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Were Morant and Handcock murderers or 'scapegoats of the empire'?

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Introduction

Were Morant and Handcock murderers or 'scapegoats of the empire'? The legend that Morant and Handcock were Australians wronged by the British army is, indeed, a legend.1 As commented by Australian historian Dr Craig Wilcox, Australia's only soldiers ever to have been shot by a firing squad following a court martial, Lieutenants Harry 'The Breaker' Morant and Peter Joseph Handcock were justly dealt with. The myth regarding the harsh, unjust treatment of both men and the association between the Morant legend and Australian nationalism is seemingly na�ve and doubtful. However conflict of Morant's personality remains prominent amongst historians. The revival of the Morant legend is owed to the Bruce Beresford film, based upon nationalistic writings influenced by personal agenda such as George Witton's Scapegoats of the Empire. The realities and truths of Morant's life differ substantially to the legend. Morant and Handcock were not scapegoats but heartless murderers. Harry Morant and Peter Handcock were unstable men, held a desire accompanied with revenge to kill the Boer prisoners and carried out the unwarranted killing of an innocent German missionary. Harry 'the Breaker' Morant, 'a scapegoat of his own unstable character'2 and P.J. ...read more.

Middle

George Witton to counsel Major JF Thomas further questions Morant's persona and ability to speak the truth, I believe Morant got Handcock to deny his previous statement in which he made a clean breast of everything and they got to work to frame up an alibi... The reliability of the source is immense, as Witton wrote in defence of Morant and Handcock while critiquing the British High Command. Writer Max Sollitt comments on the nature of Morant's integrity with the jurisdiction, ..Morant falsified reports...clear he had not the slightest belief that he was carrying out open and legal orders as he claimed at his court-martial. Morant's perceived 'virtuous and legendary' character is further contradicted by the fifteen officers within the Bushveldt Carbineers. In disgust they reported Morant to the High Command and supplied evidence against him. Despite this, many continue to argue Morant was viewed in high esteem by his military contemporaries. The 'righteous' Breaker also held the reputation as a mule thief during the Boer War and experienced marital problems with wife, Daisy O'Dwyer. A month after the marriage he was in trouble with the law over unpaid bills and a stolen saddle, and his disillusioned bride told him to take a walk and not return until he reformed. ...read more.

Conclusion

This event was the final violation, and great resentment was felt towards Australian troopers, After this episode there was almost a mutiny amongst the Australian troopers at the fort and a letter was sent to Colonel Hall (British commandant of the Pietersburg area) making allegations against their officers.9 In conclusion, Harry 'The Breaker' Morant and Peter Joseph Handcock were not heroes or freedom fighters to be lauded. Both men were undesirable characters with cruel, callous and crude traits. Both were responsible for the deaths of Boers prisoners without trial and an innocent holy man. Their awful deeds not only brought a premature end to their lives, but great embarrassment to other Australians abroad and at home. These men were not scapegoats. Rather, they exploited the opportunities and circumstances provided by the British forces to carry out what they pleased. 1 The Breaker Morant and Peter Handcock Case, Dr Craig Wilcox 2 Carnegie: 1979: 10-1 3 The Bulletin, 19th April 1902, Frank Fox 4 Closed File, Kit Denton 5 The Breaker Morant and Peter Handcock Case, Dr Craig Wilcox 6 The Myth of Harry 'Breaker' Morant, Max Sollit 7 The Myth of Harry 'Breaker' Morant, Max Sollit 8 The Myth of Harry 'Breaker' Morant, Max Sollit 9 The Myth of Harry 'Breaker' Morant, Max Sollit ...read more.

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