‘Breaker Morant’ trio issued service medals

Lieutenants Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant, Peter Handcock and George Witton are being issued service medals they were entitled to – 120 years late.

CAPTION (image below): James Unkles presents George Witton’s service medals to Witton descendant Brian Turley. Photo supplied by James Unkles.

The medallic recognition for meritorious and loyal service is eventually being issued thanks to tireless efforts by ‘Morant’ campaigner James Unkles.

Retired Australian military lawyer James Unkles has been working on the ‘Morant’ case as a passion project for more than 10 years, on behalf of the descendants of Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant, Peter Handcock and George Witton.

 

This is his latest report….

Service Medals

I am pleased to announce on behalf of the descendants of Morant, Handcock and Witton, medallic recognition that they rendered loyal and exemplary service to the Colonial Contingents during the Boer War.

Australian and British authorities no longer issue medals for service in the Boer War – however replica medals can be sourced for descendants once details of service are confirmed.

There is no legal impediment to such medals being issued to the descendants of these men.

 

Details of Service

Morant, from Renmark, served as a volunteer with the 2nd South Australian Mounted Rifles during the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902).

His service was meritorious and loyal.

He was commended by his CO for his service to the Regiment.

Morant held the rank of Lance Corporal and was promoted to Sergeant during his service in South Africa.

Morant eventually also served in British Contingent, the Bushveldt Carbineers. 

During his service he was commended for the capture of notorious Boer Commander, Kelly.

 

Handcock, from Bathurst, joined NSWs Mounted Rifles and deployed to South Africa on 17 January 1900 and served for 12 months.

His service was meritorious and loyal.

He then joined the Bushveldt Carbineers as a Lieutenant on 21 January 1901.

 

James Unkles presents George Witton's service medals to Witton descendant Brian Turley. Photo supplied by James Unkles.
James Unkles presents George Witton’s service medals to Witton descendant Brian Turley. Photo supplied by James Unkles.

Witton, from Victoria, joined 4th Victorian Imperial Bushmen as a Corporal, and went to South Africa on 1 May 1900.

His service was meritorious and loyal.

He also joined the Bushveldt Carbineers as a Lieutenant, on 1 June 1901.

Medals were recognised for Lt Witton’s service.

One of his descendants, Brian Turley, celebrated Witton’s service to 4th Victorian Imperial Bushmen, on 1 November 2021 (pictured).

Presentations to the descendants of Lieutenants Handcock and Morant will follow as soon as can be arranged.

 

Background

In service of the the British Empire, the Australian colonies offered troops for the war in South Africa. Australians served in contingents raised by the six colonies or, from 1901, by the Australian Commonwealth.

The Australian colonies had volunteers serving in contingents. About 25,000 Australian served in the war.

The war is also remembered for the controversial trial and execution of Lieutenants Harry Breaker Morant, Peter Handcock and the imprisonment of George Witton for shooting Boer prisoners.

On 27th of February 1902, Lieutenants Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant and Peter Handcock were executed,  George Witton was imprisoned.

Historians have claimed these men were used as scapegoats for the political interests of British Military Commander, Lord Kitchener and his political masters.

Evidence has emerged these men were not tried and sentenced according to law and advocacy continues to have this injustice addressed. 

A House of Representatives motion tabled in 2018 by Scott Buchholz MP on 12 February 2018 highlights this.

The motion expressed sincere regret and apology to the descendants of these men for the manner in which Morant, Handcock and Witton were treated. 

The Motion stated:
‘sincere regret that Lieutenants Morant, Handcock and Witton were denied procedural fairness contrary to law and acknowledges that this had cruel and unjust consequences; and,

sympathy to the descendants of these men as they were not tried and sentenced in accordance with the law of 1902’.

Scott Buchholz’s address to the House is compelling: 

Lieutenants Morant and Handcock were the first and last Australians executed for war crimes, on 27 February 1902. The process used to try these men was fundamentally flawed. They were not afforded the rights of an accused person facing serious criminal charges enshrined in military law in 1902. Today, I recognise the cruel and unjust consequences and express my deepest sympathy to the descendants’

James Unkles
www.breakermorant.com

 

Find more ‘Morant’ coverage on CONTACT, here


 
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Posted by Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

17 thoughts on “‘Breaker Morant’ trio issued service medals

  • 14/11/2021 at 2:35 pm
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    Thanks Trev. A gerat outcome for the descendants. An inquiry is long overdue and independent of Government and public servants and the British government that fears the truth being revealed. The case I have advocated is not a case of seeking pardons, but merely an assessment of the evidence, in the manner similar to that carried out by the New Zealand Government in 2000 in relation to the execution of five NZ WWI soldiers. If an injustcie was done then we can consider a remedy as was done in the NZ case

    Reply
  • 14/11/2021 at 1:41 pm
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    I too saw this story on the news. Did they or didn’t they? It’s a bit like those for and against Ned Kelly. Some see him as a murderous bastard, others see him as some sort of folk hero. All the same, I’m not trying to justify what they did, but certainly feel that their court martial was just a means to an end. Very political. From what I’ve read, it didn’t necessarily conform to the legal requirements of the day and therefore the result will always be questionable. Whatever crime they may or may not have committed wasn’t dealt with in accordance with the law. That was the injustice.

    Reply
  • 14/11/2021 at 12:44 pm
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    Their names were only returned to the Boar War Memorial in Bathurst about 1985 or there about. Lord Kitchener had demanded that their names be removed before he would unveil the memorial. All three did their Duty and are entitled to their rewards for that Duty undertaken.

    Reply
  • 10/11/2021 at 6:08 pm
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    As left-wing media continues to demonise these soldiers ie Peter Fitzsimmons, a travesty has been slightly overturned. I hope history isn’t repeating itself given the current way our Afghanistan SF heroes are being treated.

    Reply
    • 14/11/2021 at 2:24 pm
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      Thanks Glen. In my humble opinion, Peter knows nothing about due process and trial according to the law of 1902. His tired mantra is they got what they deserved. His book is one of opinion dressed up as historial evidence/fact and no mention of the military law that applied at the time, in particular reprisal and orders. His own admission is he contracted others to do reserach that in my opinion is biased and lacking in scholarship.
      In additon, these medals were issued to reflect the meritorious service in their respectrive Colonial Units, well before their service with the British Unit, the Bushveldt Carbineers.

      Reply
  • 09/11/2021 at 7:34 am
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    Seriously 120 years later, who cares? surely we have something more important to look into?
    Go ahead shoot me down but what good does this do anybody?
    So some relos will bathe in reflected glory, big deal.

    Reply
    • 09/11/2021 at 11:22 am
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      Really what a comment!!!! We should always care, and remember Servicemen and women no matter when their service was carried out and they should “NEVER EVER BE FORGOTTEN”.

      Reply
      • 09/11/2021 at 6:36 pm
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        AMEN

        Reply
      • 13/11/2021 at 11:56 am
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        Forgotten has nothing to do with medals.
        As I said what use is medals after 120 years?
        Someone bathes in reflected glory, big deal. So get it right.

        Reply
        • 13/11/2021 at 12:04 pm
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          I’ll take this opportunity to remind CONTACT fans to keep commentary civil.
          My view on this thread is that the issuing of medals goes some little way to repairing the reputation of this family as a whole. How can there be “reflected glory” from the service and reputation of men who were executed as war criminals – except via the quintessential Australian habit of celebrating a convict history.
          While it may not matter to some people, it does matter to others.

          Reply
          • 14/11/2021 at 2:49 pm
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            Well said Brian, this case means so much to the descendants who have endured decades of shame and guilt about how these men were treated by British Command. They seek an independent inquiry, by a former judge, perhaps someone who has served and understands military. I represent the descendants and they will abide by whatever the outcome of an inquiry. No one is seeking compensation, just the truth.
            My research over 10 years has been exacting and compelling. These men were not tried and sentenced accoring to law and suffered a terrible injustice, the denial of a right to appeal the sentences signed off by Lord Kitchener. They had a right to appeal to the Crown and seek intervention from the Australian Government of 1902.
            Have I got this wrong? I don’t think so. My research has been validated by so many, yet successive governments have resisted a fair review. I wonder what government fears?
            Support for Independent Review:
            Alex Hawke, MP, Greg Hunt, MP, Tony Smith MP, former Att Gen, Robert McClelland, MP, Scott Buchholz, MP, Sir Laurence Street, AC, KCMG, QC,(former Chief Justice of NSWs), Judge Alexander Street, SC, Gerry Nash QC, David Denton RFD, QC, Andrew Kirkham, AM, RFD, QC, Tim Fischer, AC, former Deputy PM, Geoffrey Robertson AO,QC.
            Their chorus in this case must be reviewed by an inquiry independent of government.

            Reply
    • 10/11/2021 at 10:24 am
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      Im sure if there was someone you loved that was potentially wrongly executed, yould be singing a different tune.

      Reply
    • 14/11/2021 at 2:31 pm
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      Thanks Geoff for the view.
      This case is compelling and so relevant to the drama facing SAS soldiers in 2021 ie investigation and trial strictly in accordance with the law, instead of trial by media.
      The passing of time and the fact that Morant, Handcock and Witton are deceased does not diminish the errors in the administration of justice. Injustices in times of war are inexcusable and it takes vigilance to right wrongs and address injustices to honour those unfairly treated and to demonstrate respect for the rule of law.
      Controversy about the trial and execution of Morant and Handcock and imprisonment of Witton still resonates with the Australian public and historians. A challenge to test the legal soundness of the arrest, trial and sentencing of the Australians must take place. The sacrifice of any Australian veterans in the past should be recognised and respected. If doubts exist as to the manner in which these men were treated by their military commanders, not tried according to law and denied appeal, then this should be examined by an independent authority.
      One of the most enduring responsibilities of Government is to protect the values and ideals of its country and to preserve a fair and just judicial system focused on the rule of law.
      How Australia responds to this case remains a test of our values and is important to the descendants and those who respect the rule of law and seek justice. In the eyes of the law and the Australian community, a wrong is never diminished by the passing of time, it reflects our Australian values and our duty is to put it right.

      Reply
  • 09/11/2021 at 3:09 am
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    Scapegoated by their hierarchy and not given a fair trial. How unusual……

    Reply
    • 14/11/2021 at 5:53 pm
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      [Posted for James Unkles]
      Thanks Trev. A gerat outycome for the descendants. An inquiry is long overrdue and independent of Government and public servants and the British government that fears the truth being revealed. The case I have advocated is not a case of seeking pardons, but merely an assessment of the evidence, in the manner similar to that carried out by the New Zealand Government in 2000 in relation to the execution of five NZ WWI soldiers. If an injustice was done, then we can consider a remedy, as was done in the NZ case

      Reply
  • 08/11/2021 at 7:35 pm
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    Re: Morant & Co medals, interesting story considering the still very controversial nature of the case. That said, it’s a great way of honouring their memory.

    Reply
    • 15/11/2021 at 1:49 pm
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      Thanks Andrew, the descendants are happy and relieved. More news to come about the resolution of this case.

      Reply

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