Thursday, July 28, 2011

Breaker Morant innocent?

It is entirely possible that Lord Kitchener or someone equally powerful ordered 'take no prisoners' during the second Boer War according to this report from down under:

Historians have argued there is no evidence the British ordered troops to kill prisoners during the Boer war.

However, military lawyer James Unkles, a commander in the Australian Naval Reserve, believes he has uncovered fresh evidence that demonstrates such orders were made.

The evidence includes a legal opinion and British parliamentary transcript from 1901 that refer to evidence of orders to take no prisoners.

Mr Unkles has spent the past two years researching the incident, after re-watching the 1980 film Breaker Morant. He has brought the families together and led the push for an inquiry.

But the British government rejected a petition for pardons last year, arguing that the lack of official documents and courts martial transcripts were a significant obstacle to a review.

Mr Unkles said he believed the British government did not want to expose itself to the "unpalatable truth" that one of its commanders had given orders to shoot prisoners. He said an independent inquiry was needed.

"Whether errors in the administration of justice were made a year ago or 100 years ago, to me it matters little," he said. "I believe this is a case of Australian military history that has never been settled in a judicial sense."

Mr Unkles said the Australian government could not grant pardons because the men were serving under the British military and were therefore subject to British military law.

However, he said it could conduct a judicial inquiry and send the findings and recommendations to the British government.

If the government refused to hold an inquiry, Mr Unkles said he would seek leave from the British High Court to appeal against the original court martial decision.

Mr Denton, who is acting pro bono and has been briefed by Mr Unkles, said the case for an independent inquiry was compelling. In his legal opinion, which was sent to Mr McClelland earlier this month, Mr Denton argues that the convictions were unsound for a number of reasons, including that the men did not receive a fair trial because they were not given proper time to prepare for the court martial.

The defendants were placed in solitary confinement for three months and denied contact with relatives in Australia and government representatives. Their first opportunity to consult with their defending officer, Major James Thomas, was the night before the court martial began.

Major Thomas, a lawyer from the NSW town of Tenterfield, had no criminal law experience and was "loaded up" with five accused to defend.
As for Kitchener's role in the less than copacetic trial:

The men were also denied an opportunity to appeal against their convictions and sentence. They had the right to petition the King prior to their sentences being carried out.

However, Lord Kitchener made himself unavailable following the sentences and did not appear to have delegated his authority to deal with the convictions. Mr Denton said this was a grave miscarriage of his duty as commander, for which he could have been court martialled.

The film: "Breaker Morant"

Herodotus’ “Histories” of the Persian Wars (very liberally ‘translaparaphrased’): Book I sections 36 -43

36 (Wherein Nemesis starts dealing Croesus his hard hand)

Concurrently with all this, it happened to be the case that Mt. Olympus in Mysia was being seriously harassed by a monstrous boar. The dreadful animal used to prowl from its lair and wreak havoc with local crops. Many times the Mysians had taken the field against the beast, but to no avail. The unfortunate hunters invariably suffered more damage than they were able to inflict. As a last resort, the Mysians had sent emissaries to Croesus.

‘My Lord,’ the messengers said, “a terrible and monstrous boar has appeared among us and is doing tremendous damage to our crops. We would like to catch him, but cannot. Please, sir, send your son with a party of young men and hunting dogs so that we may finally be rid of the brute.”

Croesus thought. He had not forgotten the dream he had. Answering the Mysians, he said there would be no further discussion of his son.

“I will not send him. He has just wed, and is quite busy with that. However, I am quite willing to send carefully chosen men, and a complete hunting outfit, with all encouragement to help you remove the animal.”


The Mysians were satisfied with the plan. However, at that very moment, Atys, having overheard the request, made himself visible in the room. The young man, seeing that Croesus would not relent in his refusal to allow him to join the hunting party, argued thusly with his father: “Once, honor demanded I win respect and fame as a hunter and warrior, but now, through no fault, cowardice or lack of spirit on my part, you will not allow me to take part in either activity. Think how piteously I must appear as I walk from this place to the assembly. What do the people think of me? How do you suppose my young wife takes all this? She must think she has a husband wanting in manly qualities. Now father, I insist that you either let me join this hunting party, or give me a cogent reason why what you are doing is actually good for me, even though it certainly appears otherwise.


“Son,” Croesus replied, “of course you are no coward, nor any other disreputable sort. Be assured, that is not why I do this. The fact is that I had a dream that you were soon to die. I dreamt you were to be killed by an iron spearpoint. That dream impelled me to hasten your marriage. That self-same dream also compels me to resist your appeals to join this party. As long as I live I am committed to protect your life, and will not let death have you as his prize. You are my only son, for I do not count that one who is mute to be your brother.


“Father, I can understand, and cannot blame you for taking these precautions in light of the dream,” said Atys, “but, there is something you have failed to account for. It is only right that I point it out. Your dream had me dying by an iron spear. Think father; do boars have hands? Can a boar wield that fearsome weapon? If you had dreamt I was killed by boars tusk, it is obvious all your precautions would be entirely justified. But, that is not what you dreamed. It is a spearpoint that is supposed to do me in. So, let me go to Mysia. It is only a hunt. Our quarry is only an animal. We do not go to fight men.”


“My fine son,” replied Croesus, “I admit defeat. You auger the dream better than I. I am compelled to change my mind. You can join the expedition.


The king, still beset by misgivings, then sent for Adrastus the Phrygian and charged him with responsibility to protect Atys thusly: “Burdened by misfortune you came to my land. I gave you purification and welcomed you into my house. I have spared nothing to entertain you. Now, as fair recompense for my generosity I ask that you take charge of my son during this boar hunt. Protect him from the highwaymen and cutthroats on the road. Besides, it is always your duty to go where you can obtain honor for yourself. Your family’s good name demands it. Besides, you are indeed a strong man.


‘Sir,’ Adrastus replied, ‘under ordinary circumstance, a man such as myself, being under a cloud of misfortune, would turn down such adventures, for he would be irresponsible in associating with those that are luckier than he. Indeed, I admit I have no heart for the venture, and can site many reasons not to go. But your earnest beseeching of my good will makes all the difference in the world to me. So, despite my misgivings, I am ready to do as you will. I will do everything within my power to ensure the safe return of your son.


With that answer, the party set out for Mysia; men, dogs and equipment. They made their way to Olympus, encamped and intently watched for the boar. Soon they spotted him. They then surrounded the beast and let fly with their spears. Then it was that Adrastus, the man whom Croesus had ritually purified of blood guilt, while aiming his throw at the boar, much to his horror, missed the beast and mortally struck the son of Croesus. The king’s dream had been fulfilled.