?
Annie Rixon in her Thunderbolt books had Ward and Britten as childhood friends, but her novels are so poorly researched that one can almost assume that if she claims something it will be wrong. Indeed, she says that Thunderbolt was Fred Britten rather than Fred Ward!
The information I have discovered for Britten is documented in his Timeline.
But there’s more. What was his connection with the Victorian felon who used Frederick Brittain and John Thomas Ellis as an alias? And what was his connection with John Ellis, the man who visited him on Cockatoo Island? In my attempt to determine who all these people were, I produced another series of annotated timelines (see Britten/Ellis jigsaw puzzle).
All that seems clear about Frederick Britten is that his background is very murky indeed! In fact, it is highly likely that his name was not Frederick Britten at all. As to his true identity, research will need to be undertaken in the Victorian Public Record Office. If anyone who lives near the Public Records Office would be interested in pursuing this subject, please contact me.