The British have decided that no Royal pardon will be granted for Harry "Breaker" Morant in an appeal against the case that saw the Australian soldier executed. Morant, and Peter Handcock were executed after being accused of murdering prisoners during the Boer War. A third, Lt Witton was also found guilty and was imprisoned.
Australian military lawyer Commander James Unkles petitioned the Queen for a Royal pardon for Morant and Handcock. He was researching Morant's lawyer Major James Thomas when he became convinced the soldiers were innocent. "It became very apparent to me that a major injustice had been committed and the only way it was going to be addressed was by taking some action," he said.
It seems odd to me that in this day and age that we would bother to ask the British to act in this matter at all. We are big enough and old enough to decide the matter for ourselves. While the Australian War Memorial says that the evidence suggests that they were guilty of the crimes for which they were tried, there is some dispute about whether they were in fact acting under orders at the time.
Kitchener denied issuing such an order but significant evidence exists to the effect that he did. He was responsible for the placement of thousands of civilians into concentration camps in which many died. Images from these times remind me of the Holocaust. He also reportedly ordered that Boer women and children ride on trains to stop them being targeted by Boers. Such an order would be consistent with those actions. He was a butcher with little regard for human life, including those under his command whom he used as a blunt instrument.
Transcripts of the case ‘went missing’ and were thus unavailable for review, and witnesses included soldiers who were disciplined by Morant, one of whom stated that would walk 100 miles barefoot to serve in a firing squad to shoot Morant and Handcock." The Australian government was not informed.
Since that time, the Australian army never accepted British Army justice, in cases involving its soldiers. This has led to considerable ill feeling on the part of British authorities right through to the end of WW2. There were numerous approaches by British authorities, requesting the right to shoot us to improve our discipline, all of which were rejected.
It is reasonable to assume that they would have satisfied their blood lust by shooting Kiwis, Canadians, South Africans, Rhodesians, Indians, Pakistanis, as well as members of all other Commonwealth countries who were more than happy to allow them to do so, but they seemed to be obsessed with us.
While I was growing up there were a lot of WW1 veterans still around, and they roundly detested Kitchener. Generals like Kitchener were the people who gave rise to the Australian military expression from both World Wars, “England will fight to the last imperial soldier,” which was probably a bit unfair to the British soldier, but none the less heartfelt.
The case is irrelevant at any rate as “the Breaker” has placed himself solidly and immovably as part of Aussie folklore and is likely to remain there.