Witton to Thomas 21 Oct 1929

 Reproduced from the original contained in the Mitchell Library Reference G.R. Witton Am77/8

October 21st 1929

Dear Mr Thomas

I was surprised to receive your interesting letter of Sept 14th. I intended writing before but could not seem to get a start. I have been settled here since 1908 dairy farming, making a living and that is about all, dry spells and drought are too frequent for a man to become prosperous. That article in Smiths Weekly you sent was inspired by a cousin of mine in Melbourne a Captain in the late war. I do not think it was you they were alluding to as the one who preferred to keep silent.

Personally I think the attitude you take with regard to Morant and Handcock and the Heese case is not the right one. I am inclined to think that neither of them took you into their confidence over that case. Up to the time of the Court of Inquiry when I was charged with complicity in his death I had no more knowledge of how Heese came by his death than the babe unborn nor did I have at anytime the slightest suspicion that Morant or Handcock was connected with it.

It staggered me at the time but my statement in reply I think cleared me of that count at that inquiry. Subsequently when we were allowed to see each other Morant told me that Handcock had broken down and confessed to everything including shooting Heese.

I saw Handcock shortly afterwards and asked him about the Heese business, he said “why wasn’t you standing beside Morant when he asked me if I was game to follow the missionary and wipe him out”.

I had been with them up to the time Morant returned from interviewing Heese when he drove past the fort. I left them then and went to my tent and did not see them again until they came in to dinner about seven oclock. 

I believe Morant got Handcock to deny his previous statement in which he had made a clean breast of everything and they got to work to frame up an alibi which you know was successful and the means of their acquittal.

But you must not forget Kitchener held Handcock’s ‘confession’ in which he implicated me as an accessory no doubt unwittingly done while in a high strung nervous state but that accounts for the reason why only Morant Handcock and myself were punished and the War Office so adamant in my case.

Had there been no Heese case the shooting of prisoners would not have worried them much. But the shooting of Heese was a premeditated and most cold blooded affair. Handcock with his own lips described it all to me.

I consider I am the one and only one that suffered unjustly (apart from yourself).

Morant and Handcock being acquitted my lips were sealed.

I would very much like to peruse the evidence of the Heese trial although I took no part in it or was present. If you have a copy and would care to send it to me I would take particular care of it and return it safely. Personally I do not think there would be much in writing what you term the true story of the Bushveldt Carbineers in face of the fact that the War Office may still hold Handcock’s confession.

I have very little knowledge of any B.V.C. officers, the last I heard of Picton was shortly after my return to Australia. He was then riding race horses on the Continent. Hannam died about a year ago. Taylor, I never heard what happened to him.

I saw Lenehan when on my way to Q'land in 1908. He owed me £12 that he borrowed from me at Capetown to see him home. The rotter promised to send it to me but he never did, although he skited he was making £2000 a year. Baudinet stayed in S Africa - mining. I still have a sister living in Pretoria. It was she who attended to Morant & Handcocks grave.

I took no part in the last war when asked to volunteer. I said yes I'm Fisher's last man. He pledged Australia to the last man and the last shilling.

Well I hope things are going well with you and with kind regards from Mrs. Witton and myself.

Yours truly

G.R. Witton