Monday, May 26, 2008

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED WHEN BREAKER MORANT WAS SHOT BY FIRING-SQUAD

"Breaker Morant" is one of the best motion pictures set during the Anglo-Boer War ever filmed. However, it took a lot of liberties with the actual historical events concerning the execution of Lt. Harry "Breaker" Morant. It did not mention that Morant was not Australian -- being in fact an Englishman -- or that on the night before his execution he met with the Reverend Canon Scott and signed a note in which he confessed his guilt of shooting Boer prisoners -- contrary to the movie's premise that he was an innocent scapegoat. One particular dramatic scene in the film depicts Morant shouting defiantly at the firing-squad: "Shoot straight, you bastards!" In reality, he said nothing of the kind. Here is an eye-witness account of his real last words and the calm manner of his dying, published soon afterwards in an Australian newspaper.


THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD - 3 April 1902

LETTER FROM A PRETORIA PRISON WARDER: AN ACCOUNT OF THE EXECUTION of LT. MORANT.

Mr. G. Aldridge, who was a member of the Second South Australian Contingent, has received a sad letter from Mr. J. H. Morrow, warder of the Pretoria Gaol, with reference to the shooting of Lieutenants Morant and Handcock. Aldridge was a friend of Morant's. The letter was dated March 1, 1902, and is as follows :-

"Dear George, I write these few lines to you on behalf of Lieutenant H. H. Morant, who was shot here on February 27, two days ago, by order of court-martial. His last word was that I should write and tell you that there were four officers- one South Australian, one Victorian, one New South Welshman, and one New Zealander, all Australians - concerned. The South Australian and the New South Welshman were shot, and the others were transported. It is quite a mystery here regarding the deed. All I know is that they shot 38 Boers, and there are rumours circulating that these Boers surrendered to them. Morant told me that he was guilty of shooting the Boers because they shot his captain.

I was the warder who was in charge of the officers the last week they had on earth, and they faced their doom as brave as men could do. Everyone said it was a pity to shoot two such brave men. Morant came out here with the South Australian Mounted Rifles with which you and I enlisted. Morant got a commission with the Bushveldt Carbineers, and I went on the railway duty here, and I was only transferred to this prison about six weeks ago. I was not here when they came here. They had been in prison at Pietersburg for four months, and then they were transferred to Pretoria, where sentence was passed upon them.

They were shot next morning at 6 o'clock, and were buried at 5 o'clock in the evening. There were a large number of Australians at the funeral; no less than 30 of them were Australian officers. I felt it very much. The only reply given by the two men when asked if they were ready was, 'Yes, where is your shooting party?' and the men marched out hand in hand.

The firing party went to blindfold the men, but Morant said, ‘Take this thing off,’ and pulled the handkerchief off. As the two sat in the chair awaiting death Morant remarked, ‘Be sure and make a good job of it.’ Morant folded his arms across his chest and looked them straight in the face. The firing-party fired, and Morant got all in the left side, and died at once. With his arms folded and his eyes open, you would have thought he was alive."

Military history

1 comment:

Ime said...

sorry, but who was the person that accounted this event? telling the story i mean.