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Re: Breaker Morant - An Alternative View

From: Barry Caligari
Date: 2/2/2002
Time: 12:31:34 PM
Remote Name:


Steve, Thank you for your reply. I will deal with your points in order.

I agree it was not common to just shoot Boers wearing khaki. On the outbreak of war the Johannesburg and Pretoria commanders, for example, wore khaki uniform. As the war progressed the Boers became threadbare and barefooted as Kitchener’s denial policies began to bite. To relieve the situation Boers stripped prisoners and the dead of clothing, much of it khaki. But the shooting of Boers wearing khaki was well reported. Apart from Pakenham see comments by Deneys Reitz (and General J. C. Smuts) in Commando. The Boers believed “It was only after many had been executed that we learnt of Kitchener’s proclamation [sic] ordering the death of all Boers caught in khaki.”

Morant stated on a number of occasions, during and after the trial, that he only shot Boers of the Viljoen commando. The Kelly commando was not in any way associated with the Viljoen commando. The 8 Boers and 3 Boers were believed to be of the Viljoen commando.

Morant states he did not obey Hunt’s orders to shoot prisoners until Hunt was wounded, mutilated and murdered. As long as the law is obeyed the personal feelings of those involved is irrelevant.

The 6 Boers were not killed on the order of Robertson to Taylor. Taylor incited the murder of the 6 Boers. The pathetically weak commander, Robertson, acquiesced in the shooting and became equally implicated. Why was Taylor, Kitchener’s man in the Spelonken, so determined to have the 6 Boers shot. The obvious answer is on the general orders of Kitchener to shoot all Boer prisoners.

Robertson turned Queen’s evidence at the trial and was not, as far as history attests, asked why he acquiesced in the shooting of the 6 Boers. He was hardly likely to volunteer such information. Were you aware Robertson was reinstated as a Lieutenant this time in 1st Kitchener’s Fighting Scouts after the trials? Hall, Taylor and Robertson were all rewarded for services rendered.

As far as how I would feel being dragged out, given no defence, lined up against a wall and murdered as you say the Boers were, I guess I would feel the same as Morant who was singled out for attention while others more culpable escaped, denied a properly conducted defence and customary legal rights normally extended to the accused while vital evidence was withheld from his trial, then dragged out of Pretoria gaol and legally murdered at dawn despite a strong recommendation to mercy.

The centenary of the executions on 27th of this month has not lessened the perceived popular support of the injustice of the execution of Morant & Handcock. I understand the AWM poll finds two to one in favour of Morant. I predict this affair will be around forever unless both sides of this argument are examined by an impartial official inquiry and a definitive verdict delivered. This examination is denied by our Government on the grounds of jurisdiction, code for a historical reluctance to question the Imperial will. The British government, of course, has never been interested in the matter because, after all, only colonials were involved. In the meantime Morant progresses to martyrdom with little justification except for the injustice of the proceedings and the unsafe conviction. Regards BJC

Last changed: February 02, 2002