Welcome to the personal website of Michael Gorey. I'm a Bundaberg-based communications professional interested in photography, reading, history, politics and travel.



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Gorey Things
10 November 2017 | comments: 0 | Categories: | Tags:

Breaker Morant

The campaign seeking a posthumous pardon for Breaker Morant and Peter Handcock is misguided. Although the two men shouldn’t have been shot by firing squad, they clearly deserved punishment for their actions.

I'm an Australian partly of Dutch descent. My ex-wife is an Afrikaner. We believe that many people with South African connections, and others who value human life, share our objection to Morant being pardoned.

Breaker MorantThe fact is that he executed Boer prisoners. Whether he did so under orders is irrelevant. Nazi soldiers who killed Jews were also acting under orders.

Putting ourselves in Morant's position, it is possible we might partially excuse him given the brutal loss of his comrade, Captain Hunt, and the guerrilla nature of what was then a dirty phase in a lingering, dirty war. However, I'd like to think we definitely would not have participated in the killing of a missionary, as Morant did.

The German missionary, Reverend Hess, had Boer sympathies, but the motive for his death was to cover up the crime he discovered. The fact this motive existed proves that Morant knew it was wrong to kill the prisoners.

It's become fashionable in Australia to regard Morant, who was English, as some sort of romantic folk hero. It's unfortunate this sentimental tendency has distorted our collective memory of the Boer War.

Britain didn't need Australia's help to defeat the small group of Afrikaner farmers who dared to fight the Empire for their independence, but thousands of our young men rushed overseas to join what they considered an adventure.

Their enthusiasm makes Australia equally culpable, with Britain, for the atrocities which were committed in the later stages of the war.

The war wasn't justified. The Transvaal Republic and Orange Free State were internationally recognised as sovereign nations. Britain wanted control of their diamonds and gold.

After their official surrender some belligerent, fiercely nationalist Boers in rural areas continued to wage a guerrilla struggle against the British and Australian troops.

You have to admire these frontier people and the value they placed on their freedom.

Lord Kitchener's infamous response was a "scorched earth" policy. Boer women and children were herded into unsanitary concentration camps where thousands of them died.

This holocaust remains among the greatest unanswered war crimes of the 20th century. It's a stain on our history comparable with the genocide of Tasmanian Aborigines.

Australia was a federated, autonomous nation at the time our soldiers implemented Kitchener's unforgivable strategy. This left a bitter legacy in South Africa that arguably contributed later to the establishment of apartheid.

The hatred between white majority Afrikaners and people of British descent was a key factor in the South African National Party's rise to power in 1948.

We should acknowledge our inglorious past rather than seeking to elevate the status of someone who was rightly punished for committing murder.

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