On 3 June 2023, the Bathurst Sub Branch of the RSL hosted a memorial service at the Bathurst Boer War Memorial to honour Lieutenant Peter Handcock who served with distinction during the Anglo Boer War.
CAPTION (main): Guests at a commemorative service at the Bathurst Boer War Memorial.
CAPTION (right): Beach Thomas – a descendant of Major James Thomas who defended Lieutenants Morant, Handcock and Witton during the Boer War – lays a wreath at the Bathurst Boer War Memorial. Images supplied.
The Memorial service was attended by descendants of Lieutenant Handcock and his defending officer Major James Thomas, as well as local Federal MP Andrew Gee, RSL Sub Branch President David Mills and RSL members, to pay their respects for Lieutenant Handcock’s meritorious and unblemished service to the New South Wales Mounted Rifles Contingent.
During the memorial service, replica service medals were presented to the descendants of Lieutenant Handcock and Major Thomas.
Former military lawyer Commander (retd) James Unkles addressed the service and explained how the manner in which Lieutenants Morant, Handcock and Witton were treated by the British Military Command remained controversial, shrouded in protest that they were scapegoated for the war crimes of their British superiors.
Mr Unkles explained how, on behalf the descendants of these men, he had advocated for an independent inquiry to assess compelling evidence that the trial and sentencing process was flawed and the denial of appeal, petition for mercy to the King or to state a military redress of grievance through their lawyer Major Thomas amounted to an appalling injustice.
Bathurst Boer War Memorial honours Bathurst men who served in the South African war between 1899 and 1902.
Lieutenant Handcock’s name was placed on the memorial in 1964 for his loyal and unblemished service with the New South Wales Mounted Rifles – and a campaign in 2021 calling for his name to be removed from the memorial because of his conviction for war crimes was firmly rejected by the Bathurst City Council and RSL Sub Branch.
During his service, Handcock was promoted to farrier sergeant before transferring to the Railway Services Police and, eventually, in February 1901, the Bush Veldt Carbineers as a veterinary lieutenant.
Lieutenant Peter Handcock was executed with Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant for allegedly shooting Boer prisoners.
See more on the Morant, Handcock, Witton saga here.