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Henry William St Pierre Bunbury (1812–1875)

by Cara Cammilleri

This article was published:

Henry William St Pierre Bunbury (1812-1875), soldier, was born on 2 September 1812, a son of Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Bunbury, seventh baronet (1778-1860), soldier, author and politician, and his wife, who was a daughter of Lieutenant-General H. E. Fox, brother of Charles James Fox. Sir Henry Bunbury was under-secretary for war and the colonies from 1809 to 1816. At 18 his son was commissioned ensign in the 43rd Regiment; he was promoted lieutenant in 1833 and transferred to the 21st, with whom he spent three years in the Australian colonies: New South Wales 1834-35, Tasmania 1835-36, Western Australia 1836-37.

Bunbury arrived in Western Australia in March 1836; during his brief stay he was stationed in the York, Pinjarra and Busselton districts. Making an exploratory trip to the Williams, he founded a military station there. In December 1836, before the establishment of a station in the Busselton district, he travelled overland from Pinjarra to Busselton and back. His diary gives the first detailed description of this route and his comments on the Aboriginals and their way of life and the potentialities of the land disclose a shrewd and observant mind. He particularly noticed the metallic sands along the beaches near Bunbury and Busselton, the value of which has only recently been realized.

Sir James Stirling, having decided to form a military post in the Busselton district, sent Bunbury down in charge. Later when the township of Bunbury was formed, Stirling named it after him. Bunbury left Western Australia in November 1837.

After leaving Australia he served as aide-de-camp to the governor of the Cape of Good Hope, General Sir George Napier, whose daughter, Cecilia, he married in November 1852. They had three sons and a daughter. After active service on the North-West Frontier of India in 1849 and in the Crimean war he retired with the C.B. and the rank of colonel in 1862. He died on 18 September 1875.

The youngest of his three sons, William St Pierre (1859-1942), was commissioned in the Royal Artillery in 1878 and served from 1885 to 1888 in Australia, where he established the School of Gunnery at Middle Head, Sydney. He retired in 1897 but was recalled for service in 1914, finally retiring in 1918 with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

Select Bibliography

  • W. St Pierre Bunbury and W. P. Morrell (eds), Early Days in Western Australia, Being the Letters and Journal of Lieut H. W. Bunbury (Lond, 1930)
  • W. St Pierre Bunbury, ‘The Beginnings of the School of Gunnery at Middle Head, Sydney’, Stand-To (Canberra), vol 7, no 6, Nov-Dec 1962, pp 13-19.

Citation details

Cara Cammilleri, 'Bunbury, Henry William St Pierre (1812–1875)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 16 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


2 September, 1812


18 September, 1875 (aged 63)

Cultural Heritage

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Military Service