The epic story of the Boer War and Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant: drover, horseman, bush poet – murderer or hero?
Most Australians have heard of the Boer War of 1899 to 1902 and of Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant, a figure who rivals Ned Kelly as an archetypal Australian folk hero. Born in England and emigrating to Queensland in 1883 in his early twenties, Morant was a charming but reckless man who established a reputation as a rider, polo player and writer. He submitted ballads to The Bulletin that were published under the name ‘The Breaker’ and counted Banjo Paterson as a friend. When appeals were made for horsemen to serve in the war in South Africa, Morant joined up, first with the South Australian Mounted Rifles and then with a South African irregular unit, the Bushveldt Carbineers.
In September 1901 Morant and two other Australians, Lieutenants Peter Handcock and George Witton, were arrested for the murder of Boer prisoners. Morant and Handcock were court-martialled and executed in February 1902 as the Boer War was in its closing stages, but the debate over their convictions continues to this day.
Does Breaker Morant deserve his iconic status? Who was Harry Morant? What events and passions led him to a conflict that was essentially an Imperial war, played out on a distant continent under a foreign flag? Was he a scapegoat for British war crimes or a criminal himself?
With his trademark brilliant command of story, Peter FitzSimons unravels the many myths and fictions that surround the life of Harry Morant. The truths FitzSimons uncovers about ‘The Breaker’ and the part he played in the Boer War are astonishing – and, in the hands of this master storyteller, make compelling reading.
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