After decades of controversy surrounding the case of Australians, Lieutenants ”Breaker” Harry Morant, Peter Handcock and George Witton tried by the British military for war crimes in the Boer War, 1902, an exciting and compelling book backed by the resources of an international publisher, is being authored by James Unkles, military lawyer and Neil Pigot, award winning actor, documentary writer and presenter.
The book is an exciting, crisply written and intriguing exploration of Morant, a man who has captivated generations of Australians and brings to light newly unearthed documentary evidence to prove that he was not only who he claimed to be but that he was, in fact, a “Scapegoat of the Empire”.
The book will be popular history that reads like a novel, fast paced with short chapters, the book will not be bogged down in extraneous and trivial speculation, but presenting the facts as a clear and engaging narrative.
Unlike other books on the subject, this expose will be based on fact and credible research devoid of speculation and self-serving rhetoric. It focuses on who Breaker Morant was, his history, his relationship with Peter Handcock and George Witton and the manner in which they were treated by the British military.
It will culminate in the detail of the case for judicial review focusing on the manner in which these men were unlawfully tried, convicted and sentenced, that resulted in the execution of Morant and Handcock and the sentencing of Witton to life imprisonment.
The book also focuses on the dedicated work of James Unkles, his exhaustive research into the Morant story, both from a legal and historical point of view. His dogged determination to secure posthumous justice for these men and their descendants is revealed as he has pursued pardons for Morant, Handcock and Witton which culminated in a petition being delivered to the Queen in 2010, having his case supported by the House of Representatives Petitions Committee and battling Governments to appoint an independent inquiry, a campaign that continues to this day.
The book highlights the principle that the passing of time and the fact that Morant, Handcock and Witton are deceased does not diminish errors in the administration of justice. Injustices in times of war are inexcusable and it takes vigilance to right wrongs, to honour those unfairly treated and to demonstrate respect for the rule of law. How we respond to this case remains a test of our values and is vitally important to the descendants of Morant, Handcock and Witton 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 and it is our duty to put it right.
The book will be of interest to anyone who wishes to understand how three Australian bushmen, volunteers who sought adventure and support King and Country came to pay the ultimate price for the sins of their British superiors and caused a legend to become part of the Australian psyche of injustice and history!
The reader will not only come to understand the legend, but will judge whether these men were rightly treated as criminals or scapegoats of the British military who suffered a gross injustice that remains to be corrected.
Authors, Jim Unkles and Neil Pigot in Archives, Pretoria doing research and at the Pretoria cemetery at Morant’s and Handcock’s grave (2013)