Sydney Institute Presentation- Was Breaker Morant A War Criminal?

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35 Responses to Sydney Institute Presentation- Was Breaker Morant A War Criminal?

  1. Cholzada says:

    A new book on Breaker Morant has just been published in the UK.

    Breaker Morant: The Final Roundup Joe West & Roger Roper 978-1-4456-5965-7

    Kitchener’s scapegoat or a murderous war criminal? The truth about Breaker Morant revealed!

    Over 100 years ago Harry Harbord Morant (the Breaker) was shot by a firing squad in Pretoria. Thus began his ascension to national hero: over the years, some Australians have managed to turn his disgrace into distinction, to the point where a vocal body is now seeking a British pardon for Morant.

    Workhouse-born Edwin Murrant, educated by the Freemasons, emigrated on a £1 passage to Australia at the age of nineteen and found work on a cattle station in Queensland. Murrant spent the next sixteen years in Australia as a bushman, balladeer and black sheep renowned for his riding skills. Changing his name to Morant, he claimed to be the son of an admiral. At the start of the Anglo-Boer war he joined the army and went to South Africa, eventually becoming a lieutenant in the Bushveldt Carbineers, an irregular unit fighting in Northern Transvaal. Enraged by the death of a friend in battle, he instigated the murder of prisoners by way of revenge. A missionary who knew too much was also killed under suspicious circumstances.

    Arrested and tried, he was sentenced to death and shot. Australians suggest he did not have a ‘fair go’ and was martyred by Lord Kitchener. Others remain fixed in their opinions: he took the law into his own hands and paid the ultimate price for his crimes. This intensively researched book, featuring a wealth of new information, reveals the truth behind the legend of Breaker Morant.

    Published by Amberley Press, UK. Available from good bookshops or via Amazon.

    Happy reading

  2. james unkles says:

    Andries, I have used this blog to encourage fair debate and comment, as I am sure people like Caig Wilcox does on his site. The deletion of your comment was accidental and unprecedented, you will have to take my word for that. I think you have had a fair go, unlike myself, when I have to contributed to sites run by South Africans about the Boer war. Aside from personal abuse directed to me, I was excluded from one site! So, as I said, write whatever you wish, re post your earlier comment, unfortunately I can’t recover the comment. I have considered what I said about Charles and Craig, nothing defamatory that I can see. As stated earlier, I have great respect for charles as he works very hard to preserve history in his country a gentleman and well educated. Do I agree with all he says, of course not, nor he with me. As for Craig, I challenge his methodology in his research on this case and the various claims he has made usually generalised, devoid of credible evidence, usually based on here say and recycled comment by others. I first experienced Craig’s style in the House of Reps Petitions Committee and recently at the Sydney Institute, frankly nothing has changed to convince me that his methodology is credible and that meets the high standards of objective analysis and research. Do I personally dislike Craig, no we got on very well at the Institute, have I abused him, no. You may be interested to know that a number of people who attended the Institute presentation made a number of commnents that support my view of Craig’s presentation so it not my imagination. You may wish to seek comment from Richard about his experience as he attended.

    I won’t be writing on this blog for awhile, too busy with my real purpose to get this case reviewed to an objective standard, something that should have been done decades ago. An article clerk could have seen the trial process was a set up!

    You may wish to encourage Nicola Roxon to act in this regard and while you are at it, encourage Craig and Charles to do likewise. If we all work together, truth will be of benefit to all.

    I will give you a call for a chat a more efficient use of my time, but write as much as you like on this blog.


    Jim unkles

  3. jamesunkles says:

    Andries my apology, done in error while formatting the whole post. Will endeavour to restore tonight otherwise please re write.


  4. Andries says:


    Could you kindly restore my post that you deleted from this blog?


  5. jamesunkles says:

    Thanks Andries for this link, I have read it before. More news soon



  6. Richard Williams says:

    Sorry Jim but I have to respond to Andries’ latest illogical offering and then I’ll bow out of this discussion.

    Andries claim that I selectively quoted from Davey’s book regarding the list of witnesses at the Courts-Martial is incorrect. Following on from what I quoted Davey only went on to say that he corrected the spellings of the names of some of the people mentioned in the two sources.

    I’m not sure who “Van Heerden” is. If Andries means van Rooyen then I stand by what I wrote previously:

    Andries, contrary to what you claim van Rooyen testified that he saw Heese at 2pm and then “trekked on with his wagon until sundown” when he saw Handcock, who was on foot. By my reckoning that would place Handcock somewhere between 15 and 20 miles from the scene of the murder.

    I have no idea where van Rooyen met Handcock – he didn’t say and I certainly wasn’t there. A Google enquiry reveals that sunset in that region at that time of the year is just before 6 p.m. so assuming that he was travelling at about 4-5 mph in his wagon then I calculate that he probably travelled between 15 and 20 miles from Bandolierkop where he met Heese. I would also remind Andries that, according to van Rooyen, Handcock was on foot when he met him so the accessibility of the area on horseback is irrelevant.

    Andries, thanks for confirming that it was Rev. Krause who sent Silas’s statement to Colonel Hall.

  7. jamesunkles says:

    Thanks Richard, a considered and balanced piece. As to Charle’s self serving claim about Andrie’s research on the courts martial, we will see just how accurate Andries’research is when the case for pardons is tested before an inquiry of court of appeal. My doubts about Andries so called expertiese on the trials of these men is echoed in his challenge to me about the existence of the Manual of Military Law 1898, the same MNL that goverened the trial process in 1902. When I have tim,e I will attempt to post a copy of the front cover of the MNL 1898 on this blog. Andries may wish to go back to his research.

    Keep an eye on the media, for a major announcemnet about the resolution of this case is expected very shortly. Andries et al, including so called historian, Craig Wilcox may also like to reflect on the material they submitted to Robert McClelland and Nicola Rioxon. Here is a suggestion, when one ventures into the realm of law and legal processes, one needs to stick to the law, evidence and facts that can be reasonably inferred from such evidence. That’s what I have done in the work I have done to get this case reviewed. Emotive and partiotic letters may have their place in week end magazines and in books, but they count for nothing in legal submuissions and processes of review. I will be interetsed in testing Charle’s claim about Andries’experiese in the law when the case is reviewed.

  8. Andries says:


    I did not “participate in producing” Charles Leach’s book, as a matter of fact I saw the book for the first time after it was completed. You are correctvthat my submission to McClelland is in the book simply as an annexure.

    You have again only very selectively qouted Davey re the names of the witnesses at the Courts-Martial.

    Talking about wildely inaccurate assertions, where is it that you claim Van Heerden saw Handcock? Please provide farm name or a distance from a landmark if you could. Having been there, and having grown up about 75 km from there, I know how very accessible the area is for someone on horseback.

    The Berlin Mission Society documents show that the last sentence in Silas’ statement was: “…I could think of nothing else, than to run home and report the matter to Mr Endeman in Kreuzberg.”

    Endeman sent the document to Krause, who sent it to Hall.

    It is one of few mistakes that Davey made…

    I suppose that like Jim you dispute that Morant was found guilty of the murder of Chris Van Staden (12), and his family?

  9. Richard Williams says:


    In his open letter to the Australian Attorney-General, copies of which he emailed to The Australian newspaper and the Sydney Morning Herald on 25 October 2011, Charles Leach wrote:

    ”Andries Pretorius wrote an outstanding and undoubtedly the best researched assessment ever done on the Courts Martial and submitted it to your office. (This document will appear as an Appendix in my forthcoming book.)”

    so I think it is important that readers realise that each time you cite Charles’ book as a reference you are actually citing a source that you participated in producing. I haven’t read Charles Leach’s book so I can only wonder about his glowing recommendation.

    I am reluctant to engage further with you on this matter because I’m worried that it will only provoke another round of even more wildly inaccurate assertions that will only serve to prevent the casual reader from gaining a true insight into this affair. However, it is for that reason that I feel compelled to comment on your latest offering with apologies to Jim Unkles for once again hijacking his blog.

    In your previous post you directed readers to page 138 of Arthur Davey’s book as proof that van Rooyen placed Handcock near the scene of the murder. This is how The Times reported van Rooyen’s testimony (as reproduced by Davey on page 138 after he corrected misspelled names):

    ”H. van Rooyen gave evidence as to having spoken to the Rev Mr. Heese on the road about 2 p.m. The witness trekked on with his wagon till sundown, when he saw a man on horseback coming from the direction of Pietersburg. The man turned off the road. Afterwards a man came on foot to the witness. He could not say if it was the same man that he had seen on horseback. The man on foot was Handcock, who advised the witness to push on, as Boers were about.”

    As I stated in my previous post this places Handcock a long way from the scene of the murder.

    Corporal E.G. Browne’s sworn deposition appears on pages 91-93 of Arthur Davey’s book. In it he makes statements concerning the “6 Boers” case and provides hearsay testimony regarding the “8 Boers”, “3 Boers” and Lt. Hannam shootings. He makes no mention whatsoever about van Rooyen or the shooting of Rev. Heese.

    The other comments you attribute to him were actually contained in an unsworn memorandum composed by Trooper R.M. Cochrane who was not stationed at Fort Edward and who does not mention Browne as his source. (Arthur Davey p85) Various writers have described Cochrane’s document as “largely a conglomeration of baseless rumour and trooper scuttlebutt” (Bill Woolmore, “The Bushveldt Carbineers and the Pietersburg Light Horse”, (2002), p112) and “a blend of fact, hearsay and surmise, bears the stamp of hastiness” (Arthur Davey p74)

    van Rooyen’s own sworn testimony in the courtroom (as recorded above) is the only believable evidence. Why would he commit perjury?

    If you doubt that Silas gave evidence in court then you are saying that The Times correspondent and the Berlin Missionary, Rev. Wedepohl, also lied. By the way, Silas’ statement was sent to Colonel Hall by Rev. Krause, not Rev. Endemann as you claimed. Krause’s covering letter is reproduced in Kit Denton’s “Closed File” (p110).

    Following on from the list of witnesses he published on p125-126 without providing a source, Arthur Davey goes on to write: “The names of many of the witnesses were given in the Reuter’s Agency report published in The Times, 17 April 1902 (See No. 78) and in Witton’s Scapegoats.” He couldn’t have made it any clearer how he constructed his list.

    If you read my previous post carefully you will see that I didn’t claim that Heese’s body was found by Rev. Endemann. The party that Endemann either accompanied or sent found Heese’s buggy and they collected up most of his belongings which were later handed in to the military. Handcock reported finding a few remaining items near the buggy and he also listed Heese’s possessions, mostly the clothes he was wearing, found with his body about 300 yards away. Interestingly, he also reported that there were “three rugs thrown on the body”. Handcock’s report indicates that he initiated a wide search to locate Heese’s remains. I still fail to see how this report implicates him in the shooting. The report simply proves that he was sent to investigate and that he did a thorough and conscientious job.

  10. Andries says:

    Apologies, Wittons letter was written in 1929 as I indicated earlier.

    The bold in my previous post is not what I intended, apologies for that too.

  11. Andries says:


    Thank you for your baseless and misinformed attack.

    The deposition by Corporal E.G.G. Brown indicates that Van Rooyen “…told them that he had passed one of the Bushveldt Carbineers in the vicinity of Bandolierkop…”. This is where Handcock murdered Heese and his driver on Morants’ instigation. Brown wrote that the picket who spoke to Van Rooyen: “…was late minutely questioned by Lieutenant Handcock who was labouring under very great excitement…” (Leach, Charles (2012) “The Legend of Breaker Morant is Dead and Buried”, page 78).

    Your fairy tale that Handcock was spotted “between 15 and 20 miles from the scene of the murder” is exactly that. Van Rooyen and Silas went past each other around 300 yards from were Heese was murdered…

    Even Major J.F.Thomas indicated that he did not believe that a “fighting Boer” killed Heese. Thomas believed that Heese was killed by a member of the BVC, he wrongly believed it to be a joiner.

    Silas’ deposition was forwarded to Colonel Hall by Reverend Endeman, I doubt that Silas was a witness in Court. I have not seen anything that indicates such, your allegation that Davey just used “The Times’” article for the list is false. Read it again.

    Evangelist Mashaba and a small party from Kreuzberg failed to find Heese’s body (but at least they were braver than you suggest the BVC were, and were armed only with bibles). It is complete nonsense that Reverend Endeman was the first to find Heese’s body. Handcock wrote to Captain Taylor and gave and inventory of what he allegedly found at the scene, this telling document is quoted on page 76 of “The Legend of Breaker Morant is dead and buried”.

    Carnegie and Shields provide information on the letter from George Ramsdale Witton to Major James Francis Thomas dated 29 October 1902. For the sake of completeness for those without the book I happily provide the entire piece so that people may read it for themselves, for obvious reasons.

    “I was surprised to receive your interesting letter of September 14th. I intended writing before but could not seem to get a start…
    …That article in Smiths Weekly you read was inspired by a cousin of mine in Melbourne a Captain in the last war. I do not think it was you they were alluding to as the one who preferred to keep quiet. Personally I think the attitude you take with regard to Morant and Handcock and the Heese case is not the right one. I am inclined to think that neither of them took you into their confidence over that case. Up to the time of the Court of Inquiry when I was charged with complicity in his death I had no more knowledge of how Heese came by his death than the babe unborn, nor did I have at any time the slightest suspicion that Morant or Handcock was connected with it.

    It staggered me at the time, but my statement in reply I think cleared me of that count at the inquiry. Subsequently when we were allowed to see each other Morant told me that Handcock had broken down and confessed to everything including shooting Heese.

    I saw Handcock shortly afterwards and asked him about the Heese business, he said “why wasn’t you standing beside Morant when he asked me if I was game to follow the Missionary and wipe him out.”

    I had been with them up to the time Morant returned from interviewing Heese when he drove past the Fort. I left them then and went to my tent and did not see them again until they came back into dinner about seven o’clock. I believe Morant got Handcock to deny his previous statement in which he had made a clean breast of everything and they got to work to frame up an alibi which you know was successful and the means of their acquittal.

    But you must not forget Kitchener held Handcock’s confession in which he implicated me as an accessory (no doubt unwittingly done while in a highly nervous state) but that accounts for why only Morant, Handcock and myself were punished and the War Office so adamant in my case.

    Had there been no Heese case, the shooting of Boer prisoners would not have worried them much. But the shooting of Heese was a premeditated and most cold blooded affair. Handcock with his own lips described it all to me.

    I consider I am the one and only one that suffered unjustly (apart from yourself).

    Morant and Handcock being acquitted, my lips were sealed.

    I would very much like to peruse the sentence of the Heese Trial although I took no part in it or was present. If you have a copy would care to send it to me I would take particular care of it and return it safely.

    Personally I do not think there would be much in writing what you term The True Story of The Bushveldt Carbineers in view of the fact that the War Office may still hold Handcock’s confession.”

    Sgt Eland wrote about the relationship between Mrs Schiel and Handcock.

    I respect Wilcox for his integrity and professionalism, but you should know that I do my own research.

    Don’t blame me for calling a liar, a liar.

  12. Richard Williams says:

    Your quote from Witton’s 1929 letter:

    “Why weren’t you standing beside Morant when he asked me if I was game to follow the Missionary and wipe him out?”

    is not a confession to the shooting. Over the years Witton pieced together fragments of conversations that took place during a time of great stress. The participants had undergone months of solitary confinement and interrogation. I don’t think Witton lied, rather he simply managed to convince himself that he was justified in dissuading Thomas from re-opening the matter. However, I would like to point out that this is Jim Unkles’ blog, not a public forum, and I have no intention of engaging in any further private debate with you on this subject.

    However, I’m particularly concerned that people without access to the various resources will be influenced by the factually-inaccurate and poorly researched material you presented in the rest of your post. Your remarks are in italics:

    Witton wrote in his book that they heard a rumour about the murder of Heese at Bandolierkop… he then tells how he was sent to “investigate” but was told, by Morant, not to go to as far as Bandolierkop… work that one out…

    In the same paragraph Witton also says that Bandolierkop was “the most dangerous spot on the road to Pietersburg”. Witton only had half a dozen men and he had virtually no combat experience so it is not surprising that he was told not to take any risks. Even if he did find Heese’s body it wouldn’t have indicated anybody’s guilt.

    Heese’s body was “found” by Handcock ten days after his murder…

    Charles Leachs’ book, “The Legend of Breaker Morant is Dead and Buried”, contains information about some of Heese’s property that was handed over to his family later, I believe this confirms that Wittons’ 1929 version was in fact the only truthful one.

    The Australian War Memorial contains a letter written by missionary Rev. Krause. (Rev O.R.P.Krause to Rev. H. Grutzner letter dated 14th September, 1901. AWM PR83/120). In this letter Rev. Krause states that he received news of the incident at Bandolierkop on 25 August 1901 from a Rev. Endemann who in turn had been told about it by Silas Juno. Krause instructed Endemann to take out a party to investigate The party found Heese’s wrecked buggy and gathered up most of his belongings which were later handed over to the military. Rev. Krause reported the finding of the buggy to the military so it is little wonder that Lieutenant Handcock knew where to go to look for Heese’s body four days later. I fail to see how this “confirms” anything contained in Witton’s 1929 letter.

    Richard, Silas (see “Closed File, page 111) was NOT a witness at the Courts Martial and he did NOT exonerate Handcock! (See Davey page 125 for a list of witnesses none of whom were African. Handcock and Morant were also not prosecuted for the murder of Heese’s Ndebele driver (Leach page 73), probably due to his race.

    Andries, please turn to page 126 of Davey’s book. There you will see an explanation that he compiled his list of witnesses from The Times newspaper report and from George Witton’s “Scapegoats of the Empire”. If the names weren’t mentioned in either source then they didn’t appear in his list. Now please turn to pages 126-139. Davey has reproduced the same Times report dated 17 April 1902 that I referred to in my previous post. Now on page 138, three paragraphs above the one you referred to re van Rooyen you will see one which begins “A native deposed to having seen an armed man …” In fairness to Davey perhaps he left him off his list because he didn’t know his name.

    The Wedepohl document (AWM PR83/120) which I referred to in my previous post confirms that the “native” was Silas Juno. In that document Rev. Wedepohl, another Berlin Missionary, states “Silas Juno was later summoned before Court in Pietersburg and interrogated as a witness before Court, likewise Van Rooyen. Regard to Silas’ testimony he did not recognise the rider again”

    Richard contrary to what you claim, the witness Van Rooyen did not exonerate Handcock; he actually placed Handcock near the scene of the murder (see Davey page 138).

    Andries, contrary to what you claim van Rooyen testified that he saw Heese at 2pm and then “trekked on with his wagon until sundown” when he saw Handcock, who was on foot. By my reckoning that would place Handcock somewhere between 15 and 20 miles from the scene of the murder.

    Clearly the ploy by Handcock to get two women, one of which he had an affair with, to provide an alibi, worked.

    I don’t know whether Handcock actually had an affair with anybody or whether it was an invention by Denton, Ross and Beresford to add a bit of spice to their novel, play and movie respectively. In any case, five witnesses testified as to Handcock’s whereabouts as I showed in my previous post.

    You are entitled to your opinion but you seem to be following Wilcox’s lead by trying to discredit and label as liars everybody, past and present, who provides evidence that contradicts your point of view.

  13. Andries says:


    So you believe there was a “fair trial”… interesting.

    The identity of the murderer (and of the person who instructed him to do so) of Reverend C.A.D. Heese is no mystery since Witton’s 21 Oct 1929 letter to J.F. Thomas, kept secret until 1970. Unless of course Witton is viewed as a liar?

    Witton wrote: “I saw Handcock shortly afterwards and asked him about the Hesse (sic) business. He said: “Why weren’t you standing beside Morant when he asked me if I was game to follow the Missionary and wipe him out?”

    Witton wrote in his book that they heard a rumour about the murder of Heese at Bandolierkop… he then tells how he was sent to “investigate” but was told, by Morant, not to go to as far as Bandolierkop… work that one out…

    Heese’s body was “found” by Handcock ten days after his murder…

    Charles Leachs’ book, “The Legend of Breaker Morant is Dead and Buried”, contains information about some of Heese’s property that was handed over to his family later, I believe this confirms that Wittons’ 1929 version was in fact the only truthful one.

    If “justice” is important to anyone then I believe they would want to hold Handcock and Morant accountable for their despicable murders.

    Richard, Silas (see “Closed File, page 111) was NOT a witness at the Courts Martial and he did NOT exonerate Handcock! (See Davey page 125 for a list of witnesses none of whom were African. Handcock and Morant were also not prosecuted for the murder of Heese’s Ndebele driver (Leach page 73), probably due to his race.

    Richard contrary to what you claim, the witness Van Rooyen did not exonerate Handcock; he actually placed Handcock near the scene of the murder (see Davey page 138).

    Clearly the ploy by Handcock to get two women, one of which he had an affair with, to provide an alibi, worked.

  14. jamesunkles says:

    Richard, well done, a precise and researched response on a matter that has occupied the minds of many writers and researchers for decades. The fact remains if an inquiry is held into the case for pardons or the matter is determined by judicial appeal, the inquiry or appeal court is very unlikely to concern itself with the shooting of Heese as those charged, Handcock and Morant were acquitted. In addition to Col St Clair’s comment about the case, Witton describes the lack of credible prosecution evidence in his book.

    The fact is, the prosecution had a go at securing a conviction and it failed, that is where the matter ends. I put more faith in those present in 1902 for assessing the evidence that evidence was weak and failed the standard of proof beyond reasonable.

    I look forward to reading your next piece!


  15. Richard Williams says:

    At the start of question time the moderator, Gerard Henderson, asked this rather peculiar question of Jim Unkles:

    ”If there were an enquiry and if there hadn’t been a fair trial, and if there was a defence, what would Jim Unkles say would be a defence for a killing of an unarmed missionary and what would be the response of the representatives of British government if they didn’t, um if they were going to contest that view?”

    Jim Unkles responded in the only way possible: ”The answer’s very simple – Handcock and Morant are charged with the killing of the German missionary – they’re found not guilty.” The fact is, there was a fair trial and I’m sure the defence would be exactly as it was presented at the trial – but how could Henderson expect Jim to answer on behalf of the British government?

    On 6 February 1902 Deputy Judge Advocate, General Colonel St. Clair, wrote in reference to the Heese case:
    ”If no more evidence can be procured, I do not think a conviction will be obtained. But I advise the prosecution of Lt. Handcock being proceeded with.” (Arthur Davey, “Breaker Morant and the Bushveldt Carbineers”,1987, p123)

    Why proceed? Because they had already obtained a conviction in earlier cases held publicly, so by holding the Heese trial in secret inside the barracks the verdict wouldn’t matter. The public would believe that Morant and Handcock were being executed for Heese’s murder as well as for the other shootings. There can be no other explanation.

    The not guilty verdict came about because there were witnesses who could prove their innocence.

    The prosecution was able to establish that the shooting took place at around 2pm by calling two witnesses H. van Rooyen and “a native”. (The Times, 17 April 1902). The native’s name was Silas Juno (Rev. Wedepohl document Australian War Memorial PR83/120). Silas was unable to identify Peter Handcock as the armed rider he saw at the time of the shooting and van Rooyen testified that he continued on and met Peter Handcock, who was on foot, at sunset (i.e. around 6pm) which confirmed Peter Handcock’s own testimony.

    The Times correspondent reported: “Further witnesses proved that Hancock was at Schiel’s and Bristowe’s when the missionary was shot.”

    The writer’s choice of the word “proved” says a lot. It implies that, after hearing the testimony and the cross-examination, he was satisfied Handcock was nowhere near the scene of the shooting when it occurred at 2pm. This is particularly significant given that, in his entire report of the trials this is the only time the writer used the word “proved” instead of “testified” or “deposed”. Since the time of the shooting had already been established, the prosecution would surely have cross-examined the witnesses in an effort to establish that Handcock could still have carried out the crime but plainly the witnesses’ testimony cleared him. It defies belief that two local families (as well as Silas and van Rooyen) would commit perjury for two men they had known for such a brief period.

    According to ex-Trooper J.A. Heath, who was detained as a witness during the trials, the witnesses for the defence were “Mrs. Schiels (wife of a Dutch commander, who was a prisoner), Mr. and Mrs. Bristow, and Mrs. Schiels’s two sons” (Adelaide Advertiser, Thursday 8 May 1902, p3)

    It is not surprising that the court returned a not-guilty verdict and that the Pietersburg military chaplain, Rev. Joshua Brough, was moved to write “never, I should think, has a feebler charge been brought before a court”. (Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal, Saturday 3 January 1903, p3)

    Unfortunately we will probably never know who shot Rev. Daniel Heese but it most certainly was not Peter Handcock. Craig Wilcox chooses to ignore this verdict and all the testimony associated with it in favour of a private letter written almost 30 years later by George Witton to Major Thomas. We can only speculate about Witton’s motives for writing the letter but one important point should be emphasized – nowhere in the letter did Witton actually say that Handcock confessed to him that he shot Heese, he merely implied it. What I cannot understand is how Wilcox, when faced with the irrefutable evidence presented at the trial, can place so much reliance on the insinuations of a man who he labels elsewhere as a murderer of the truth. Is he saying that the seven people lied at the trial?

  16. Andries says:


    I agree that “its what happens in Court that counts!!”

    Popular sideshows like hearing and inquiries don’t count.

  17. jamesunkles says:

    Thanks Andries for the link to the site. Two comments, I decided last year not to enagage further with this forum, too much personal abuse and a waste of my time when I was and remain focused on securing inquiry and judcial review.

    Secondly, there have been many polls over recent years about the question of pardons. The majority have all carried votes in favour of pardons. My web site for example, has been running a poll and electronic petiton for two years. The recorded figures and comments speak for themselves. Even the televiwsion vote taken after the airing of the 60 minutes program in 2010 carried a poll that returned a vote in excess of 85% in favour of pardons.

    As any politician will tell you, ultimately poll votes don’t count, its all about the vote on the day of election that matters. In this case, I am focused on securing an independent judicial review so this case can be resolved. The various polling figures are very encouraging, but its what happens in court that counts!!


  18. Andries says:


    There is a post on this subject if you follow the link below:

  19. jamesunkles says:

    Hi Andries, tomorrow I will attempt and post a photo copy of the front page of the Manual of Military Law onto this blog following your comment:

    Again, I question the existence of a 1898 Manual of Military Law…

    I respect the MNL, this edition has been central to my research and I enjoy reading it in bed before I retire. I am sure you would find it interesting as it codifies what was a very sophisicated and enduring piece of militray law doctrine and legislation in the civilised world of 1900. The secrtion of customary law, very revealing!


  20. Richard Williams says:

    South African historian, Arthur Davey, in his book Breaker Morant and the Bushveldt Carbineers (1987) wrote “The Bushveldt Carbineers came into being early in 1901 for a particular purpose – the subjugation of an outlying area of the Northern Transvaal in which there was sporadic guerilla activity. In the language of our time it was to be a counter-insurgency unit.” (p.xvii). Most historians have agreed with Davey’s assessment.

    However, Craig Wilcox has a more fanciful view of the role of the BVC. In “Killer’s tale murdered the truth” (The Australian Literary Review, September 5, 2007 p.25) he wrote that their “main task was to protect Boer civilians who accepted British rule, to win friends where possible and conduct refugees to safety if necessary” . In his chapter in the iconoclastic “Zombie Myths of Australian Military History” (2010) he suggests that it was intended that they perform a role similar to that of the South African Constabulary, the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Canadian Mounties. It seems that from his footnote in “Zombie Myths …” he bases this claim solely on the diary entries of chronic whinger, Tasmanian Trooper Ronald McInnes, who wrote on 15 July 1901 “This corps is nothing more or less than police. We have no guns [i.e. artillery], there are as many Boers in the area as there are men in the B.V.C. so that there will not be much fighting, for they have a very strong position, and are reported to have two guns.” (Carnegie and Shields p63)

    If the role of the BVC was to be one of policing, protection and public relations as suggested by Craig Wilcox then surely those recruiting would have specified criteria other than “who can ride and shoot” on the recruitment posters (see ). The criterion “shoot” is unambiguous and makes it very clear what Kitchener really wanted the BVC to do.

    I have a photocopy of the original Attestation Form signed by Peter Handcock on 28 Feb 1901 when he joined the Bushveldt Carbineers where he was required to state: I hereby promise to obey the orders of my Superior Officers and to be loyal to his majesty King Edward VII his heirs and successors; and I declare that I can both ride and shoot. There is that word “shoot” again. It is little wonder that the junior officers of the BVC had difficulty understanding what was expected of them, particularly someone like Peter Handcock with his limited education and lack of sophistication.

    Speaking of “Zombie Myths of Australian Military History”, when reviewing it Paul Ham wrote:
    “some writers spend so much time hacking away at their pet zombie — and with so little effect — that perhaps it is they and not the poor, fly-blown creature who resemble the walking dead” (The Australian, 24 April 2010)
    I know he wrote this with some qualification but I prefer the quote just as it stands.

  21. jamesunkles says:

    Thanks Andries, I look forward to more discussion and I will post developments as they occur.


    Jim Unkles

  22. Andries says:


    I am not paranoid, stop taking cheap shot you claim to dislike so much and show some of the moderate language you value so much in people like the BVC expert, Charles Leach.

    All I am asking for is an explanantion of why you wrote: “…a passionate and proud South African WHO RESIDES IN HIS COUNTRY and promotes its history…”

    If you cannot explain the part in capital letters then an apology will do.

  23. Andries says:


    I agree with you regarding the concentration camps and Kitchener he was certainly a war criminal in more than one war, however I would include Roberts and the British King and Queen as war criminals.

    Craig did make a very good point regarding putting some distance between yourself and the victim and perpertrator. Morant, Handcock, Witton, Picton, Lenehan, Taylor, Robertson, Hannam, etc. were also war criminals. None of them deserve hero status.

    Good on you for your apology to Craig Wilcox.


  24. Richard Williams says:

    In his address to the Sydney Institute Craig Wilcox assured us that even though Kitchener’s concentration camps were pits of malnutrition, suffering and disease they were never designed to kill and they were less deadly than life out in the open . I wonder if the 28,000 Boer women and children, along with the countless thousands of native women and children, who perished in those barbaric hell-holes would agree.

    Wilcox also assured us, referring to the Serbian war criminal, that Kitchener was no Mladic. I wonder what it takes to qualify for war criminal status because surely the following examples alone would put him right up there with the worst of them.

    1. Following the Battle of Omdurman in Sudan in 1898 Kitchener allowed his troops and camp followers to slaughter thousands of wounded Dervish prisoners. In a well-known letter to his mother Winston Churchill wrote: I shall merely say that the victory at Omdurman was disgraced by the inhuman slaughter of the wounded and that Kitchener was responsible for this.

    2. After one Sudanese battle he had dragged the defeated Emir through a nearby town in chains with a halter around his neck, being whipped as he went. (Carnegie and Shields p108)

    3. In Khartoum he desecrated the tomb of a long dead revered religious leader. This was confirmed in the British parliament by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs who said: I understand that the body of the Mahdi was taken from its grave and thrown into the Nile because Kitchener felt that superstitious reverence which attached to the Mahdi’s memory might cause a recrudescence of troubles in the Soudan. (Hansard 20/2/1899)

    4. He destroyed the homes and farms of some 30,000 Boer families thus ensuring that many women and children perished either in his concentration camps or out on the veldt.

    5. In the concentration camps, where normal rations were meagre at best, he placed the families of those men who were still fighting against him on half-rations to force them to surrender. This was confirmed in the British parliament by the Secretary of State for War when the subject was raised: I understand that a distinction has been drawn between those who have surrendered with their husbands and fathers and those who come in to be fed while their relations are still in the field (Hansard 26/2/1901)

    And so on. I cannot understand how any fair minded person can continue to protect the reputation of this vicious criminal by sanctioning his abuse of military law where he made two junior colonial officers the scapegoats to protect himself and other senior officers.

  25. jamesunkles says:

    Relax Andries, life is too short for your paranoia. Let’s work together and try and get this case resolved. I bear no grudges and respect your interest in this case and its history. If you wish to work to get this matter sorted for all concerned, then count me in. Happy to discuss over the phone if you wish. If not, fine, I will post developments as they happen.



  26. Andries says:

    I’d like to have an answer on the xenophobic cheap shot you took at me for residing in Australia first.

    I don’t fear the truth at all, for that reason I would prefer a legal battle in Court.

    Bring it on, unless you fear the judicial system and justice!

    May justice prevail and the murder of Heese be reviewed and the murder of Van Buuren be properly dealt with for the first time.

  27. james unkles says:

    Andries, I respect Charle’s nationality and his passion for his heritage and domicile, simple as that. I am happy to chat on the phone, life is too short for cheap shots. Support and inquiry and encourage Wilcox to do the same what do you fear, the truth perhaps.

  28. Andries says:


    You wrote: “…South African who resides in his country…”

    What is the reason of stating this to a South African who lives in Australia?


  29. Richard Williams says:

    In my previous post I stated that Craig Wilcox told the parliamentary hearing in March 2010 that the trials lasted 6 weeks. I’ve just re-checked and in fact he did say the correct period of 5 weeks and I apologise to Craig for that error.

    It was in previous papers such as Wartime No 18 that he claimed 6 weeks.

  30. jamesunkles says:

    Thanks Andries, I will announce developments in due course. As usual, we go around in circles. I won’t waste more of my valuable time.

    As far as Charles Leach is concerned, I have great respect for a man who is moderate in his language, a passionate and proud South African who resides in his country and promotes its history. At the end of the day, I don’t think any of us are ‘world leading experts’. We all have made contributions to this case and its history, that’s enough for me. Your cheap shot about questioning my motives is just that, a cheap shot that will not, I repeat, will not derail my determination to get this case settled once and for all.


  31. Richard Williams says:

    In an article “Killer’s tale murdered the truth” (The Australian Literary Review, 5 September 2007, p25) Craig Wilcox wrote:

    In an age when a civil murder trial commonly lasted three days, this one lasted four months.

    He’s repeated this claim several times over the years but varies the length of the trial each time. For example, at the parliamentary hearing on 15 March 2010, perhaps conscious of the chair’s warning to be truthful, he claimed that the trial lasted six weeks. (He almost got it right that time).

    Apart from the obvious untruth regarding the length of the trial this argument is very misleading. There were six separate trials over a period of five weeks. Each trial was for a different offence with different sets of defendants and different sets of witnesses. Each trial lasted for about the three days he claims was standard for the period.

    It seems that the penny has finally dropped for Craig Wilcox. At the Sydney Institute forum he announced:
    Take for example the claim that the defence had virtually no time to prepare its case before the court-martial. Almost the court’s first act was to grant the defence an adjournment and in any case the trial was a series of courts-martial held over five weeks and there were gaps between them. By my count the defence had about seventeen days to get its act together.

    Major Thomas was originally retained to defend only Major Lenehan. The court granted one day’s adjournment so that permission could be obtained from Pretoria for him to act as counsel for the other defendants as well. Craig has now worked out that as each trial finished Major Thomas had about three days to prepare for the next one. I don’t have any legal expertise but I’m sure trial lawyers everywhere, who are busy preparing defences for clients facing capital murder charges, will be grateful for Craig’s expert advice that three days is plenty of time to get their “acts together”.

    In addition to making such a ridiculous claim he had the hide to gleefully boast:
    My count of days available for trial preparation is an example of the positive result of Jim’s pardon push

    If you mean that it’s exposing more and more of your outrageous assertions then I couldn’t agree more Craig.

  32. Andries says:

    I listened to the recording, one of the speakers is informed one of the speakers sounds crazy and bitter.

    Strange how Jim accepts the Courts Martial decision on Heese but disputes the guilty decisions by same.

    Jim claims that Heese was German, he was in fact a British subject. Jim again fails to state why his murder does not deserve justice.

    Jim believes it was the “Pom’s Party” and they should therefor pay for the process!

    The only “evidence” could come from the transcripts of the Courts Martial.

    Again, I question the existence of a 1898 Manual of Military Law…

    Jim is wrong about the link between the Morant case and the 1905 legislation. Read about the Wilmansrust afair for the facts.

    To quote the moderator: “Jim, that is not very sensible”.

    How does Jim get so worked up about “not just going out and shooting people without due process”…without remembering what Morant and Handcock DID! They murdered people who it was their duty to protect.

    Jim is dishonest about the murder if Tpr Van Buuren. When the Court found Lenehan guilty the finding indicated that Van Buuren was shot by Handcock.

    If the 110 years makes no difference then why don’t we start with the murders of Heese and Van Buuren.

    Jim is incorrect (again), Morant was an Englishman not an Australian.

    How many murders does Jim need Morant and Handcock to be guilty of? Apparently double figures weren’t enough for him… Crazy!

  33. Andries says:

    Col St Clair later agreed with the review of the Court Martial (Davey, pages 139 to 141) by Col Pemberton in February 1902.

    This review indicated that:
    • the officers were guilty of murders, for
    • which there was no justification, and
    • should take the consequences.

    Ask Charles Leach, the expert on the Bushveldt Carbineers about the eyewitness account relating to… “they made the prisoners dig their own graves before they shot them”.

    The eye witness account can be confirmed by digging up the graves of the Van Stadens. Chris will be found lying on top of his brother who was shot through the hips when he tried to run away after Morant et all forced them to dig their own graves.

    I still respectfully request that Morant’s countrymen return the body of Floris Visser so that it may be burried.

    James would it be appropriate to publish what some have said about you here?

    You are playing the man and not the ball, in my view you owe Craig Wilcox an apology.

    Ask for justice for the murders of Reverend C.A.D. Heese and for the murder of Tpr Van Buuren of the BVC who according to the Court was killed at the hands of Handcock.

  34. jamesunkles says:

    This presentation occured on 18 April 2012. The format was limited to 15 minutes per speaker and about 30 minutes for questions. As one would expect, such a lively topic would produced controversy and it did. In my view (and supported by several emails I received from members of the audience who attended), Craig Wilcox, self prefessed expert on the Boer war struggled for the entirey of his presentation to produce independent evidence in support of his argument that Morant got what he deserved and received a fair trial.

    Craig may know something about Boer war history, but he demonstrated to me that he lacks understanding of military law and procedures of 1902, criminal law and the principles of jurisprudence.

    As an historian, I expected more from Craig in the manner in which he presented his arguments. Instead, he rambled on with claims that he had made 2 years ago when he opposed the case for pardons before the House of Representatives Petitions Coimmittee, (the Committee concluded the case for pardons was strong and compelling).
    As one witer who emailed me, ”Wilcox to make assertion after assertion without any supporting evidence, and to allow Wilcox to misrepresent the historical facts of Morant’s trial and, even worse. I was exposed to some sort of “stream of consciousness” performance from Wilcox, involving self-serving generalizations, given out will-nilly, without any corroboration; a performance that was, in my view, not only irrelevant, but far more appropriate for a most-modernist poetry convention, than a robust academic discussion based upon an agreed position in military law.’

    Another critic of the Wilcox presentation stated: ‘
    ”He started his talk by trying to draw some strange parallel with the Milosevic trial and seemed to be suggesting that the Serbs would have enthusiastically got behind a Serbian lieutenant if that person had stood trial in the Hague in place of Milosevic. He lost me, I couldn’t see what point he was trying to make. He then went on to trot out almost all of his usual clichés, lies and exaggerations as you will hear if you listen to the podcast which apparently will be up later today.’

    Finally, another member of the audience emailed the following:
    ”I have challenged Craig Wilcox’s professionalism before on his “opinion over-rides fact” version of history (something called “emotional intelligence”, look it up), and I brought to his attention the “missing papers” of the St Clair legal opinion for which he apologised in the debate (after denying anything was missing), and I questioned the source of his statement “they made the prisoners dig their own graves before they shot them”, which he admitted was prejudiced and more than likely folk-lore. What I find most incredible is his statement “if you want military history that is based on self serving evasions and wilfull misconceptions about the past” when that is exactly what he spruiks.’

    I could go on with more quotes, but the the fact is Craig made several assertions, including challenging the standing of the Judge Advocate, Col St Clair as a mere legal officer. St Clair, a distinguised barrister and British officer who had significant field experience, applied himself diligently to reviewing the evidence presented to the Court of Inquiry. St Clair was Deputy Judge Advocate in the Boer war and presided over the review of dozens of trials and provided Military Command (Lord Kitchener) with details and precise opinions.

    St Clair, of all people who reviewed evidence was in the best position (as opposed to Wilcox) to judge that Captain Hunt and Taylor had issued to take no prisoners!

    As I expected, Craig had no comment to make about the distinguished jurists who since 1902 to the present (from Isaac Isaacs, KC, MP who petitoned for a pardon fpr George Witton to the former Australian Attorney General, Robert McClelland, MP who in 2011 supported the case for pardons) have declared that the convictions and sentences are in doubt and should be reviewed by an inderpendent tribunal.

    One powerful messge was apparent from the debate at the Institute, we should all support a for review by the Australian and British governments that will serve the interests of justice for the descendants from both sides and subject the case to independent review devoid of petty struggles and controversy. I am certyainly that vested interests of published historians and interest groups in Australia, South Africa and England fear an independent review as it may call into question claims made about this case, including that these men recveived fair trials and sentences.

    I encourage you to listen to the pod cast. I would welcome your comment on this site or by email at:

    You may also wish to contact Craig and discuss the ‘science of research and presentation’ and recommend that he study the legal issues of this case.

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