Australia to raise Boer War case with Britain

2011-10-21 07:24

Sydney – Australian attorney-general Robert McClelland said today that he would raise concerns about the fairness of the 1902 court martial of Boer War fighter Harry “Breaker” Morant with the British government.

Morant was executed by firing squad, along with fellow Australian soldier Peter Handcock, over the killing of a group of Boer prisoners, but more than a century later questions are still raised over whether they had a fair trial.

“The competing assertions still evoke considerable emotion even to this day,” McClelland said, adding that the case involved complex questions of law and historical evidence.

“I have been persuaded that this case does raise procedural fairness concerns. This is of particular interest to me because fair and proper process is at the heart of our justice system.”

McClelland said he would write to the British government to ensure it was aware that questions existed as to whether the men received fair judicial treatment, in accordance with the standards accepted at the time.

Last year British legislators rejected a call from Australian MPs for an official pardon for Morant, whose story has become a cause célèbre and formed the basis of the movie “Breaker Morant”, starring the late Edward Woodward.

Military historian James Unkles has taken up the case, arguing that Morant did not receive a fair trial over the killing of 12 prisoners of war and that he and his co-accused were denied the right to prepare their cases.

He has also cited allegations that British military commander Lord Kitchener, the mustachioed face of the famous “Your Country Needs You” World War 1 recruitment poster, issued secret orders to shoot Boer prisoners.

But Ashley Ekins, a historian who heads the Australian War Memorial, a government body, has said the soldiers were found guilty of “cold-blooded murder” in a process consistent with military justice of the time.

Morant, a horse-breaker and sometime poet, volunteered to fight with the British against Boer settlers during the 1899-1902 war that established colonies that eventually formed part of South Africa.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.