The “Breaker” to Get His Day in Court – The Documentary

Following a Screen Australia board meeting, Sydney independent production company, Film Projects, is proud to announce that their documentary series entitled Breaker Morant – The Re-Trial is now in pre-production. The 2 x 60 mins series tells the story of the greatest military controversy in Australian history, the trial and execution of Harry “The Breaker” Morant and Peter Handcock. It was commissioned by Foxtel’s History Channel along with international co-partner Sabido Productions inSouth Africaand will screen in 2013. “We’re delighted that this epic story is finally going to be told as a documentary,” said Gregory Miller of Film Projects who is also the film’s Co-Director/ Producer. “Most people know the story through the movie, but there’s a lot more to it than that. This series picks up where the film left off.” “The series will also exploreAustralia’s contribution to the Boer War and why it has become the “forgotten war.” It was the first conflict in which Australian soldiers left these shores en masse and fired a shot in anger. Federation took place in the middle of the war and the events that followed was the first test of Australian nationhood.“ Co-Director Nick Bleszynski, who also authored the history of Morant, Shoot Straight You Bastards!, added, “This film has been 110 years in the making.  There were doubts about the fairness of the trial as soon as the news reachedAustralia and the court of public opinion has never been satisfied.” “This series will pull no punches and is shaping as a major TV event that will live long in the memory.” The historical aspect of the story will be intercut with the contemporary legal campaign to get justice for Morant, Handcock and Witton, the third accused who spent two and a half years in a British prison after his death sentence was commuted. Military lawyer Jim Unkles has built a legal challenge to the original convictions and sentences and Breaker Morant – the Re-Trial will capture a rare moment of living history through the cross-examination of historians, legal experts and the presentation of compelling new evidence. Unkles said, “The series will examine the controversial trial and sentencing in detail and the refusal of the current Australian Government and Attorney General to support the case for review and assist the descendants of these men to get justice. It is my contention that serious legal and procedural flaws denied these men due process and I intend to put that to the test and that will be a focus of the documentary ’ Breaker Morant – the Re-Trial will be shot in Australia, South Africa and theUK and will feature historical re-enactments of key events and unseen archive material.

P1020606                  Jim Sth Africa and UK 103

Two photos of many, filming for the documentary in 2013, Jim Unkles with lawyers, Dan Mori, David Denton, QC and Jim at archives in Pretoria

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21 Responses to The “Breaker” to Get His Day in Court – The Documentary

  1. Jo Gellatly says:

    Jim McJannett. I would love any information that you could give me. I can be reached by email

  2. Andries says:

    Hi Richard,

    Why is the “affidavit” on your site not dated when it was written, i.e. 2013?

    It would also be a nice touch to add the real authors name.

    Sorry, I am a purist.


  3. Paul Remington commented some time ago that he would like to hear from descendants of Peter Handcock. I had intended to reply earlier but I wanted to get my own blog up and running first. Peter Handcock is my great-grandfather and I am very appreciative of the work Jim Unkles has put in on behalf of the descendants of these men. I was privileged to attend the moot court hearing in Melbourne last year and was very pleased with the verdict handed down. I wish Jim all the very best on the publication of his book early next year.

    If anyone is interested in reading my papers they can do so at

  4. Jim McJannett says:

    Jo …He was born in Miraflores, Mexico. Both his parents were Mexican-born. The grandfather being a Scot.
    Jim McJ.

  5. Jim McJannett says:

    Sorry Jo – see below. I intended to say that he was a MEXICAN nor Brazilian. Slip of the mind. Getting old.

  6. Jim McJannett says:


    Dear Jo,
    Google the above name in full and open up the caption. It will give you my comments on the above. I am sorry to tell you that he was a fraud with a police and gaol record as proof. He was never in the BVC. James Huntley Robertson was a totally different man, a Brazilian. I hold his full military record and a good deal of his civilian life. A friend is in contact with his descendants
    If you reply to this post I would be happy to give you some details on your ancestor and further details on James Huntley Robertson MC.
    Kind regards,

  7. Jo Gellatly says:

    This is about something different. You left a post on the Bushveldt Carbineers site about
    James Huntley Robertson and Alexander John H H Robertson. Alexander was my grandfather and I have been searching for decades for details about him. I think the same as you that they are not one and the same person. I was hoping to know where you got information on where Alexander was born and his parents. If you can point me in the right direction I would be over the moon. I have nothing to really prove that he existed.

  8. Paul Remington says:

    Gooday Andries,
    We agree that other than the Hesse case, Morant, Handock and Witton doing the deed they are accused of doing is undisputed, but that does not necessarily mean that what they did was illegal at the time.
    I reiterate, the objective of the defence in the original trial was not to establish whether or not they killed the prisoners, as that had been established; it was to argue that they were not guilty of killing the prisoners illegally. And given the fact that they were not allowed to call their main witnesses, and as such were hamstrung in their defence, I cannot see how anyone could dispute the fact that they were subject to a kangaroo court.
    As I have previously mentioned, the Nuremburg excuse did not exist at that stage and given the fact that no airmen have been charged with knowingly dropping bombs on civilians during WW2 it just may be that had Kitchener turned up and admitted giving orders to take no prisoners the 3 of them may have got off. But because they were not allowed due process we will never know, and for that reason alone they should be pardoned.
    In regard to the paedophile comparison, I was referring to a person who believed he was innocent of committing an act of paedophilia which was illegal, irrespective of whether or not he admitted to having committed the act. And if hypothetically a person admits to a court that he has committed an act of paedophilia but also believes that at the time he committed the act he was not guilty of committing an illegal act of paedophilia, (if that is possible), he should be allowed to call witnesses for his defence. If this is not allowed it could only be judged as a kangaroo court, and with this being the case should he not have been given the opportunity to contest the verdict in a higher court before his death, (which was the situation with Morant and Handcock given that they were dead) , he should be pardoned posthumously.
    I say this because the moment we do not allow an accused person such rights and as such allow kangaroo courts to exist, (or even uphold the verdicts of kangaroo courts that operated over 100 years ago), we have crossed a line in the sand which brings us too close for comfort to the sorts of regimes that were ruled over by persons such as Stalin and Pinochet.
    In regard to the moral question, it could not be argued that a person who committed a sexual act on a prepubescent person was not guilty of gross immorality even if he or she did so legally, but it is not so clear cut when it comes to the actions of Morant, Handcock and Witton.
    We would have to be there in the thick of it with them before we could pass judgement. Apparently there was atrocities on both sides and killing prisoners was accepted practice at the time. I again reiterate, nobody has called upon the airmen who dropped bombs on civilians, including babies in prams, to go before a court to tell us why they “obeyed their orders”and I have not heard many people accuse them of being immoral. On the contrary, most people regard them as heroes, and they were the blokes who got the sheilas.
    In regard to the song “Breaker Morant Waltz,” which was discussed earlier in this thread, I had another listen and wrote down a verse which reads:

    Then came the Boer War and he answered the call.
    He was sent where the fighting was hot.
    With orders unclear he saw his mates fall
    And somehow some prisoners got shot.
    He was sentenced to death by a kangaroo court
    Together with Handcock his mate.
    He said his last words, as game as he fought,
    “Come on you bastards, shoot straight.”

    If I had have written that song, after listening to the doco I would change the words “With orders unclear” to “With orders so clear,” as it has now been proven that Kitchener did issue very clear orders regarding not taking prisoners.

  9. Andries says:

    Hi Paul,

    Very interesting comment.

    It is worth reminding ourselves that with the exception of the Heese case, the DEEDS were not disputed. It is only the MOTIVES that were disputed.

    So considering your paedophile example, if theDEED is not disputed but the MOTIVE is… Would it follow that the person is innocent?

    It is also worth remembering Witton’s letter from Oct 1929.

    The men were guilty, there is no question about that.

    Kind Regards,

  10. Paul Remington says:

    Gavin Leese is entitled to his opinion in regard to his belief that Morant and the other two were guilty, but he has missed the point entirely.
    Everyone Gavin, is entitled to a fair trial, even suspected paedophiles and axe murderers, and if a suspected paedophile or axe murderer does not receive one he quite rightly should be pardoned, simply because he may be an innocent person.
    It was not just a case of minor courtroom procedural anomalies in regard to the 3 accused; what occurred was a major miscarriage of justice in regard to procedural fairness, mainly in relation to them not being able to have two chief witnesses appear, particularly the low-life Kitchener. (There is in Canberra a street named after that piece of human garbage).
    In relation to following orders, the Nuremburg excuse had not been established at that stage and how it is applied today varies from case to case. Many people, including me, believe that those who deliberately drop bombs from the air on innocent civilians, as occurred during WW2, are as immoral as those who shoved innocent Jews into gas chambers, but a court would not agree.
    Whether the 3 accused could have successfully used the excuse of following Kitchener’s orders under the conditions the shootings occurred, had they been tried fairly, we will never know because it was such an obvious kangaroo court. For that reason alone they should be pardoned.

  11. Gavin Leese says:

    Am I missing something?

    I really enjoyed the show. The insights into Morants life outside the war were very interesting. He certainly was a colourful character.

    But am I to understand that pardons should be granted because of legal technicalities and procedural problems from a Court Martial held during war over 100 years ago?
    So….. they weren’t innocent. They did do at least some of the crimes they were accused of. They admitted killing unarmed Boers after they had surrendered. They were reported on by some of their men who didn’t want to conduct any more of these atrocities. They were implicated in killing one of their own. Accused of killing the German Heese, but acquitted for lack of evidence. Didn’t mean they didn’t do it, they had the most to gain from his death (his silence). Used the old… “we were ordered to do it ” defence that we all know doesn’t work.

    Yet, some courtroom procedural anomolies now mean we should see them pardoned?
    I don’t get it. I honestly don’t understand why we would want that to happen. Surely it would be a real slap in the face to South Africans?

    I think Mr Unkles should use his time, the time of the AG and others to try and retry cases for living people who have been wrongly convicted or have not been afforded their rights. Not some long dead… GUILTY… war criminal.

    Oh and the retrial itself….. cripes what a farce. I thought the prosecution was about to drift off to sleep. At least Unkles has been finely tuned in court thanks to the ADF’s regular antics.

  12. Paul Remington says:

    A great doco last night re the re-trial and the result was as expected. Jim Unkles should be proud of himself. If the Pom’s don’t give him a pardon there’s something wrong and if the Australian government don’t at least agitate there is also something wrong.
    I also re-listened to Raymond Crooke doing the Breaker Morant Waltz on youtube which gives an excellent summary of his life which I was to discover is identical to what was revealed about The Breaker in the doco/retrial minus the new info regarding the newly discovered very strong circumstantial evidence about who his dad was. It seems like he was telling the truth the whole time.

  13. Max Richards says:

    Jim McJannett in responding to an earlier post says:
    “Regarding the birth name of Daisy Bates, well Max, you are incorrect. If you had researched the St. Cronan’s Church (Roscrea) records you would have read, as I previously informed (see above), that the lady was born DWYER, Margaret,16 October 1859, as was her twin brother. “Daisy May O’Dwyer” was a name totally of her own creation.”
    The post he was referring to said “After doing some research I am now sure the song has The Breaker’s story right. In regard to Daisy Bates, she was born Daisy Dwyer and changed her name to Daisy O’Dwyer when she came to Australia to escape scandal. Apparently she had received a rogering from someone in Ireland who she should not have been rogered by and it had become public knowledge.”
    Where is the information wrong Jim?

  14. Jim McJannett says:

    Regarding the birth name of Daisy Bates, well Max, you are incorrect. If you had researched the St. Cronan’s Church (Roscrea) records you would have read, as I previously informed (see above), that the lady was born DWYER, Margaret,16 October 1859, as was her twin brother. “Daisy May O’Dwyer” was a name totally of her own creation.

  15. Jim McJannett says:

    I first became interested in “The Breaker” in April 1963, all but fifty years ago. Then in October, 1965, when I came to know an old timer in his nineties at Townsville, Qld., I became moreso interested in the man and his doings. As a boy in the Charters Towers region, where his father was a cattle station book-keeper, and his mother a cook, he had known Edwin “Eddie” (as he called him) Murrant, and had also know him after as “Harry” (Morant). He too well recalled Daisy O’Dwyer (born Margaret Dwyer) the Mrs Murrant to be, prior to becoming – in turn – Mrs Bates and then Mrs Baglehole. Since then I have researched “Harry Harbord Morant” as he came to call himself, perhaps as much as anyone in this country from his birth at Bridgwater, Somerset, throughout his life in Australia, and to his life and death at South Africa. To say it has been an interesting journey is an understatement. (My notes total above one thousand pages.) “The Legend of Breaker Morant is Dead and Buried” claims Charles Leach. Is it? Do legends (the word used by Charles) die? Perhaps it should die, perhaps it has gone on long enough. But as I write these words new people are researching Morant, at least one new book is in the pipeline, I know young people just taking up the study. The fact is that the intrigue level such that in another one hundred plus years there will be people discussing various aspects of the “Breaker”. And when it comes to the final page of his life , there will ever be two sides to it. The story will never be dead and buried – at least in Australia.

  16. Max Richards says:

    After doing some research I am now sure the song has The Breaker’s story right. In regard to Daisy Bates, she was born Daisy Dwyer and changed her name to Daisy O’Dwyer when she came to Australia to escape scandal. Apparently she had received a rogering from someone in Ireland who she should not have been rogered by and it had become public knowledge.

  17. Paul Remington says:

    Thanks Max. Where do you think the song has the history wrong? He says he married Daisy O’Dwyer and my understanding is that Daisy Bates she was Daisy Dwyer, but otherwise it seems to be accurate to me.

  18. Max Richards says:

    Thanks for the story Ian and thanks to the link to the song Paul. It’s a beautiful song but I have doubts over the accuracy of some parts of the story it tells.

  19. Max Richards says:

    Thanks for that Paul. It’s a beautiful song

  20. Ian Evans says:

    I have a family story about Breaker Morant which has come down from the Breaker’s tour of inland NSW and Qld.
    My grandmother worked as a domestic in the hotel in Parkes where the Breaker stayed for a day or two. I heard this story from my mother who got it from her mother.
    My grandmother went to the Breaker’s room on the morning he was due to check out. It turns out that he had done a flit, putting his horse over the locked gate at the rear of the pub, and had departed without paying the bill. This was quite a feat as there was little room for a run at the gate which was over 5ft tall.
    In his room, the Breaker had left a message, written in lipstick on the wardrobe mirror: “The Breaker was here.”

  21. Paul Remington says:

    Great to see some justice may be done, although I wonder why there hasn’t been more interest in Handcock. I know Handcock has some descendants. I’d like to hear from them.
    I don’t know if you folk have heard the song “The Breaker Morant Waltz” on youtube sung by Raymond Crooke, but if you haven’t it would be worth listening to as it tells his whole story. Raymond performs old and newer Aussie bush songs just to preserve them as he makes no money from his efforts. You can hear the one of The Breaker on the link

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