Breaker Morant And His Unjust Execution

Discussion in '1800-1914' started by syscom3, Feb 17, 2010.

  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    Australia has sent a petition to the Queen for the posthumous pardon of a British soldier who was charged with murder and executed during the Boer War more than a century ago. Harry “Breaker” Morant was a bush poet, horse breaker and womaniser who became part of folklore for the events that led to his execution by firing squad in Pretoria in 1902. Along with Peter Handcock, Lieutenant Morant was found guilty by a British court martial of killing prisoners of war in the final days of the war. The Attorney-General Robert McClelland sent the petition, which called for pardons because of legal errors, from Commander James Unkles to the British Defence Minister. Unkles said that there were grounds for overturning the verdict against lieutenants Morant and Handcock and their co-accused, George Witton, who had his death sentence commuted because it contained errors. “The passing of time and the fact that Morant, Handcock and Witton are deceased does not diminish the errors and these injustices must be addressed,” Commander Unkles said. “The issue is not whether Morant and Handcock shot Boer prisoners, which they admitted to, but whether they were properly represented and military law properly and evenly applied.” Morant was born in Somerset in 1864 and arrived in Australia when he was 19. He settled in the Queensland Outback and worked on cattle stations until he volunteered to fight for Britain in the Boer War in 1899. In 1901 his unit killed 12 prisoners of war and a German witness. The Australians admitted the shooting but Commander Unkles claims that a double standard was applied because soldiers of other nationalities had done the same thing. It was not clear whether there had been orders to shoot the prisoners. Commander Unkles found ten areas of concern — including lack of legal advice until the day before the trial, solitary confinement for three months and no communication with the Australian Government. “During the trial they were denied an opportunity to have their defence of obedience to superior orders tested in court as Lord Kitchener, the British military Commander-in- Chief — who allegedly issued orders to the accused to shoot Boer prisoners — declined to appear despite being called,” he said. Craig Wilcox, the author of Australia’s Boer War: the War in South Africa, said however that they should not be honoured with a pardon for war crimes. “Lining up civilians by the roadside and killing them, that’s just not right,” he said.
     
  2. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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    WOW, that was pretty interesting. Nice post.
     
  3. Florence

    Florence Member

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    They made a movie out of it too. It is worth watching if you get the chance.
     
  4. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Kind of interesting to see how this one will go. A sham trial vs admitting to shooting prisioners.

    My bet is they won't get the pardon.
     
  5. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    I dunno. If Kitchner's order holds any weight, they just may get that pardon.
     
  6. comiso90

    comiso90 Active Member

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    Its a FANTASTIC movie,,, must see.

    but thanks to this post, you know the ending!

    :mad:
     
  7. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Name of the movie is "Breaker Morant" (didn't see it named :)) and its an excellent movie. I think one of those very close to the truth.
     
  8. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    I knew the name was familiar somehow! Gonna have to try to find the movie, now.
     
  9. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    #9 parsifal, Feb 18, 2010
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2010
    Morant an his co-accused were Australians, serving under British command. Australia at that time was a new nation, and unwilling to challenge the ability of the british government, however, almost immediately after this incident, the Australian government passed laws that required all capital cases brought against Australian servicemen, to be tried in Australian coursts under the Australian law, using Australian judiciary and JAGs. The British government of the time knew how badly the trials had been conducted, and never raised any objection to this change in the law. I also believe that the death penalty in the Australian armed services was abolished, but would need to check.

    I am unsure if the New Zealanders followed us in this initiative

    The legends of the Breaker still have an effect on Australian military folklore
     
  10. wheelsup_cavu

    wheelsup_cavu Well-Known Member

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    Interesting story Sys.
    Thanks for the post.


    Wheels
     
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