Shoot Straight, You Bastards!
"Murder or Justice?
"This question is still being fiercely debated a century after Lieutenant Harry Morant and Lieutenant Peter Hancock were shot on a lonely veldt outside Pretoria at dawn on 27 February 1902, by a British military firing squad. They were found guilty by court martial of murdering Boer prisoners, but claimed they received orders from Lord Kitchener to 'take no prisoners' - a charge both Kitchener and the British government denied.
"In every war there is a character like Morant - a buckjumper, bush balladeer and rebellious spirit who ends up on the wrong side of the 'great cause'. Too many people have tried to stop the wheel of history by insisting that all has now been revealed but there's always more ... always, as this book will attest. The lies, deceit and political skulduggery that lay behind these executions are exposed here for the first time. In popular vernacular, 'shoot straight' means 'tell the truth' and here have been some bastards who haven't. Shocking and explosive, this is the story that Australians have waited a century to read!"
"Shoot Straight, You Bastards! serves to dispatch forever the grab-bag of half-digested Breaker Morant truths ... a strong case to support the view that 'being Australian' surely starts with a posthumous restoration of military honour for Morant and Handcock, scapegoats of the empire." - Andrew Hoy, The Bulletin
First Paragraph from the Foreword:
There was some significant opposition to Australia's participation in the Boer War or to be more precise, the participation of various detachments from the State colonies as Federation had not been formed when the first troops went to South Africa.
However the opposition, whilst publicly stated, was not sufficient to deter Breaker Morant and Peter Handcock from entering forth into fierce battle in the area north of Pretoria, culminating in the capture of several Boer prisoners and the killing of the German missionary Heese.
This story is one of detail with regard to these aspects of the Boer War, which in turn led to a trumped up court martial, a conviction of guilty and subsequently the execution of two brave Australians on a clear blue morning, thousands of kilometres from their homes, in February 1902.
There is no doubt this book is about a hundred years too late, but it is certainly a case of better late than never. A magnificent writing involving comprehensive research relating to one of Australia's greatest military controversies, the author has left no stone unturned in getting to the bottom of what exactly happened, especially with the conduct of the court martial.
The Boer War was not just some form of African Dutch rebellion against the British Commonwealth Forces and governmental administration. It was something much deeper than that and it is doubtful, all things considered, whether Australia had a particular role to play militarily even before the nation of Australia had been officially formed.
Most biographies end with the death of the subject, but given the turbulent nature of Morant's personal life and military career, there were always going to be loose ends, unresolved issues and many questions. Indeed, the mystery and secrecy that still shrouds the circumstances of his death has sustained public interest for a century. Amid rumours of lies, cover-ups and conspiracies, the dubious threads of this tale lead back to the highest echelons of the British military and top government figures of the day. Morant keeps appearing like Banquo's blood-spattered ghost - refusing to die until justice is done.
Morant and Handcock's defence counsel, Major JF Thomas, said, 'The story of Morant and the Bushveldt Carbineers is a romance and a tragedy.'
It was all that and a lot more.
From the Random House paperback edition, 2002.
This page and its contents are copyright © 2002-05 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.Return to 'Breaker' Morant page.
Last modified: May 18, 2005.