The Breaker

Harry “Breaker” Morant was known in Australia as perhaps the most skilled horseman and horse breaker of his day, hence his nickname - The Breaker. 

Peter Handcock was married but known to be a ladies man.

George Whitton was a young idealist. He wrote a book about the whole matter called, Scapegoats of the Empire, which I recommend.

All three ended up in South Africa during the second Boer War (1899-1902) and served in the irregular military unit — The Bushveldt Carbineers. There is an excellent movie called Breaker Morant that I highly recommend, if you can find it.

The following is inspired by their story...

During the second Boer War there came to be,
The Bushveldt Carbineers and some unpleasantry;
When The Breaker, the lover and the boy they did ride,
On the northern Transvaal where their reputation did bide.

While discharging their duty, orders they’d execute,
A number of Boer prisoners during many a pursuit;
No gentlemen’s war it was guerrilla tactics for either side,
On a date with destiny now these three men would collide.

Arrested for murder Morant, Handcock and Whitton not guilty their plea,
Tried in a sham military courts-martial death the punishment for all three;
Witnesses came forward happy to point the finger of great blame,
Upon these three lieutenants whose reputations they would defame.

There must be scapegoats to condemn for the wrongdoings of war,
Lord Kitchener himself had killed many prisoners before;
If three Australians had to be sacrificed to bring the war to an end,
It seemed a small enough price to pay to allow both sides to amend.

Some asked for mercy for all three or allow time to be appealed,
But Lord Kitchener signed the order before any verdict be revealed;
The outcome already decided and the sentences had been written,
It was death for Morant and Handcock and imprisonment for Whitton.

A firing squad assembled the next day at the break of dawn,
To send these two great men journeying into the great beyond;
The last words to be uttered before bullets sent them to meet their maker,
“Shoot straight you bastards don’t make a mess of it,” said The Breaker.

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