Saturday 27 February 2021

Fiction Is Not Fact!


My review of Breaker Morant by Peter FitzSimons, Hachette Australia, Kindle Edition.

I’ve always resisted the urge to review any of the books written on this subject, even when I found myself at odds with the author’s conclusions. However, after subjecting myself to the many factual inaccuracies throughout FitzSimons’ offering I feel compelled to make an effort to correct the record, particularly in connection with his vicious, spiteful and often unsubstantiated attacks on the reputation of my great-grandfather, Peter Handcock.

I recently posted this brief review on the Amazon website:

While I strongly disagree, I accept that Peter Fitzsimons is entitled to his view that "Breaker Morant and Peter Handcock got exactly what they deserved". What I don't accept is that he can go on radio and television and give the impression that his book is a factual account by boasting about using "four of the best researchers in the business" and claiming to have "turned up lots of new stuff". What he doesn't say is that much of what he wrote is a product of his own imagination built around snippets of existing source material, some of which is valid and some of which is contradicted by other, more verifiable, primary sources.

Tom Richardson, lecturer in history at UNSW Canberra, wrote a review of the book in the Sydney Morning Herald November 20, 2020. While he largely agrees with Fitzsimons' conclusions he does say this:

"As is always the case with FitzSimons, there is a lot of fiction spliced in with the fact, as what he imagines characters would have thought or said is put alongside what is in the historical record. This is bad history, but it is mitigated somewhat by the fact that Peter FitzSimons can only write characters who sound like Peter FitzSimons; combined with his liberal use of footnotes, that is enough to make clear what is real and what is not."

That might be true for those of us who have access to the sources listed in his footnotes but some of the more important ones (e.g. "Breaker Morant and the Bushveldt Carbineers", Edited by Arthur Davey) are quite difficult to obtain so I'm guessing that a lot of readers will have a great deal of difficulty sorting fact from fiction. Unfortunately, those readers will be persuaded to Fitzsimons' point of view without having the opportunity to draw their own conclusions.

I didn't find any "new stuff" in the book and I am unable to recommend it.

Footnotes Hard to Check

Two of the most valuable resources for any serious student of this affair are Breaker Morant and the Bushveldt Carbineers, Edited by Arthur Davey VAN RIEBEECK SOCIETY CAPE TOWN 1987 and The Bushveldt Carbineers and the Pietersburg Light Horse William (Bill) Woolmore SLOUCH HAT PUBLICATIONS 2002. I bought both of these books about 10 years ago. 

I couldn’t find the Arthur Davey book in any local libraries and was eventually able to buy it second hand from a book shop in Western Australia (it certainly wasn’t cheap, about $250). It was well worth it and makes it easy to see how FitzSimons misuses references from it as I’ll demonstrate later in this review. I believe Bill Woolmore’s book is out of print. I recently discovered a couple of 2nd hand copies for sale on E-bay at inflated prices. Apart from its value as a general resource it is worthwhile for the biographies of most of the BVC troops as well as his revelations of the many misdeeds and corruption of one of FitzSimons’ “heroes” Frederick Ramon de Bertodano.

I was astounded to read on page 11 of FitzSimons’ Introduction when he referred to de Bertodano’s memoir: “I came to rely on it heavily, and for me it is the key to unlocking many Morant mysteries.” I thought to myself after reading this announcement: “Boy, it looks like we’re in for a real doozie here!” There is much to discuss regarding de Bertodano’s involvement so I intend to cover it in a separate paper as soon as possible.

The following are just some examples of how FitzSimons has blended fiction with fact to give an untrue or distorted picture of real situations.

Shooting of 6 Boers on 2nd July, 1901

It is important to emphasise that Peter Handcock was not involved in this incident and that he arrived on the scene with the rest of the squadron an hour later, when the six Boers were all found to have been killed.

Trooper Solomon King made a sworn declaration on 9 October 1901 in Pretoria. It was recorded by Trooper R.M. Cochrane in his minute book, signed by King and witnessed by Provost Marshal, Major R.M. Poore:

I Solomon King, hereby make oath and swear as follows:

Shortly after the six Boer prisoners who were coming in to surrender were shot on July 2nd I galloped on the scene. I saw five bodies lying in the road and one in the wagon. They were all shot in the forehead.

While we were off-saddled I saw Lt Handcock walking past carrying the cash box which had been taken from the wagon. He held it up and said "There is over one hundred pounds here in paper money." I said I thought there was a thousand. I said "Can't you divide it among us?" He said "No I can't do no thing like that."

This deposition is reproduced in Davey p.96 and citing it as his source, FitzSimons (pp. 351-352) manages to turn it into this:

With the shocking act now done, the wagons themselves are thoroughly searched, led by Lieutenant Handcock. One of the Boer prisoners, in an effort to save himself before he was executed, had said to Handcock, within earshot of Trooper Solomon King, that there was a cashbox in the wagon with gold and £1000 in cash in it, and there was more where that came from if they could just be allowed to live. So Trooper King is watching and listening with more than usual interest as Lieutenant Handcock walks past carrying the cashbox, to say in his slow-speaking, lugubrious way, ‘There is over one hundred pounds here in paper money.’

I thought there was over one thousand pounds,’ Trooper King says. ‘Can’t you divide it amongst us?’

No,’ Lieutenant Handcock says quite primly, almost offended at the suggestion. ‘I can’t do nothing like that.’

FitzSimons manages to turn a totally innocuous deposition into an attack on the character and reputation of Peter Handcock. It seems he even thinks that he was capable of reviving and speaking to dead people! (As previously stated, the man was killed an hour before Peter Handcock arrived on the scene).

The Shooting of Trooper van Buuren 4 July 1901

Despite FitzSimons’ claim on p498 to the contrary, Peter Handcock was not “charged with murder of Trooper van Buuren”. However, he virtually admitted to shooting him on the orders of Captain Robertson when he testified at the trial of Major Lenehan, as reported in TheTimes, 17 April 1901:

Lieutenant Hancock [sic] denied that a meeting was held which decided on the shooting of van Burend [sic]. The witness carried out Robertson’s instructions in this matter, and Robertson ordered him to make a report, making it appear that van Burend had been shot in a brush with the Boers. The report which he prepared did not suit Robertson, who wrote one himself. The witness reported the true facts to Hunt, asking him to inform Lenehan. He told Robertson, who said he was a fool to have anything put in black and white. Robertson’s evidence was all a fabrication.

The “true facts” will never be known because there were no witnesses to this shooting. Two troopers, Edward Powell and Muir Churton both made sworn depositions (Arthur Davey pp. 95-99) in Pretoria on 14 October 1901 that they were on observation posts when Peter Handcock took out a patrol with four men including van Buuren and that he later returned without van Buuren. They could only speculate as to what happened to him as neither one witnessed the shooting. This is what Muir Churton deposed in 1901:

I was on patrol the day Trooper van Buuren was killed. I was on the observation post close by Trooper Powell who was up a tree with glasses and therefore had a greater vision than I had. Still I commanded a wide view. When Lt Handcock returned, Trooper van Buuren who had started out with him was missing.

However, on p56 Carnegie and Shields published an account of an interview that Frank Shields conducted with Muir Churton in 1973 when he was 91 years old:

On moving out, Lieutenant Handcock split the patrol into two flanks taking the left flank himself with four men including Troopers van Buuren and Muir Churton. Once into the bush Handcock ordered the left flank to fan out, while Churton saw van Buuren turn to observe him as he rode up alongside. Before he could utter a word the lieutenant drew out his revolver and put three shots in quick succession into the Dutchman, then without slackening his pace, he rode on.

West and Roper, who could hardly be described as proponents of Morant and Handcock have this to say:

Besides the fact that in the latter statement Churton curiously refers to himself in the third person, this and his 1901 statement are incompatible. In the 1970s version he actually witnesses the murder. His 1901 account appears perfectly consistent with Trooper Powell’s and given that Muir Churton was in his 90s in the 1970s and had lived the life of a boxer, it is easier to believe that he had not witnessed the murder of Trooper van Buuren, and this must also call into question the other statements made by him in the 1970s. (West, Joe ; Roper, Roger. Breaker Morant: The Final Roundup . Amberley Publishing. Kindle Edition.)

Churton probably told the tale throughout his lifetime and embellished it a little more each time until it became embedded in his memory as the 1973 version. It didn’t stop FitzSimons from pouncing on it like a blowfly on a pile of dog poop as another opportunity to stick it to Peter Handcock:

Only a couple of seconds after pulling up alongside on his horse, Lieutenant Handcock pulls out his revolver, brings it up to point at van Buuren’s breast and pulls the trigger. Van Buuren immediately tumbles off his horse, whereupon Handcock puts two more shots in him, just to be sure, before riding off quickly.

Trooper Muir Churton, out to the right – who had van Buuren in his eye-line only a minute before, hears the shots – then he hears thundering hooves and looks up to see Lieutenant Handcock coming his way. ‘Keep a sharp lookout,’ Lieutenant Handcock says simply and calmly, ‘we have just lost a man back there.’ (FitzSimons, Peter. Breaker Morant (p. 356). Hachette Australia. Kindle Edition.)

I repeat, there were no witnesses to this shooting, nor the circumstances in which it occurred nor how many shots were fired. According to both Powell and Churton’s depositions, van Buuren’s body was not located at that time.

In his memorandum of 7 October 1901 R.M. Cochrane wrote: Corporal Browne states that he could approximately indicate the site of the murder and if provided with an interpreter could probably find or trace the rifle, bandolier and body of the murdered man. There is a grave marker at Fort Edward so the body may have been retrieved at some later date.

In his deposition Trooper Powell also describes a conversation he had with Trooper van Buuren:

On the day that Trooper van Buuren was killed he came up to my fire at breakfast to grill some steak. He told me he had got into trouble through being more or less drunk and talking to the Boers [other captives] about the slaughter of the six. He said ‘I do not care what the officers say. I will not see murder passed by and nothing said about it.’ The words were to this effect.

He makes no mention of Peter Handcock but this doesn’t stop FitzSimons from using it as another opportunity to impugn Handcock’s character:

Oh, how Lieutenant Handcock roars at him. How dare he talk of operational matters to anyone outside of their corps? How dare he talk to Boer prisoners in the first place? Just whose side are you on? We thought we could trust you. But now, we really wonder. (FitzSimons, Peter. Breaker Morant (p. 353). Hachette Australia. Kindle Edition.)

Lieutenant Peter Handcock was in the squadron as the veterinary officer and it would not normally have been his role to discipline a trooper for drunkenness or other disorderly conduct. It also wasn’t his role to execute suspected traitors either but that didn’t stop his superiors from taking advantage of his naivety and ignorance of military law when they ordered him to do so. This probably accounts for the fact that he wasn’t charged because they would have had to charge the more culpable Captain Robertson and possibly Captain Taylor as well. But for reasons best known to himself, Kitchener didn’t want to do this.

The Shooting of Boer Prisoner Visser 11 August 1901

Lieutenant Picton was the reluctant officer placed in charge of the firing party.

At the court-martial:

Corporal Sharpe gave corroborative evidence, and said that after the firing party had fired Picton discharged his revolver apparently at the dead man’s head (TimesReport 17 April 1902)

The Clutha Leader 2 May 1902 reported the following statement from an unnamed person recently returned to Adelaide regarding a conversation he had with Lt Picton:

When ordered to command the firing party he objected but was persuaded and intimidated by his older officers to do the deed. At the Court of Inquiry he was accused of having drawn a revolver and put a bullet through one of the Boers who was lying on the ground with seven other bullets in his body, but he swore that he fired into the ground, and this statement was accepted by the Court.

Trooper Silke was a member of the firing party and he wrote in his oft-quoted diary, a copy of extracts from which I have in my possession:

The Boer was carried onto the bank of the river and set down (he was unable to stand) and the firing party were fell in about 15 yards from him. We had to leave our rifles on the ground and go away until they were loaded. Serg. Major Clarke then loaded them five with ball and 5 drawn so that we would not know who it was that shot him. When the order to fire was given I fired at a stump behind the prisoner and hit it too for I had a ball in my rifle. The prisoner fell back without a sound and then Lieutenant Picton shot him through the head with a revolver and the Kaffirs buried him on the river bank.

Silke was one of the 15 troopers who signed Cochrane’s letter and as a member of the firing party would have been in the best position to know who fired the final shot.

R.M. Cochrane wrote in his memorandum:

Lt. Picton BVC after the shooting stepped up to the Boer who was not dead and blew his brains out with a revolver.

This evidence surely proves there is no doubt that it was Lt Picton who fired the final shot with a revolver.

According to Arthur Davey (p75) Kitchener himself was present when some of the depositions were taken in Pretoria between 9th and 15th October 1901 and recorded by R.M. Cochrane in his letterbooks. Kitchener’s later actions and comments make it clear that it was Lt Handcock he was after and not Lt Picton so the depositions of Trooper Muir Churton and Trooper Sidney Staton make interesting reading.

Trooper Churton (Davey p98) deposed:

I saw an officer go up and blow his brains out with a revolver but I cannot say whether it was Lt Picton or Lt Handcock. The idea of blowing the brains out of a corpse so turned my stomach that I could not look.

Trooper Staton (Davey p100) deposed:

Shortly after either Lt Handcock or Lt Picton went up with a revolver and blew out his brains. I cannot swear positively as to which it was. I saw Lt Picton go up close to the Boer with revolver in his hand but I think at the last minute Lt Handcock took it out of his hand and fired blowing out Visser’s brains.

There’s that same phrase over and over. Call me cynical but I reckon these two might have received a little prompting from either Kitchener or Cochrane. (e.g., “Could it possibly have been Lt Handcock and not Lt Picton who ‘blew the prisoner’s brains out’?”). Arthur Davey (p74), referring to all the depositions taken in Pretoria, notes: “They were obviously assisted by Cochrane as the style and handwriting of the main statements are his.” The Court of Inquiry certainly wasn’t fooled because neither man was called as a witness at the court-martial.

Not so Peter FitzSimons however. Here’s another opportunity to sink the boot into Peter Handcock’s reputation and let’s chuck Cochrane’s favourite phrase in a couple of times for good measure!

The idea of blowing the brains out of a corpse,’ Trooper Churton will recount, ‘so turned my stomach that I could not look.’

But the others do and see Picton slowly lower his arm, point the muzzle of the gun at Visser’s shaking head and … and … And what is this nonsense? Tiring of it all, Lieutenant Handcock steps forward, snatches the revolver from Picton’s hesitating hand and, without any further ceremony, as Trooper Sidney Staton will note, fires the pistol, blowing out Visser’s brains’.(FitzSimons, Peter. Breaker Morant (p. 400). Hachette Australia. Kindle Edition.)

Forgery Of Colonel Hall’s Name

In the final paragraph of the Cochrane Memorandum under the above heading, he states the following:

Another time to strengthen this conviction a report of the killing of the six Boers on July 2nd – an account of alleged resistance was left lying where it must be seen by several. It bore the following endorsement: “This report will not do. How could disarmed men assume the offensive. Send something more probable.. Hall.” The above words may not be verbatim as they are written from memory and the initial is forgotten but that was the purpose of the endorsement. It was also insinuated that the profits of the cattle thefts were participated in at headquarters. Who was the author of this forgery I cannot say. The presumption is that if the idea did not originate with Lt Morant the endorsement was written by him as Lt Handcock would not write or spell the simplest sentence without disclosing his authorship; he was so grossly illiterate. This statement has been compiled by me from the statements given to me by those concerned. [Emphasis mine]

Boy does FitzSimons have fun with this. On pages 432-433 he constructs an elaborate scene where shock, horror! Cochrane himself finds a forged letter allegedly left by Morant so that it would be found by him. In part he writes:

For while it is a missive with a massive reprimanding of the Breaker, concerning the eight Boers who were shot, the problem Hall has is not the shooting, it is that he wants the Breaker to make up a better lie!

Have a look, Cochrane.

The Trooper does exactly that, grabbing the proffered letter, and sees with a sinking heart that it is true.

Did FitzSimons actually read the source he is citing from? If he did he’d see that the alleged letter was about the killing of the six Boers on 2 July and not the eight Boers on 23 August. Morant didn’t arrive at Fort Edward until 2 weeks after the six Boers were shot so Hall would hardly expect a report from him on that matter. There is no evidence that Trooper R.M. Cochrane was ever at Fort Edward as the last sentence of the extract from his memorandum quoted above would tend to confirm. I have discussed Cochrane’s role in more detail in a separate paper.

FitzSimons then goes on to use the alleged letter to misquote George Witton in Scapegoats of the Empire:

Lieutenant George Witton, on the other hand, is now surer than ever that HQ is right behind Morant. ‘This [letter] tended to convince me,’ he will note, ‘that the orders and the interpretation of the orders …”

No Peter, it was the absence of any message or order following the report by Lt Picton to Col. Hall regarding the shooting of Visser that caused Witton to write:

No action was taken, not even a notice or message was sent intimating that such practices were to be discontinued. [emphasis mine] This tended to convince me that the orders and the interpretation of the orders regarding prisoners as transmitted to me by Lieutenant Morant were authentic, and that such proceedings were not only permitted, but were approved of by the headquarters authorities.

I’m sure FitzSimons would like his readers to believe that this allegedly forged letter somehow fooled George Witton into believing the BVC officers were justified in acting the way they did but unfortunately it’s just another one of his many pieces of contrived fiction designed to reinforce his agenda.

Silas’ Statement to Reverend Krause

Please see my paper Who Killed Rev. Daniel Heese where I discuss the relevance of this statement, in which Silas gives a very good description of the probable killer.

The description is published in Kit Denton Closed File p111 and Peter FitzSimons quotes it this way:

He wore khaki clothing such as the soldiers wear, a light-coloured hat with a cloth of motley colours, red, blue, white and black, and had stripes … He was a young, stocky man, his face was shaved except for the moustache that he wore. He wore two cartridge-belts crossways over his shoulders and his breast pockets were filled with cartridges.

Whereas the source reads:

He wore khaki clothing such as the soldiers wear, a light-coloured hat with a cloth of motley colours (red, blue, white, and black), and had stripes like a corporal. He was a young, stocky man; his face was shaved except for the moustache that he wore. He wore two cartridge-belts crossways over his shoulders and his breast pockets were filled with cartridges.

Note the difference? Just three words: “like a corporal”. Why on earth would FitzSimons choose to omit them and replace them with ellipses? Because his readers might start to form the impression that the rider was someone other than Peter Handcock perhaps? Possibly the person that Corporal Sharpe sold his uniform to?

Why FitzSimons chose to include Silas’ statement at all is a mystery. After all, for the rest of his book he promotes de Bertodano’s crackpot version where Morant and Handcock ambush the missionary shortly after he leaves Fort Edward. Witnessed by Morant’s “boy”, Morant shoots Heese and Handcock shoots the driver and then Handcock drives the Cape cart and the bodies all the way to Bandolierkop followed by Morant on horseback. This version is totally contradicted by Silas and local farmer, van Rooyen, who both testified in the court-martial that they saw Rev. Heese in the vicinity of Bandolierkop around 2pm. But FitzSimons goes with it anyway, even implying on page 559 that the case failed because Morant had allegedly killed his “boy”, the only witness.

The Cochrane Letter

In pages 464 to 479 FitzSimons ventures back into fantasyland. He claims that at Fort Edward Trooper Cochrane, “a substantial figure in the BVC”, takes charge of the task of framing the letter, at great risk to himself and all those involved in its production.

He has James Christie “corralling” cooperative fellow troopers and arranging for them to attend clandestine rendezvous “down by the clump of buffalo thorn” to help Cochrane compose the letter and eventually put their names to something that could prove to be “either Morant’s death warrant … or their own, if he gets wind of it”.

FitzSimons then alleges that Christie needs to get the letter to the authorities in Pietersburg by travelling with the escort for prisoner Kelly at the end of September:

It takes some doing as he is knocked back several times, but after getting some of the other signatories to stand down to create vacancies in the escort, Christie is given his chance, as is Corporal Browne who will ride shotgun.

With the signed letter firmly inside his breast pocket atop his beating heart and the redoubtable Corporal Browne riding on his shoulder – both of them tingling with nervous energy, ready for any kind of interference – they set off. (FitzSimons, Peter. Breaker Morant (pp. 478-479). Hachette Australia. Kindle Edition)

Apart from Christie travelling to Pietersburg with the Kelly escort none of the above is true. Browne was probably already back in Pietersburg pending discharge as his time had expired on 25th September. If any of the other signatories were still at Fort Edward they all travelled back at the same time as Christie.

The first hint of the true story is in the first sentence of the letter itself:

We the undersigned non-commissioned officers and men of the Bushveldt Carbineers recently returned from the Spelonken district… [emphasis mine]

All 15 signatories were safely back at Pietersburg when the letter was composed and signed in a letterbook on 4th October and for further proof that they were back see Cochrane’s List of Witnesses and their whereabouts. Christie had nothing to fear on his journey south, neither did any of the other 14 signatories. Here is what Christie himself had to say on this in the Clutha Leader on 18 July 1902:

I was never in fear of my life with them, even after my first outburst. They were civil to me, and I ditto to them, and any concession I asked was granted. 

B Squadron Bushveldt Carbineers Recalled 21 October 1901

Just when you thought it was impossible for FitzSimons to venture deeper into cuckoo land here he goes.

According to FitzSimons (p.482), when B Squadron is recalled to Pietersburg who should be travelling with them but Troopers Christie and Cochrane, in mortal fear that Morant and Taylor might order their murder and that Peter Handcock is there to carry it out. They “stick tightly together” and avoid getting on the “left flank of Peter Handcock with no witnesses”. For two days and nights they are on constant lookout for anything out of the ordinary.

What a load of absolute crap! Christie was already safely in Pietersburg as shown previously and Cochrane was a further 260km away in Pretoria working in the Orderly Room recording depositions. It seems that when FitzSimons gets a set against somebody there’s no stopping him. All I wish, Peter, is that in your attempts to constantly denigrate Peter Handcock you had done so with real evidence and not falsehoods that stem from your own malignant imagination.

On Page 309 he wrote if his [Peter Handcock’s] brains were made of dynamite … his hat wouldn't go far”. Well Pete, after reading some of your nonsense I’m beginning to wonder just how far that hankie you wear on your head would go!

Witnesses for the Defence – Rev. Heese Case

According to ex-Trooper J.A. Heath, who was detained as a witness during the trials, the witnesses for the defence were “Mrs. Schiels (wife of a Dutch commander, who was a prisoner), Mr. and Mrs. Bristow, and Mrs. Schiels’s two sons” (The Advertiser,(Adelaide SA), Thursday 8 May 1902,p3).

The Times reporter wrote that these witnesses proved that Hancock was at Schiel’s and Bristowe’s when the missionary was shot”.

To the best of my knowledge no credible historian has suggested that the reason Peter Handcock visited the two homesteads was because he was having an adulterous affair with the two ladies. Kit Denton and Bruce Beresford may have used this to add a bit of spice to their novel and movie respectively but there is no actual evidence to support it.

Before I read his book I guessed it wouldn’t stop Peter FitzSimons (pp.564-565) from trashing the reputations of the two ladies, and he didn’t disappoint me. Lots of wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more For we are not only gentlemen in this court, we are men of the world. We all understand what a lady admitting she received a man in her house who was not her husband or her relative actually means, and what the main course on the menu actually was. Let us, ahem, leave it at that.”

FitzSimons claims, without evidence, that the ladies were home alone. In fact, a two minute internet search found this genealogy site that revealed that Mrs. Bristow had six children, ages ranging from 19 years old down. I reckon that even if she had wanted to, she would have found it impossible to engage in what he euphemistically describes as ‘entertaining’ during the afternoon in such a crowded household

I imagine that Mrs. Bristow has quite a few descendants, I hope none of them are unfortunate enough to read his scurrilous insinuations. According to West and Roper, the oldest child, Alice Mary, married one of the former Bushveldt Carbineers, Sgt. Vincent Godfrey, in 1904.

Similarly, I don’t think Mrs. Schiels’ two adult sons, Tony and Adolf, would have approved of their mother carrying on an affair while their father was away as a prisoner of the British, even though they were working as intelligence agents for Captain Taylor. According to Trooper Heath they both testified that Peter Handcock was at their place for lunch so it seems fairly reasonable to assume that they were there at the time.

These are just some examples of FitzSimons' liberal application of the truth. I was going to conclude this paper by highlighting all the puerile, opinionated mudslinging attacks that he directed against Peter Handcock throughout the book but then I thought that would be giving them a currency they don’t deserve. Instead I ask that you read my paper on Peter Handcock and the many references from people who, with no axe to grind, actually knew him at the time.


  1. Thanks Dave, I appreciate your support.

  2. Richard, I have considered your your compelling critique of Peter FitZsimons book about Morant and agree, your challenge to his opinions, untested and poorly researched.
    I was very disappointed by Peter's book, an expectation that it would uncover new material regarding Breaker. I expected a more scholarly examination of Breaker's life instead of a rehash of research, photos and documents that have accumulated over the decades. There is nothing new in Peter's book. His conclusion that Morant got what he deserved, completely ignores the research and compelling evidence these three veterans, Morant, Handcock and Witton were not tried and sentenced according to the law of 1902, in short due lawful process was not followed and this is the basis for an inquiry and posthumous pardons. FitZsimons's book makes an entertaining review of the research of others, but what it lacks is an understanding of military law, the case for pardons and the progress that has been made to have the case reviewed. The book misses an understanding of the case for pardons, the law that related to reprisal that applied during the Boer war and orders to take no prisoners. Despite his denials, there is evidence of orders from Lord Kitchener to shoot prisoners and the rights of appeal, that these three Australians had but were cruelly denied, including the right to state a Military redress and a common law right to petition the King for mercy, all denied in the indecent haste to carry out the executions without any notification to the Australian Government and the families of the accused.
    I represent the interests of the descendants of these men who seek justice and their pleas should continue to be heard. My work has included a successful motion tabled in the House of Representatives in 2018 and an examination of the case before the House of Representatives Petitions Committee in 2010. The Committee concluded the case for review as strong and compelling. Noted Human Rights lawyer, Judge and author Geoffrey Robertson, AO, QC publicly supported my advocacy for review and pardons . Other senior legal counsel, judges and community figures have supported the call for review.
    I question why Peter ignored this. Perhaps he found the evidence and case for pardons did not fit his agenda. His failure to present an objective view fails the tests of historical research.
    I hope for a media opportunity to put many of Peter's claims to scrutiny.

    author of:

    Ready, Aim, Fire - Major James Francis Thomas - The Fourth Victim in the Execution of Harry 'Breaker' Morant”

    1. Thank you James. I agree wholeheartedly with your comments and hope you get the chance to debate him in the media.

    2. Thanks James! FitzSimons should stick to football, but he’s just as hopeless at that 🇦🇺


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