Saturday, 2 April 2016


by Dave Wheeler
    Part of the above title refers to my trip, on the 12/3/16, to the birthplace of Lieutenant Peter Joseph Handcock, a "Scapegoat of the Empire," to get photos and information relevant to the man's life. His birthplace was near Bathurst, NSW. Apart from taking some photos, not being able to find accommodation in Bathurst after expending a lot of time and energy trying, then experiencing a long dark night in Cowra due to a power failure when I did find accommodation, the trip was non-eventful. I suppose I should be grateful for not having had a very bad car accident. I won't say much more about my trip to Bathurst, but I will have much more to say about Lieutenant Peter Joseph Handcock and others associated with his life and death.
     Before I go further into the subject of this essay and explain amongst other things who Peter Handcock was for the benefit of those who have not heard of him, I will state that it has a lot to do with the Boer war.
   I will also state that I really hope it will not be seen to be glorifying war. As a kid my granddad told me stories of his experiences in WW1, but he left out the many gory bits and concentrated mainly on humorous and interesting incidents. For that reason, like many naive young blokes, I found the idea of war exciting and I was looking forward to the possibility of having similar experiences. Fortunately however, I did not experience war, and as I aged I could see that the whole concept is incredibly stupid and a blight on humanity. If humans were rational and not so susceptible to such things as ideology, gullibility, suberviance to authority, having a sheep-like mentality, greed and a lack of empathy, we would not have war, because no side would have a reason to instigate war or to retaliate. But, unfortunately the overwhelming majority of humans have hunter gatherer drives and emotions which overwhelm their ability to function rationally, and I am not saying my record for acting rationally and overcoming my primitive drives and emotions has been unblemished, particularly when I was young. And unfortunately it is usually the young and the naive who are used as cannon fodder in wars to protect or expand vested interests of the very wealthy minority.
      I would like to thank Trish Amer and the research team of the Bathurst Historical Society  for the material they provided me on Peter Handcock. I say the same for Richard Williams, a great grandson of Peter Handcock, who also provided for me a wealth of information. His website is . I would also like to thank Terry Fish, who is a great grandson of Peter Handcock's first boss, George Fish, for the use of the photos he provided.  
    Although these people supplied me with many facts and probable facts surrounding Peter Handcock, I will stress that the views I express in this essay are my own and not necessarily the views of  the Bathurst Historical Society, Richard Williams or Terry Fish. 
      Although this post is primarily about Lieutenant Peter Joseph Handcock (17/2/1868-27/2/1902), it is also to a lesser extent about Lieutenant Harry "Breaker" Morant (9/12/1864-27/2/1902) and Lieutenant George Witton (1874-1942). For those who are not aware, Peter Handcock and Breaker Morant were unjustly executed in South Africa in 1902, by firing squad, during the Boer War. They were executed for shooting Boer prisoners. They admitted to doing so but claimed they were following orders to "take no prisoners." George Witton, although initially sentenced to death, unlike his cobbers was granted a reprieve and released on the 11/8/1904.
    Peter Handcock and Breaker Morant were also charged with a separate incident that involved shooting and giving an order to shoot  a Rev Daniel Heese, for which they pleaded not guilty. They were acquitted of the charge although unfortunately many people believe they were guilty of the act. Richard Williams, on his website, has collected much information and gives an excellent argument to support the case for them not being guilty of the offence. His essay is entitled "Who killed Rev. Daniel Heese?" The following link will take you directly to the relevant page on his website. Copy and paste the link or you will lose this site.   
   There is another link on Richard Williams' site which addresses Witton's letter in 1929 to Major Thomas in which Witton states that Peter confessed to the murder of Heese. This unfortunately has been accepted by some historians, (particularly anglophile historians who cannot accept the fact that many members of the English officer class at the time were aristocratic chinless wonders who could at best be described as not very nice people), as proof of Peter being guilty of Heese's murder.
    Other than the fact that there were five Boer witnesses who stated that Peter was 15 to 20 miles away from Heese at the time of the killing, Richard goes into great detail to present other arguments for why the content of the letter should not be accepted on face value by historians, particularly since it is in stark contrast to what Witton had previously stated. The link I refer to is In summary, the evidence that Peter Handcock did not kill Rev Heese is close to absolute.
     Although recruited in Australia, the men were under the control of the British because at the time of their recruitment Australia had not been federated and consisted of self-governing colonies that were subject to the British crown. I will say more about what led to their arrests and court martials shortly.
      In giving a brief overview of some aspects of the life of the better known Breaker Morant, he was an English migrant who had happily made Australia his home in 1883, at the age of around 19. He was a well-educated, published bush poet, drover and renown horse breaker, hence the nickname "Breaker." He was married briefly to the famous Daisy Bates and he was not fond of paying his debts. The latter facts, plus anecdotes regarding what he got up to, made him a very colourful character and it gave people plenty to write about after his execution in 1902.
    Above is a photo of a memorial in a park at Bogan Gate dedicated to Breaker Morant, who, the memorial states, "worked, played and wrote in our area."Why hasn't something of a similar nature been erected at Bathurst to honour Lt Peter Handcock? I am not saying he should be honoured as a hero; I am saying he should be remembered as a victim, and that his monument should be there to encourage the young of Bathurst, and visitors, to not obey without question, because once the politics of situations change one may not receive a fair go.  And Peter Handcock definitely did not receive a fair go. Although Peter's name was eventually added to the Bathurst Boer War Memorial I could not even find a street that was named after him. 
   The above photo was supplied to me by a mate, Tony Healy, who took it on a recent trip. Tony has an interest in cryptic Australian animals and coauthored a well-known book on the subject entitled, "Out of the Shadows."
   Peter Handcock on the other hand, had little formal education. He has been depicted as a simple rural Aussie lad, born and bred in the Bathurst region, and because relatively little is known of his background and personality he is seen as a far less colourful character than the Breaker. If we knew more about him he may have become better known to Australians after his execution in 1902, particularly since he was a born and bred Australian.
    George Witton was from a farming family near Warrnambool, Victoria. After returning to Australia after his release from prison in 1904 he wrote, in 1907, "Scapegoats of the Empire," which exposed the whole tragic farce that led to his gaoling and the executions of Peter Handcock and Breaker Morant. He lived most of the rest of his life as a dairy farmer in Queensland and died of natural causes in 1942.
   Above is a photo of Lieutenant Peter Joseph Handcock, the main subject of this essay. If you want far more details about what led to Peter and the Breaker's execution than I provide you can visit the websites of Jim Unkles at and Richard Williams, the previously mentioned great grandson of Peter Handcock, at . (Copy and paste the links or you will lose this site). 
   Richard Williams' site is dedicated primarily to the defence of Peter Handcock, who Richard believes was "a victim of his lack of education, his overdeveloped sense of duty and his unquestioning belief in the necessity to obey the orders of his superior officers." 
Pictured above is Harry "Breaker" Morant. 

  Pictured above is Lieutenant George Witton. He was sentenced to death with Peter and the Breaker, but after protests was granted a reprieve and had his sentence commuted to life in prison. After more protests he was released on the 11/8/1904. He later wrote, in 1907, the book entitled "Scapegoats of the Empire," which exposed the injustice that was served on Peter, the Breaker and to a lesser extent, himself. 
   For those of you who did not see the 1980 film, "Breaker Morant," and know nothing about what led to the executions of Peter Handcock and Breaker Morant and the gaoling of George Witton, read on for a while then watch the embedded trailer of the said film, below, when it appears.
      Before getting into the life of Peter Handcock before the Boer War and attempting to assess his character, which is my prime objective, I will briefly describe in more detail than I have already what led to his execution, as his activities during the Boer War can assist in gauging his character.
    After Peter Handcock, Breaker Morant and George Witton were charged with shooting Boer prisoners, they, at their court martial, admitted to being responsible for the shootings. As previously stated, the defence they used was that they were following an order to do so. They said that the order was issued to them by a senior officer, Captain Percy Hunt. They also claimed that the order had been given to Captain Hunt by Colonel Hamilton, Lord Kitchener's military secretary, at Kitchener's private house. They also claimed that all the detachment were aware of the order and that it had originated from Kitchener. The specific order that was sent down the line was, "take no prisoners."
      It was a closed court martial, conducted in secret.
    There were witnesses for their defence, and intended appeal, they wished to call who could have corroborated their claim, but because the accused were subjected to a kangaroo court the British command ensured the most crucial witnesses were not available. They had been sent to India. Of course Hamilton, and Kitchener through Hamilton, denied such an order was given.
    The defence wished to cross examine Kitchener himself, but as expected he made himself unavailable, so there was no appeal. I doubt however, it would have assisted the accused had he been cross examined, because by telling the truth he would have incriminated himself, and there is documentary evidence, which I will discuss shortly, that proves the man was totally devoid of morality and a ruthless psychopath. And given his position, his lack of morality and the politics of it all, he, like Hamilton, would have happily perjured himself for the sake of self-preservation.
    Of course nothing was in writing as far at the "take no prisoners" order was concerned, and the end result was that the court did not accept that the order was given, which, as previously explained, meant that two of the accused were executed and the other, Witton, was sentenced to death until he was granted a reprieve.
      Although the British command at the time obviously knew that the order to take no prisoners had been given, considering they gave it, they decided to sacrifice the Australians because Britain had got itself into an unpopular war and were in a hurry to get out of it. They thought they could achieve that goal by having the Australians executed, because in doing so it would appease the Boer command.
     The fact that the order was issued by the commanding officers of the accused has been proven by way of a document that has come to light relatively recently through the previously mentioned Jim Unkles, who received it from someone who retrieved it from the Australian National Library in the early 1990's. Although some prominent historians had known about the document for some time, they deliberately chose to not share the information contained within the said document to protect the guilty. It would seem that as historians they were prepared to prostitute themselves by letting their personal allegiances get in the way of their work.
    The document is a legal opinion on the matter, written by Colonel J St Clair, the Deputy Judge Advocate General, on the 22/11/1901, who had access to all the transcripts of the court of inquiry, and after examining them he accepted that the order to take no prisoners was given from higher up in the chain of command. 
    Rather than go through the document and its implications in great detail I will say that its relevance is fully explained on Jim Unkles' website. The following link will take you directly to the relevant page.  (Copy and paste the link as you will lose this site if you click on it).
  Further evidence that the order to "take no prisoners" was given from high up in the chain of command can be seen by going to the following Trove link and reading an article published in the Adelaide Advertiser on the 8/5/1902. It is entitled, "The Bushveldt Carbineers-Statement by an ex Trooper." The statement is made by the ex trooper JA Heath. He made it clear they were under orders to take no prisoners and he was obviously very much aware of the injustice suffered by Morant, Handcock and to a lesser extent Witton. He admitted to being ordered to shoot prisoners himself and doing so.
   More evidence that the order to "take no prisoners" was given from high up in the chain of command came from an article from the National Advocate on the 12/9/1902 on page 3. It was entitled "The Bushveldt Carbineers," in which "An old Bulletin contributor, now representing an English paper at Pretoria," made it clear that Handcock and Morant got a rough deal. When referring to Morant and Handcock the "old Bulletin contributor" stated in part,"the stories, current and printed, concerning those officers are either gross exaggerations or cruel inventions. What had been done by them was strictly in accordance with instructions, and if they deserved death for their actions, at least a thousand others should have been shot in gloomy Pretoria gaol." He further states,  "I have seen the original evidence and compared it with the scant extracts, and was amazed at the careful emasculation of the full report. In most essential points the facts were perverted, and everything which told in favour of the men was carefully excluded. He also states in part, "As for Handcock, a simple-minded , uneducated fellow-the evidence would acquit him in any civil court in the world, and all the Bushveldt Carbineers I interviewed are unanimous as to his absolute innocence. The printed evidence regarding Handcock is simply ridiculous and infamously misleading to his friends and all Australians."
   Although we now have proof that the order was given, common sense tells us that it would be highly unlikely Hamilton or the officers directly under Kitchener's command would have acted alone and issued such an order without Kitchener being behind it. Other than that, Kitchener's diary and a statement made by General Haig confirms that Kitchener had Boers executed if they were captured wearing British uniforms. It is not hard to imagine him going one step further and ordering his men to have any Boer prisoner they had been fighting shot, even if they were not wearing a British uniform, particularly since, as previously stated, there is evidence in regard to his behaviour in other matters that shows he was a ruthless psychopath.
   Above is a copy of the original minute book containing part of Deputy Judge Advocate General St Clair's opinion following the court of inquiry. It is from the Public Records Office, England. We have Jim Unkles to thank for this. Click to expand.
   To elaborate on the last sentence, the British kept Boer prisoners, including Boer women and children, in appalling conditions in concentration camps, and thousands of the inmates starved to death and died of disease. To be precise the number of deaths included 4,177 women, 22,074 children under 16, and 1,676 men. Although begun by Lord Roberts, Kitchener played the major role in maintaining and expanding those death camps, and the evidence of the camp's existence, what occurred in them and the role Kitchener played in their expansion and maintenance, is so well-documented it can only be described as comprehensive and absolute. It is as comprehensive and as absolute as the evidence of the Holocaust atrocities occurring in Dachau, Auschwitz and other infamous German concentration camps. The following two links will take you to two of many websites that describe the British concentration camps, the conditions within those camps and Kitchener's involvement with them. There have been many books written on the subject.
Below are two youtube links to the subject of the British Concentration camps during the Boer War.  
   The first link is a slide show showing the starved children, etc, within Kitchener's concentration camps.
     The second link, below, which is partly entitled "Arseholes of History," is a short video that is also dedicated to the said camps and Kitchener. The producer of the said video quite rightly regards Kitchener as one of the "forgotten arseholes of history," and has placed him on the same level of infamy as the leading Nazi's of WW2. I particularly recommend you watch it. Copy and paste the link or you will lose this site.
   Although unlike the Nazis, Kitchener and his mob did not actually gas or shoot the prisoners in the British concentration camps, what they did do was at least as immoral. I say that because they deliberately allowed the prisoners to die from starvation and disease, and some would consider that action as immoral, if not more immoral, than giving them a quicker death by way of bullets or gas.
  The concentration camps were established because the British burnt down around 30,000 Boer homesteads and destroyed the crops and cattle, and as such displaced the occupants. 
    To give more examples of Kitchener's psychopathy I have copied and pasted an answer Richard Williams gave, on his website, to an anonymous critic who accused Australians of "making a hero out of a war criminal" while referring to Peter Handcock and/or the Breaker. The critic called himself "Anonymous."
    Anonymous, I see that you are from the United Kingdom so let's look at how the British reward their war criminals. In Kitchener's case they made him a Lord and even as recently as last year they honoured him with a commemorative 1 pound coin despite the fact that his many misdeeds have now become well-known.
    Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to list some of those misdeeds. Any fair-minded person would agree that the following would place Kitchener right up there with the worst of history's war criminals:
1/Following the Battle of Omdurman in Sudan in 1898 Kitchener allowed his troops and camp followers to slaughter thousands of wounded Dervish prisoners. In a well-known and often quoted letter to his mother on 26 January 1899 Winston Churchill wrote: I shall merely say that the victory at Omdurman was disgraced by the inhuman slaughter of the wounded and that Kitchener was responsible for this. (Discussed in "Empire on the Nile: The Anglo-Egyptian Sudan 1898-1934", M.W.Daly, Cambridge University Press, 2003,p3-4)
2/After one Sudanese battle he dragged the defeated Emir through a nearby town in chains with a halter around his neck, being whipped as he went. (Carnegie and Shields p108)
3/ In Kartoum he desecrated the tomb of a long dead revered religious leader. This was confirmed in the British parliament by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs who said: I understand that the body of the Mahdi was taken from its grave and thrown in the Nile because Kitchener felt that superstitious reverence which attached to the Mahdi's memory might cause a recrudescence of troubles in the Sudan. (Hansard 202/1899).
4/He destroyed the homes and farms of some 30,000 Boer families thus ensuring that many women and children perished either in his concentration camps or out on the veldt. 28,000 Boer women and children, along with countless thousands of native women and children perished in the concentration camps that were started by Lord Roberts but retained and greatly expanded after Kitchener took command. In the concentration camps, where meagre rations were meagre at best, he placed the families of those men who were still fighting against him on half-rations to force them to surrender. This was confirmed in the British parliament by the Secretary of State for War when the subject was raised: I understand that a distinction has been drawn between those who have surrendered with their husbands and fathers and those who come in to be fed while their relations are still on the field.(Hansard 26/2/1901)
   It has been suggested that Kitchener's actions in the Sudan were partly conducted in the spirit of revenge for the execution and beheading of General Gordon 13 years earlier. But hold on a moment-didn't the courts martial acknowledge that Morant's motivation was the death and mutilation of his friend and commanding officer, Captain Hunt? It seems that when Generals kill prisoners they are rewarded with a peerage whereas mere Lieutenants are executed as war criminals.
Tends to put things in perspective, don't you think?
   Pictured above is Lizzie Van Zyl who died on the 9/5/1901 at the age of 7 while incarcerated at Bloemfonteen Concentration Camp, South Africa, during the Boer War. The camps of course were run by the British. She was deliberately given rations that were so small starvation was guaranteed, because her father, a Boer combatant, refused to surrender. The British command at the time could only be described as human garbage. You wouldn't urinate on them if they were on fire!
                                 Lord Kitchener, the psychopath.
   I reiterate, given that the evidence of what occurred in the concentration camps is absolute, and given that the evidence that Kitchener played the major role in maintaining and expanding those camps and committing other atrocities in the Sudan is absolute, the evidence for Kitchener being nothing short of a psychopath is also absolute, as only a true lowlife psychopath could be behind that sort of thing. And if he was capable of indirectly killing so many women and children, his ordering his men to take no prisoners then making himself unavailable for the court martials of Handcock, Morant and Witton would definitely not have caused him to suffer sleepless nights.
     When speaking of Peter and the Breaker the Boers of today like to say that children were amongst their victims. It is true that some British combatants shot at children, but not so Peter Handcock and Breaker Morant. The Boers the latter shot or gave orders to shoot were old enough to carry and use rifles against them. Rather than attempt to qualify what I have just said I suggest you visit Richard Williams' site on the following link and read it thoroughly, as he goes into great detail on the whole subject.  
   Of particular interest in that respect is Peter Handcock's affidavit, which was compiled in recent years based on available evidence for the purpose of conducting a moot hearing. It can be viewed on the following link and in gives details of the shootings they admit to carrying out. Nowhere was it admitted by Peter or proven by anyone else that those who they shot were too young to carry and use a rifle.    
   If you compare what Handcock, Morant and Witton did to the Boer prisoners under the circumstances they found themselves in with the atrocities performed by Kitchener and his mob on the Boer prisoners in the concentration camps, and the Sudanese, it makes Handcock, Morant and Witton's supposed crimes pale into insignificance. Actually, if you compare what they did to what our bombers and our allied bombers did to defenceless civilian women and children during WW2 it also makes their supposed crimes pale into insignificance.
    Let's get back to the court martial itself for which the three accused were found guilty of their charges and punished. Whether one believes that Peter Handcock and Breaker Morant deserved execution is one thing, but the fact that they, and George Witton, were not given due process and were instead subjected to a kangaroo court and used as scapegoats cannot be disputed. And as I have said, the British command ensured Kitchener and several other officers could not be called as witnesses for the defence in regard to the "take no prisoners" order, even though they were crucial witnesses. Remember, the Nuremberg defence of obeying orders not being a lawful excuse for a war crime was at that stage not established.
    In order to further lessen their chances of getting off their charges they were initially given nobody to act as their defence. The solicitor they eventually received was from Tenterfield, NSW, a Major James Thomas. He had relatively little court experience and had never represented anyone at a court martial. His experience in Tenterfield mainly involved conveyancing and wills. He was handed his brief only 24 hours before the court martial.
    Why they received Major Thomas was because he was defending Major Lenehan, who was being courtmartialed on two related charges, and when Major Thomas learnt that Peter, the Breaker and George had no defence he volunteered his services. (Major Lenehan was found not guilty of one of his charges and reprimanded on the other.)
    Although Thomas was no QC he nonetheless put up a good defence, which must have really annoyed the British command. The transcripts of the court martial were "lost" by the British. How convenient.
    Some who agree that that the men were subjected to a kangaroo court say it is irrelevant, because, they argue, Peter and the Breaker admitted to shooting prisoners, even though the Boers were doing the same to the British. However, if the military was going to be consistent Kitchener and his various underlings should have also been court martialed and faced a firing squad if found guilty of shooting and/or giving directions to shoot Boer prisoners.
   Australians, mere colonials and sons of convicts, were, to the class-conscious British officer command, looked down upon as a lower order and seen as expendable. The executions of Breaker Morant and Peter Handcock were partly responsible for the contempt many Australian diggers showed the British officers during WW1.
    Embedded below is the trailer to the 1980 Bruce Beresford film, “Breaker Morant,” which gives some idea of what the Boer War and the charges again Handcock and Morant were about. 

   Above is a photo of Major James Thomas, the solicitor from Tenterfield who defended Peter Handcock, Breaker Morant and George Witton. 
   Above is a photo of Major James Thomas standing over the single grave of Peter Handcock and  Breaker Morant in Pretoria, South Africa, in 1902. He has been described as a sensitive and kindhearted bloke and it was said he was distraught when he knew the pair were going to be executed.
    Despite the fact that Australia became federated on the 1/1/1901 and became the "Commonwealth of Australia," the British government did not tell the Australian government that Peter Handcock, who was a born and bred Bathurst boy, and the Breaker, had, on the 24/10/01, been arrested and charged. Nor did they tell the Australian government after the 27/2/1902 that on the latter date they had been executed.
    Peter's widow, Bridget Handcock, according to Theo Barker's,"A history of Bathurst volume 2," was supporting herself and her children at the time her husband was executed on his pay and by taking in boarders. She was given no official notice of her husband's execution. She did not even know he had been arrested. She was told about his execution by one of her boarders who had read it in a newspaper after he had come home from work. How could one describe the British command at that time as anything more than a bunch of lowlife?  
     When interviewed by the "National Advocate" ("Handcock, a Bathurst Resident: Interview with the Widow, page 2, National Advocated 29/3/1902) Mrs Handcock stated:
     "Would you think that the British authorities would treat a widow and three children as I have been treated? My husband has been dead a month, and not one of us has been acquainted of it. I've heard of the cruelty of the Boers spoken of, but could anything be more cruel than this treatment?"
    The British command did not even see fit to send Peter and the Breaker's remains back to Australia! As shown above, they are buried in a single grave in Pretoria, South Africa.

    Above is a scan of Peter Handcock's final letter prior to his execution. He starts it off with "I have but an hour or so longer to exist." The Polly he refers to is his wife, Bridget. Polly was her nickname. When he refers to Ellem, it is the nickname of his daughter, Eileen. Click to expand.
    To top it off, Kitchener, who had personally signed Peter Handcock's death warrant, unveiled the Boer War Memorial in Peter Handcock's hometown of Bathurst in 1910. And the memorial at the time did not include the name of Peter Handcock! Kitchener had more front than Myers turning up in Bathurst. I will discuss that event in greater detail in due course.
     I regard Peter Handcock as a victim of the war, even though he admitted to following orders to kill the prisoners. I say that because I have asked myself if I would have done the same as Peter Handcock had I been in his situation and if I were his age and had his background, and I cannot say for a fact I would not have done what he did. I say that even though today it is the last thing I would do. However, I am much older than Peter was at the time he fought, I have not had the narrow and limited education Peter had, and I have not lived within the narrow world Peter inhabited.
     Peter Handcock had little formal education, but above all he would not have been well-versed in military law in regard to when one should or should not follow the orders of a superior officer, as would be the case with the Breaker. On the contrary; it was drilled into them that they must obey the word of a superior officer without question, and, I reiterate, at that stage the Nuremberg trials had not occurred and as such it had not been established that following orders could not be used as an excuse for a war crime.

   Above is a copy of the attestation of Peter Handcock upon joining the Bushveldt Carbineers in which he swore to obey the orders of his superior officers. It does not state "lawful orders," as it does nowadays for the military. And as argued previously, the men were not taught to differentiate between lawful and unlawful orders. Kitchener certainly had his own interpretation of what constituted lawful actions. Click to expand.
    It was also a war in which the enemy, the Boers, had no rules to follow, and I doubt either side expected more than a quick death if they were captured. And with that being the case when Captain Hunt's mutilated body had been found showing he had obviously suffered prior to his death the three men would have been enraged. Hunt was a mate of Handcock, Morant and Witton as well as their commanding officer. And in wartime the bond between comrades is very strong. With all things considered I can see why many people in their situation would have been more than willing to obey the order they received in regard to taking no prisoners.
     In regard to inconsistencies, it should be noted that Australian and allied airmen during WW2 regularly dropped bombs on civilians that resulted in thousands of women, small children and babies in prams being blown apart, crushed by rubble and burnt alive. And it was not always collateral damage. The bombing of civilians was often intentional. The objective was to kill and terrorise.
    Those airmen have never been charged with war crimes nor am I saying they should. They, like Peter, the Breaker and George, were young and/or naive men who were ignorant of military law, and they thought they were doing the right thing by following orders. They, like Peter, the Breaker and George, were also aware that the enemy was as ruthless as they were and as such also bombing civilians in allied cities. War is a dirty business.
   The fact that what the airmen did has been deemed legal has nothing to do with whether their actions, or their orders, can be morally justified. Obviously not all airmen dropped bombs on civilians during WW2, but we regard those who did as heroes along with the rest of them.
   Getting back to the Bathurst Boer War Memorial and Kitchener's visit, some believe Peter Handcock's name was removed, at Kitchener's request, from the original list of those who gave their lives in the Boer War, prior to Kitchener unveiling the memorial in 1910. Others believe it was never on the said list. I will have more to say about that question shortly, but either way, the fact that it was not added to the memorial until 1964 has resulted in much criticism of the citizens of Bathurst at the time of Kitchener's visit. Many believe Peter's name should have been present from the start and that they should not have allowed Kitchener near the place.
     I recently read an article written the day after the unveiling of the memorial, in 1910, by the "National Advocate," and the journalist did nothing but sing Kitchener's praises. If his description of the event is accurate, the place was packed and the citizens of Bathurst fawned over Kitchener and worshipped him as a returned heroic warrior. Three relevant quotes from the article are:
  "The distinguished warrior wasted no time at the railways station. The welcome and formal introduction over, he inspected the guard of honour constituted by the cadets, and then embarked in the carriage provided for him, and was driven through the hat-waving throngs, either streaming along the streets or hanging from balconies and other vantage points, to Memorial Place," and
  "The crowd held in check by a wall of police and cadets stretched back into the streets on all sides,  and craned their necks in an endeavour to get a glimpse of the man of the hour." and
  "Lord Kitchener ascended the steps of the platform to the accompaniment of cheers by the throng and the strains of 'See the conquering hero' comes by the band."

   Why did the Bathurst citizens fawn over Kitchener, and were they fully aware of how badly one of their own had been treated? 
   I have changed my mind on this question to a degree since I originally published this essay as a result of going over more documents sent to me by Richard Williams.
    Yes, the details of the court martial and executions were written up in the papers after the execution, and many Australians were annoyed by the fact that Peter and the Breaker were arrested and executed without the Australian government being informed, and many were further angered after they became aware that they did not receive due process in the court martial. But because the pair had admitted to the shooting of Boer prisoners it would seem that most Australians, including most citizens of Bathurst, believed they deserved to be executed, and I doubt many Australians truly believed they were following orders. And if they did believe they were following orders, from the welcoming they gave Kitchener it seems obvious they did not realise that the orders came from very high up the chain of command and that there had been a cover up.
    According to Barker, when details of the event were written up in the Bathurst papers, particularly the National Advocate, not long after the executions, no noticeable public reaction occurred and "the general feeling was one of shame that Australians should have been involved in such nefarious activities."
    Remember, the St Clair document, which I have previously referred to, which proves the pair were following the order to "take no prisoners," did not come to light until recent times.
   It is true that George Witton had written "Scapegoats of the Empire" in 1907, which exposed the British command for what they were in relation to how they treated Peter, the Breaker, himself and others, but he did not sell a lot of copies and the book did not contain the St Clair document.
   Various sources say "Scapegoats of the Empire" was withdrawn from sale by the government and some say the copies were destroyed by a fire before they were distributed. Richard Williams told me that Lieutenant Peter Handcock's son, Peter Handcock the younger, (Richard's grandfather), was told by George Witton that the British had interfered to ensure the book was withdrawn from sale.
    Although the evidence of the book being withdrawn for sale is very strong, we know by way of a letter from Witton to his publishers that at least 1000 copies were sold, and for that reason there is an excellent chance a minority of the citizens of Bathurst had read the book. But, as I have said, because the St Clair letter had not come to light it would have come down to most Australians believing the executions were warranted because most obviously did not believe that Peter and the Breaker were following orders.
  When Kitchener unveiled the Bathurst Boer War Memorial were the citizens of Bathurst aware of the atrocities that occurred within the British run concentration camps in Africa and were they aware that Kitchener played the major role in expanding and maintaining them? And were they aware of the atrocities Kitchener committed in the Sudan? Therefore, were they aware that Kitchener was a psychopath and guilty of actions that far surpassed in immorality any actions that were perpetrated by Peter Handcock?
   I doubt that information was readily available, although it may have been available to those who really looked for it. In that era, and now for that matter, there was often censorship by way of omission in regard to what was reported.
   It may also have been a case of Australians displaying the same sort of wilful ignorance that is common amongst Australians today who do not want to acknowledge the fact that people suffer in slave-like conditions in Third World sweatshops in order to supply us with our clothes and shoes.
    The same wilful ignorance however, in one respect, could be attributed to George Witton. Although he had never visited any of Kitchener's concentrations camps he defends them against critics on page 54 of "Scapegoats of the Empire," despite the fact that there was ample evidence at the time he wrote the said book of them being absolute hellholes. Nor did he mention in his book Kitchener's history of atrocities as outlined earlier in this essay when I inserted the quotes and sources provided by Richard Williams.
    If we ignore possible wilful ignorance, in further theorising as to why Witton did not expose Kitchener for the lowlife psychopath he was in '"Scapegoats of the Empire," it may be that although Kitchener was responsible for the whole injustice Witton and his comrades suffered, because Kitchener, while under pressure, commuted Witton's sentence from death to life in prison, Witton may have felt a certain amount of indebtedness to the man. Although I would find such a stance irrational, I remain conscious of the fact that humans are not a rational species.
    In regard to censorship by omission, while a schoolboy I was never taught of Aboriginal massacres. I was taught nothing about land theft and the efforts of Pemulwuy, Dundalli, Windradyne and many others to resist. I was taught about persons like Samuel Marsden and Joseph Foveaux, but nothing was said about the atrocities they perpetrated. I could go on and on. And we have the temerity to criticise the Japanese for censoring their war history?
    In regard to either wilful ignorance or ignorance by way of being subjected to censored history, I have a copy of a letter sent in 1969 to a HJ Gibbney of the Australian National University, from a citizen of Bathurst whose full name I cannot make out, although I could make out the letters Jelr, so I will refer to him as Jelr. 
   Jelr stated that his research indicated that Kitchener did not demand to have Peter Handcock's name removed from the memorial as he has been accused of doing and that he (Jelr) had made himself unpopular by writing a letter to the paper which took that stance. He wanted to make it clear that his objective in writing the letter to the paper was to remove the slur from Kitchener's name because he did not like seeing him falsely accused of having done something he did not do, and not to insult the memory of Lieutenant Peter Handcock.  
   This makes me believe that Jelr, despite it being 1969, obviously had no idea of the atrocities Kitchener was responsible for in South Africa or the Sudan despite the fact that by way of his writing style he was obviously a well-educated amateur historian. I say that because it was not just a case of him wanting to set the record straight for historical reasons. Because he referred to removing the "slur" from Kitchener's name he was obviously concerned with Kitchener's name and reputation being blemished by being accused of something Jelr believed he did not do. Had Jelr been fully conscious of the atrocities committed by Kitchener he would have realised that defending his name in regard to the memorial incident was akin to someone taking the time to remove a slur on the name of the mass murderer, Anders Breivik, if he thought the latter had been falsely accused of not washing his hands after he had urinated.
    In summing up the politics surrounding the unveiling of the Bathurst War Memorial in 1910, as a calculated guess I would say very few people in Bathurst at the time, because of plain ignorance and/or wilful ignorance, were fully conscious of what had occurred at the British run concentration camps and it is unlikely they were aware of the fact that Kitchener played such a prominent role in their establishment and maintenance. It is also unlikely they were aware of Kitchener's other atrocities. As such most Bathurst residents would not have been aware that Kitchener was a psychopath and easily capable of sacrificing the life of one of their citizens then turning up in his hometown and opening a memorial that did not contain his name.
Given there was a Protestant/Catholic divide throughout Australia at the time of Kitchener's visit, it has been suggested that because Peter was a Catholic it could have played a role in Protestant Bathurst residents accepting Peter's fate without objection and accepting that his name would not be on the memorial. I therefore ask, would Peter Handcock's name have been excluded from the Bathurst War Memorial had he been a Protestant, and if he had have been a Protestant would the citizens of Bathurst objected strongly to his execution?
   According to Barker's "A History of Bathurst," when writing under the heading "South African War Memorial," he makes clear that the last committee/s that worked towards erecting the memorial, and most of the wives of those committee members, were strong representatives of the Protestant establishment. He also makes it clear that in Bathurst there had been a feeling that many Irish-Australian citizens were lagging in support of the war.
     With this being the case, if the most influential persons in Bathurst at the time were Protestants it could have played a role, but in short, I don't know. Having said that, by the size of the Catholic church in Bathurst, where Peter and Bridget were married, it would seem Catholics were not too thin on the ground even if they were a minority and had less influence. If there was an organised objection from the Catholics and/or other Bathurst residents it does not seem to have been documented.
What may have been.
   As a calculated guess I would say that had more copies of "Scapegoats of the Empire" been printed and advertised and sold in Bathurst, and had it contained a copy of the St Clair document, and had the citizens of Bathurst been fully aware of what occurred in the concentration camps in South Africa and the role Kitchener played in them, as well as Kitchener's other atrocities, Peter Handcock's name would have been on the memorial from the start and Kitchener could not have got near the place without a huge police escort.
    But then again, I refer back to the National Advocate article I previously quoted, from the 12/9/1902, on page 3. And the National Advocate was the main paper read by the residents of Bathurst. 
   I will remind you that the article entitled, "The Bushveldt Carbineers," was one in which "An old Bulletin contributor, now representing an English paper at Pretoria," made it clear that Handcock and Morant got a rough deal, as they were following orders to "take no prisoners." Again, maybe the Anglophiles of Bathurst did not want to believe it. The article, I remind you, states in part: the stories, current and printed, concerning those officers are either gross exagerations or cruel inventions. What had been done by them was strictly in accordance with instructions, and if they deserved death for their actions, at least a thousand others should have been shot in gloomy Pretoria gaol." He further states,  "I have seen the original evidence and compared it with the scant extracts, and was amazed at the careful emasculation of the full report. In most essential points the facts were perverted, and everything which told in favour of the men was carefully excluded. He also states in part, "As for Handcock, a simple-minded , uneducated fellow-the evidence would acquit him in any civil court in the world, and all the Bushveldt Carbineers I interviewed are unanimous as to his absolute innocence. The printed evidence regarding Handcock is simply ridiculous and infamously misleading to his friends and all Australians."
   As I have said, I can only make a calculated guess in regard to why so many Bathurst residents seemed to have shown such an appalling lack of support for one of their own. I can see why many of the Protestant Anglophiles may have refused to believe that Britain or Kitchener were capable of doing wrong, because to do so may have upset their emotional apple cart given their love for "the mother country" and their deification of Kitchener. I will however, discuss the possibility of there being more people in Bathurst that supported Peter than has been reported due to the possibility of their protests being suppressed.
UPDATE 18/8/16
   A lady named Joyce O’Farrell recently made contact with Richard Williams  as a result of an article I wrote for Bathurst’s “Western Advocate” on Peter Handcock. She gave him some very valuable information on his great grandfather, Lt Peter Handcock, along with two never-before-released family photographs of him prior to his enlistment. Joyce became a good friend of May Bowman (nee Clines), who was a daughter of Bridget Handcock,(Peter’s widow), from Bridget's second marriage. Joyce wrote a family history book entitled, "Further than the eye can see." In it the following quote is attributed to May. It is regarding how the people of Bathurst treated her mother, Bridget, simply because she had been the wife of Peter Handcock:
  "Bridget could not walk the streets of Bathurst as the townspeople shunned her, threw stones and called her names. It was many years before Bridget and her young family could peacefully walk the streets of Bathurst."

    The above photo of the Handcock brothers was taken around 1886. It shows Peter Handcock, who would have been about 18 at the time, on the left, William Handcock (the younger) in the middle, and Eugene Handcock on the right. I don't know the circumstances surrounding the photo, but at that time professional photographers would often provide backdrops and even clothing for family shots, and insisted on formal poses. Up until August 2016 there were only two known photographs of Lt Peter Handcock in existence. There are now four. I thank Richard Williams for allowing me to be the first to release the above photo on my blog and Joyce O'Farrell for handing the photos over to Richard.
  To view the other photo of Peter Handcock that has just surfaced visit the section of Richard Williams' website on the link below, which, along with the said photo, gives an updated biography of Peter Handcock. The photo I am referring to on Richard's site was taken in 1896 and is a family photo. One of the family members shown is Peter the younger, who is being nursed by Peter senior.

Was Peter Handcock's name removed from the Bathurst Boer War Memorial prior to it being unveiled in 1910 to appease Kitchener or was it never on the memorial? 

   This argument has brewed for some time. Some say his name was removed from the plaque at the request of Kitchener and others say Kitchener did not ask for it to be removed as it was never on the plaque from the start.
   There is a third possibility. I am saying there may have been a misunderstanding of what occurred as a result of the way the English language was used, which means both sides of the debate may be right or wrong, depending on how you look at it.
    It may have been that before the plaque was actually made there was a list, on paper, of the names of those who gave their lives in the Boer War, which the committee responsible for the memorial intended to have placed on the memorial in brass. That paper list may have contained Peter Handcock's name.
     Kitchener, upon hearing of the list of those whose names were to be placed on the memorial, may have insisted that Peter’s name was not included, and if that did occur, and it was never placed  on the memorial, it could be said that Peter’s name was removed from the paper list at the request of Kitchener but not from the brass plaque on the memorial if it was never on it. 
    The fact that the issue was not discussed in the local papers is not relevant, as the persons involved in erecting the memorial would have preferred it that way, as they would have wished to avoid controversy. And local papers have to tread a careful line between investigative journalism and selling more papers and upsetting the advertisers they mainly rely on for revenue, which sometimes means censorship by omission or worse.

Note the relevance of the epitaph on the single grave of Peter Handcock and Breaker Morant. 
Was there any public objection at all within Bathurst to Kitchener unveiling the Bathurst Boer War Memorial and it not including the name of Lieutenant Peter Handcock?   
   Having said what I have said, there was of course some very strong feeling within the Bathurst community against Kitchener going there and unveiling the memorial and Peter's name not being on it, particularly and understandably by Peter's widow and other relatives. There is however, no report of anyone attempting to disrupt the unveiling of the memorial, but that does not mean nobody tried.
   Bridget Handcock, Peter's widow, was asked by the police to stay away from the ceremony as they did not wish there to be an incident, and for all I know there may have been unreported incidents or potential incidents at the time Kitchener was visiting. I met a very sincere bloke in New Zealand who told me an ancestor of his tried to disrupt the signing of the "Treaty of Waitangi." He said that for his efforts his ancestor, an Englishman who was married to a Maori, was taken away and bashed by British soldiers before he could get near the signing. I do not know for a fact that the incident did occur, but I would say it probably did, and if it did happen it has not been recorded in any history book. There must have been many, many events throughout history which people planned to disrupt but were stopped from doing so before anyone became aware of their presence and intention, and as such they were never recorded.
   It is therefore entirely possible such an incident/s occurred in Bathurst in 1910 when Kitchener visited, although of course the ceremony may have also run very smoothly without any attempted protest. Having said that, if enough Bathurst citizens objected to what was going to happen they would have been unstoppable.
  Above is a photo of the Boer War memorial at Bathurst that was opened by Lord Kitchener in 1910. Although it seems obvious to me the citizens of Bathurst did not realise the implications of what was occurring, what in fact did occur was the equivalent of the Israelis getting a Nazi war criminal to open a war memorial in Israel. We have a street in Canberra named after Kitchener. I would like to see the name of the street changed. 
 Above is Lieutenant Peter Handcock's son, also named Peter Handcock, who would have been about 8 when he last saw his dad. The photo was taken in 1964 at the Bathurst Boer War Memorial during the ceremony that was held when Peter senior's name was added to the list of those from the district who gave their lives during the Boer War. Richard Williams, Peter Handcock the younger's  grandson, was fortunate enough to have known Peter the younger. Peter the younger found the subject of his dad and his execution very painful to discuss. If you click onto the following ink on  Richard Williams' website you can view a recently discovered family photo that includes Peter the younger as an innocent young child being nursed by Peter senior. Little did he know that within a few years his dad would be removed from his life. 
   Although I do not believe in the supernatural I have been told that some residents of Bathurst believe L't Peter Handcock's ghost haunts this memorial as a result of the injustice he and his family suffered.

  Lieutenant Peter Handcock's name was added to the Bathurst Boer War Memorial in 1964 as shown above
   Shown below is Peter Handcock the younger and other descendants of L't Peter Handcock during the ceremony that was held in 1964 when Lt Peter Handcock's name was added to the Bathurst Boer War Memorial. 

Shown below is R. Osborne, Bathurst Branch RSL President, presenting Peter Handcock the younger with a duplicate casting of L't Peter Handcock's nameplate during the ceremony in 1964 in which L't Handcock's name was added to the Bathurst Boer War Memorial. It seems to me that the addition of L't Handcock's name to the memorial was an admission by the Bathurst establishment that the behaviour of the generations that preceded them in regard to how they treated the memory of L't Handcock was not good. R.Osborne and all others connected to the addition of L't Handcock's name should be proud of themselves. If there are any persons who were present at the ceremony who are still living I would be pleased to hear from them. 

   Pictured above are officers of the Bushveldt Carbineers. Peter Handcock is on the far left and Breaker Morant is sitting next to him patting the dog. Captain Hunt, who ordered his soldiers to take no prisoners (because he was ordered to issue that order) and whose body was mutilated by the Boers, is seated two from the right of Breaker Morant. After Hunt's mutilated body was found Peter, the Breaker and George would have been enraged, as he was a mate as well as their commanding officer. As pointed out by the Breaker at his court martial, they were fighting Boers who did not play by the rules and who were also brutal with prisoners. 
     Now, back to the main purpose of this essay. There has been relatively little said about Peter Handcock other than his war service, which is a pity, and I think that needs to be rectified.
     Peter, from what I understand was an archetypal Australian bushman of the time, and we know he was an excellent soldier in regard to his ability to fight, as were many Australians of the period who were raised in the bush, as they were skilled horsemen, bushmen and riflemen prior to enlisting. He was also well-respected, but I will say more about that in due course.
   Okay, what do we know of Peter Handcock's life prior to him enlisting? And what do we know of his character?
    To begin my research I contacted the Bathurst Historical Society, and for a reasonable fee a most helpful lady named Trish Amer sent me copies of all the information they had on the man. Much of it was very useful. I was to find after going through what I received that I had acquired snippets of information about him that have not been included in what has been written of his life prior to his enlistment in any single article. I will therefore on this post include that information in an overview of his early life. Hopefully others will add to what I have written over time and inform me if they believe any of the information I provide is incorrect.
     In describing Peter's early life I will start with his parents. According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography (Nairn and Serle) Peter Handcock's father, William Handcock, who he described as a farmer and carrier, was English born, and Peter's mother, Bridget, nee Martin, was Irish.
     We know William and Bridget, and the children they brought into the world, including Peter, lived on a farm within the district of Peel, NSW, which is a village/hamlet outside of Bathurst. It was there that their children were raised.
     As to the farm's exact location within Peel, according to Geoff Smith's "100 years of Peel and districts," William Handcock was a leaseholder at Winburndale Creek prior to 1860, which is within the Peel area. And according to the 13/12/1963 edition of the Western Advocate, the farm where Peter Handcock was raised was "near Peel on a spot now occupied by Brucedale woolshed." As Brucedale still exists and has a website, I twice emailed the Suttors of Brucedale and asked if the article was correct, but I have yet to receive a reply. In short, I cannot give the exact location within the Peel area where Peter Handcock was raised.
    Geoff Smith's "100 years of Peel and districts" shows a photo of the Handcock family home at Clear Creek in the early 1900's. Is it the family home where Peter grew up? Why I ask this is because he also says that Peter Handcock's brother, William, settled at Clear Creek. Is he saying that Clear Creek and Winburndale are different properties or that they are one of the same and that Peter's brother, William, took over the family farm at Clear Creek?If the farm was leased and not owned by the Handcocks it may have been part of Brucedale. I would appreciate it if someone could clear this up for me. 
    The famous indigenous warrior and resistance fighter, Windradyne, who led the Wiradjuri in the Bathurst War, is buried on Brucedale. I recently visited the Bathurst region website, which is run by the "Bathurst Visitor Information Centre," which is designed to promote Bathurst and to let viewers know something about the place. It is on this link, I was to find that after clicking on the site's "History" button (after first clicking on the "Visit" button), there was nothing written about the Bathurst War. It actually says nothing about the Wiradjuri and gives no pre-invasion history. It only mentions the Europeans who first inhabited the place, post invasion. If you click on Quick historic facts," it says in part "The area was "discovered" by William Evans in 1813." Was nobody living there when Billy Evans came along? When I clicked on the "Famous People," button, for famous persons associated with Bathurst, it showed Ben Chifely, Governor Macquarie and St Mary MacKillop. Where is Windradyne? Where is Peter Handcock? It would seem that some of the Bathurst establishment are still embarrassed about the behaviour of many of those who preceded them, which could partly explain why I have yet to find any Bathurst landmarks named after Lt Peter Handcock.  
   Update 24/11/16I was contacted by a person who told me that a member of the Suttor family, of Brucedale, at the time of L't Peter Handcock's execution, behaved in a way that led to strong animosity between the Suttors and the extended Handcock family. The said person also told me he believes the present day Suttors may not wish to resurrect past events that may blemish their family name, which, he said, may explain why my emails to the Suttors remain unanswered. I have no idea whether the information I received is accurate. If the Suttors did behave in the manner described after Peter's execution they would be by no means the only ones in the Bathurst district to do so. Someone else with an interest in the life of L't Peter Handcock may wish to pursue the matter further with the present day Suttors. I have tried and had no success.End of update.
      Smith says family lore has it that William was born in 1830 and developed a carrying business between Sydney and Mudgee via Bathurst. According to a Western Advocate article, dated 13/12/1963, William also worked with members of the Fish and Frape families, (Frape came to Australia with George Fish on the same ship) operating a steam chaffcutter. It would seem he did what he could to survive. This is confirmed in the previous article I quoted in the National Advocate on the 29/3/16, on page 2, in which the journalist who interviewed Bridget Handcock, Peter's widow, said that Peter Handcock's father was a one-time partner with the late George Fish, and that Peter, as a lad, worked at George Smith's blacksmithing business.
    Smith however, also says family lore says William died at the age of 44 as a result of a kick from a horse.
    So, when and where was Peter born? We know Peter was born on the 17/2/1868. Most sources say he was born in Peel, and all sources say he was raised on the family property at Peel. One of the documents I received from Trish however, which I have previously referred to on another matter, is a copy of a letter from a HJ Gibney from the Australian National University dated 17/10/1969. Mr Gibney says his research indicates Peter was born in Georges Plains, which is also a satellite village to Bathurst. A person whose name I could not make out who answered the letter however, thinks he was born in Perth, NSW, (which is also just outside Bathurst), which later became Perthville. It is also not far from Georges Plains. However, the article I just quoted regarding the interview with Bridget, Peter's widow, says that Peter was born at Winburndale Creek, and as that information is attributed to coming from his widow, Bridget, it is more than likely he was born at Winburndale Creek. Whatever the case, we know he was born in the Bathurst district.
      Much of the Bathurst War took place around Peel in 1824. It was a frontier war between the indigenous, led by Wyndradine, and the non-indigenous wanting their land. This of course occurred before William Handcock was born. Why don't they have a war memorial to the Bathurst War in Bathurst near the other war memorials? The following link goes into more detail re the Bathurst war.  
   Nairn and Serle say William Handcock died when Peter was aged 6, which would probably be a result of the previously described kick from a horse. If William was born in 1830 and died at the age of 44, and Peter, who was born in 1868, was 6 when his dad died, the maths all fits. The family would have really struggled after William's death. 
    Peter's siblings were William the younger, Eugene, Elizabeth, Jane, Bridget the younger, Eileen and Agnes. 
   According to "A history of Bathurst volume 2," by Theo Barker, after leaving school in Peel, Peter followed rural pursuits and acquired various skills, including carpentry, blacksmithing and veterinary knowledge, mainly with horses. In backing up the article I quoted from the 29/3/1902, a 13/12/1963 edition of the Western Advocate says Peter, as a youth, worked in Bathurst for the Fish Foundry, which was a foundry owned by a Mr George Fish. That stands to reason if Peter's father had worked with members of the Fish and Frape families in the chaffcutting business.
  The link below will take you to the specific article from the 29/3/1902 that states that as a lad Peter Handcock worked for George Fish.
   The business that was started by George Fish, "G. Fish and Sons," is still going strong and is being run by his great grandson, Terry Fish, and great, great grandsons, Warwick and Trent Fish, as "Fish & Sons Rural & Produce Centre." Their foundry closed in 1958 and they have moved from their original premises that was on the corner of Russell and Bentinck Streets, Bathurst, to 1 Lambert Street Bathurst, and they now supply agricultural needs. If you go to their site  you will find it has an interesting history page
   According to George Fish's obituary on the 14/11/1901, on the following link, the Fish foundry at the time of his death was staffed by 60 men and boys. Staff numbers continued to grow after his death. . The obituary also says that when George Fish came out from England he was accompanied by a Mr Frape of Millthorpe, and that they remained firm friends. As stated previously, Mr Frape, George Fish and William Handcock were in the chaffcutting business for a while. 
   Above in the centre is Terry Fish, a great grandson of George Fish, and Terry's sons, Trent Fish on the left and Warwick Fish on the right. The latter two being George Fish's great, great grandsons. The family business continues. 
  Above is Richard Williams, a great grandson of Lieutenant Peter Handcock. Peter Handcock began his apprenticeship as a blacksmith with George Fish in or around 1880 as a 12 year old. George Fish, Peter Handcock's first employer, is to the far left of the photo directly below. The photos show the generations of the Fish family that have carried on the business. Terry Fish was one of the Bathurst aldermen who, in 1963, voted to have Peter Handcock's name added to the Bathurst Boer War Memorial. 
     The photo above shows where Peter Handcock once worked as an apprentice blacksmith, from the age of 12, beginning in or around 1880, for George Fish's foundry. I am led to believe the small building with the Mitre 10 sign is part of the original foundry and that the rest of it was demolished, but I may be wrong. Someone may be able to confirm or deny this. The foundry was located  on the corner of Bendinck and Russell Streets Bathurst, which was directly opposite Shanahan's Family Hotel  shown below. The hotel was built in 1858 and still stands. If Peter was a drinker and he stayed at the foundry long enough for him to become old enough to enter the hotel there is an excellent chance he frequented the place given its very close proximity to his work. 
     Nairn and Serle also refer to Peter having worked as a blacksmith in Bathurst, and Richard Williams, Peter Handcock's great grandson, states on his website that Peter was apprenticed to a blacksmith at age 12, which would have meant he would have begun working for George Fish in or around 1880. I do not know how long he worked for George Fish's foundry. 
    Nairn and Serle say Peter married Bridget Martin (who shared the same first and maiden surname as Peter's mum) on the 15/7/1888 at Bathurst at SS Michael and John's Cathedral, and that he stated he was a labourer working in Dubbo. (The church records need to be checked given that with his skills I wonder why he would work as a labourer). He would have been aged 20 at the time of his marriage. Barker believes the couple lived uneventful lives for 10 years.
     Barker says that in 1899, when the Boer War began, Peter was working for the NSW Government Railways as a carpenter and stationed on the western line at Manildra. Peter and Bridget's family home was in Bathurst, 60 miles from Manildra.
    I do not know when Peter joined the NSW railways or how long he worked at Dubbo, if he did work at Dubbo, or what jobs he had between when he resigned from George Fish's foundry and when he joined the NSW Railway. 
UPDATE 19/8/16
   When I first wrote this essay I had no idea of the address in Bathurst of the family home of Peter and Bridget Handcock and their children at the time of Peter's enlistment and up until his execution. Since then, thanks to the recent efforts of Richard Williams and Joyce O'Farrell, I became aware of two separate newspaper articles that can be found today through Trove which answer the question. I am now sure their family home was at 183 Brilliant Street, Bathurst, and that the house that has that address today is the same house that was inhabited by the Handcocks. I say this because I have been informed that the house that stands there today was built in 1883. I hope it will be heritage listed.

   The house above at 183 Brilliant Street, Bathurst, was the Handcock family home at the time of  Peter Handcock's enlistment and for some time after his execution. I can imagine Peter Handcock walking from the front verandah shown above and waving goodbye to his family, never to be seen again. The house was rented by the Handcocks at the time; not owned. I was not going to post the photo in this essay, but since it has already been circulated on social media I thought I may as well. The present owners are fortunate in owning a piece of Australian history. Hopefully it will be heritage listed.   
    In regard to the said newspaper articles, one dated 5/4/1902 from Trove in the “ Australian Town and Country Journal,” on the following link, indicates that the Handcock home was in Brilliant Street, Bathurst, but it does not give a street number.
   The most important article however, is from the National Advocate written on the 13/1/1905 on page 2. It is a brief letter written by Bridget Handcock regarding her contacting the local council for compensation. She gives her address as 183 Brilliant Street. The link follows.
  Lee Steele, who wrote an excellent book entitled "100 Heritage Homes of Bathurst and District," was kind enough to provide me with the known history of 183 Brilliant Street. The Handcocks were not recorded as owners during that period, which is not surprising because it seems from the other information I have about their financial situation they were not wealthy. We can therefore assume they were tenants. 
    Barker says that in 1899, while stationed in Manildra and working for the railways, Peter travelled to Sydney and enlisted in the 2nd Contingent of the 1st NSW Mounted Rifles, (under Major Knight), to serve in the Boer War, without telling his wife. Nairn and Serle say he enlisted as a shoesmith, and according to Barker he advanced to farrier sergeant very quickly and apparently adapted to military life, "as if he was born to it." 
    Barker suggests he may have been trying to escape a failing marriage, but I don't think this is the case and I will elaborate as to why in due course. By that stage Peter had two sons and a daughter. His sons were Peter the younger, who is shown in the photo when the plaque that held Peter senior's name in 1964 was unveiled, and William, who would have been named after his paternal granddad and uncle. His daughter was named Eileen, presumably after her paternal aunt.
I will not say much more about Peter after his enlistment as that has been well-documented already. I will however, try to gauge what sort of character he possessed and as such I will ask more questions than I can answer.
 1/Peter Handcock, as portrayed by Bryan Brown in the film, "Breaker Morant," was depicted with having certain traits, including being a  simpleminded bushman. Was he? 
  It has been established that he was a bushman, carpenter, farrier, blacksmith and horse vet, but we don't know if he was rough and simpleminded, even though he had limited formal education. His commanding officer, Major Lenehan, while testifying in his defence, described Peter as being simpleminded. But, as argued by Richard Williams, given that Lenehan made Peter a commissioned officer he obviously meant he had an uncomplicated outlook on life rather than suggest he had a mild intellectual disability. I know many highly intelligent people who I could describe as being simpleminded to the extent that they see things in  black and white and eschew philosophy. Many of our "pillars of society" such as magistrates, senior police, shock-jock journalists and politicians fall into the simpleminded category. 
2/His record tells us his ability to fight as a soldier was excellent, which was the case with many rural lads of that era who had led hard lives and were skilled horsemen and riflemen prior to enlisting. But was he naturally aggressive and ready with his fists, as depicted by Bryan Brown in the Breaker Morant film, or was he passive by nature and a reluctant fighter?
   We don't know, although he apparently stated in the court martial that he liked fighting when referring to being a soldier. Given what he went through I can't see him backing down from a scrap.
3/Was he an outspoken larrikin as portrayed by Bryan Brown in the film?
    Richard Williams, his great grandson, thinks it highly unlikely, but again, we cannot say for sure as his peers were never asked that question. 
    According to a statement from a Bathurst resident collected by Kit Denton, which is fully quoted further on, he is described in part as "a fine type of silent Australian." George Witton, on page 63 of "Scapegoats of the Empire," also described him in part as being "even more silent than usual" when he emerged at one stage from his solitary confinement. With two sources suggesting he was not a great talker we can assume that in all probability he was not a great talker. That however, is not absolute proof of him not being a larrikin. I have known several very silent larrikins who, by deed and to a lesser extent the occasional quip, could not be described as anything else. 
4/Was he a womaniser as portrayed in the film? 
   Richard Williams tells me he can find nothing that suggests he was having a relationship with the two Boer women who provided alibis for him when he was accused of shooting Rev Heese. The film, "Breaker Morant" however, maintains he was. I also believe it unlikely. It is unlikely because one of the women, Mrs Schiels, had two sons who gave the same evidence as their mother. The other lady, Mrs Bristow, had a husband who also gave evidence of Peter's whereabouts. So, other than the fact there is no documentary evidence to suggest he was servicing those women, Mrs Bristow's husband would be highly unlikely to testify on Peter's behalf if he thought he may have been servicing his wife, and the same could be said for Mrs Schiels' sons if there was any suggestion Peter was servicing their mum, (particularly when their dad was absent as a POW of the British). So again, even though there is zero proof of him servicing the Boer woman, or any other women for that matter, we do not know whether he was a womaniser or a faithful husband. However, given what has been said about him by those who knew him I would suggest it is more than likely he was a faithful husband. I think it likely he was portrayed as having been intimate with the Boer women because sex assists in the selling of books and movies. 
   The said film also has him saying he enjoyed "chasing tarts around Bathurst." There is no evidence to suggest he engaged in that pastime. 
5/Did he have a sense of humour? 
  I have no idea.
6/Was he a tough man? 
  Of course he was. To have lived the life he lived, as in to be able to carry out the sort of work he did and the military operations he was involved in, he would have had to have been very tough. It was very hard to be soft when growing up in rural Australia in those times, unless one was born into wealth, and he was definitely not born into wealth.
   In "Scapegoats of the Empire," on page 117, George Witton tells us that after the Breaker was told he would be shot the next morning Peter was called in after him to be told of his fate. After he returned, according to Witton, he appeared"quite unconcerned," and when Witton asked him of his fate he wearily replied, "Oh, same as Morant." If we regard the ability to accept reality as a form of toughness that is more evidence of him being a very tough man. From my experience persons growing up on the land become more desensitised and accepting of life and death than city dwellers as they are exposed to life and death daily. Such exposure makes them more conscious of their own mortality and the fleeting nature of life, which in turn makes them better able to accept their own fate. On top of that Peter was a battle-hardened soldier.   
7/Was he a teetotaller, a moderate drinker or a heavy drinker?
    If he was a teetotaller he would have been a member of a small minority, so the chances are he was not. However, one Bathurst resident described him in part as: "morally and physically clean living, careful financially; he was no rude overstepper of  social conventions.” (Kit Denton page 64). If the quote is a true account of the man, and I would say it has every chance of being so given that it is hard to lie about someone in a small town, we can deduce that he would be unlikely to have been a heavy drinker, he could handle his finances and he was socially conservative. I will give the full quote shortly.
    However, having said that he would be a member of a small minority if he was a teetotaller, there is always that possibility. The statement by the ex trooper of the Bushvedt Carbineers, JA Heath, to the Adelaide Advertiser on the 8th May 1902 says in part:"As to drink, there was very little drink where we were, and the officer in question and the men were seldom in camp. We were always on trek on the veldt, and the majority of the officers were teetotallers. I never once saw Lieutenants Handcock and Witton take any drink anywhere." 
8/Was he an atheist, as depicted in the film when he said he was a pagan just prior to his execution, or was he an agnostic or a Christian? 
   If the lines in the Breaker Morant film are correct in regard to him claiming he was a pagan just before he was executed, and as that information came from George Witton it probably was, it could be argued that he was an atheist, but it's hard to say given his circumstances. We know he was at least a nominal Catholic.
9/Did he really lead a non-eventful life prior to his enlistment as Barker suggests or did his life involve many humorous, interesting and possibly life-threatening incidents that would make entertaining reading?
   It would seem at this stage all that information has been lost, but his desire to enlist says something about his nature and I doubt he would have lived a quiet and non-eventful life prior to his enlistment.
10/ He has been depicted in the film "Breaker Morant" as being very cold towards his wife and child (he had 3 children; not just 1, as suggested in the film) by not embracing them when he said goodbye to them before he left for the Boer War. Was this an accurate portrayal of what occurred and his relationship with his family?
     According to the interview with Bridget, his widow, (National Advocate, 29/3/1902), at the time of his enlistment he was working with the railways and stationed at Manildra, which is about 100kms from Bathurst. He did not wish to tell his wife he was enlisting until he had been to Sydney and passed the enlistment tests, so when he had passed the tests he let her know. I had previously thought he did not return to Bathurst to say goodbye to his family, but according to the publications of Kit Denton and Bill Woolmore he did. As to the suggestion that his marriage was strained, I no longer support that theory as there is no hard evidence that it was. On the contrary, he wrote regularly to Bridget while away.
     The reason for him staying in Manildra at the time of his enlistment was probably purely financial. If he could find no other work he would have had no choice and he would not have been the first bloke to be forced to live away from his family for a while for financial reasons, even if it was not permanent. Many husbands go away for long periods for work but do not consider themselves to have moved out. To support this viewpoint in the said article Bridget told of how, while in South Africa, he wrote to her saying he was staying on past the 12 months he was required to stay because he had received a promotion and there was little work in NSW. 
    There is also no evidence that he would have been so cold towards his children that he would not have embraced them before he left. Again, on the contrary, considering right up to the death of his son, Peter the younger, who died an old man, the latter found talking about Peter senior very painful. This suggests to me Peter senior was probably a doting father when he was with his kids. I can't see Peter the younger, who would have been around 8 when he last saw his dad, feeling that way had his dad been a cold and hard tyrant.
      Also, on page 118 of "Scapegoats of the Empire," Witton tells us that after Peter was told of his fate he wrote to Lord Kitchener, "asking neither mercy nor anything else for himself, but begged that the Australian government would be asked to do something for his three children." This to me is proof that his bond with his family was very strong.
    On top of that, for the remainder of her life Bridget talked highly of Peter and would not tolerate anyone putting him down.  
11/ What do we know of Peter Hancock on an overall basis to gauge what sort of bloke he was?     
   We may not know such things about his personality such as whether he had a sense of humour, but we do know he had close mates who thought a lot of him. And according to the article in the Western Advocate on the 13/2/1964, a Mr Harry Shepherd, who had been invalided out of the Boer War and returned to Singleton, described him as a "fine chap." 
 If however, you open Richard Williams' blog on the following link it takes you directly to the page where he has summed up much about his great grandfather based on various quotes. I have copied and pasted from that page Richard's words and the quotes, below:
     Peter Handcock was born in Peel, New South Wales in 1868. His father died when he was aged 6 so he had a minimal education and was apprenticed to a blacksmith at age 12.
   Peter was the second youngest of eight surviving children of William and Bridget Handcock. He married Bridget Martin (1871-1944) in Bathurst in 1888 and had 3 children, William (1889-1941), Peter (1891-1966) and Eileen (1894-1944). He was working on the NSW railways when he enlisted as a shoeing-smith in the New South Wales Mounted rifles and sailed for South Africa on 17 January 1900. During his service he was promoted to Farrier-sergeant. According to Bill Woolmore “His Boer War service would have entitled him to the QSA with clasps Cape Colony, Driefontein, Johannesburg, Diamond Hill and Wittebergen as well as the KSA with the two date clasps, but the Medal Roll for the BVC shows an endorsement next to Handcock’s name: ‘No Medal’”
The Bushveldt Carbineers and the Pietersburg Light Horse – William (Bill) Woolmore [p201]
   At the expiry of his enlistment Major Lenehan offered him a commission in the Bushveldt Carbineers which he accepted with effect from 21 February 1901. While the BVC was a locally formed unit it should not be forgotten that Peter Handcock went to South Africa as the member of an Australian unit and served honourably in that contingent for twelve months.
  One of my goals has been to try to discover what type of person my great-grandfather was. Here is what I have found:

  “He was a fine type of the silent Australian, essentially a doer, not a talker. Resourceful and a grafter he was never out of work. Morally and physically clean-living, careful financially, he was no rude overstepper of  social conventions.”
A Bathurst Resident, Closed File, Kit Denton (p64)

   “He was with us as shoeing-smith and a more courteous and obliging fellow you could not meet. Every soldier who knew him respected him. During the whole time he was with our contingent his conduct was excellent and he never gave any idea that he would do anything brutal.”

A fellow soldier C Company 2nd NSW Mounted Infantry, Closed File, Kit Denton (p67)

   The adjutant of the 2nd New South Wales Mounted Rifles wrote of him, and his new unit: "I was sorry he remained behind to join the Bush Veldt Carbineers. They are composed of a mixed lot, the pickings of men of every corps who were left behind. In fact I might add that many of the men forming the BVC had been charged when in other contingents with shooting surrendered Boers, had been court-martialled and got off". The Adjutant spoke of Handcock as a really good man, the best of them, and he expressed regret at seeing him with a regiment which, he said, was so discredited in South Africa”

Closed File, Kit Denton (pp67-8)

   On the same page Kit Denton went on to say about Peter Handcock, “There is no record of any word being spoken against him in his civilian life and nothing adverse in his time as a soldier – until after his arrest”.

    On page 48 of Scapegoats of the Empire George Witton wrote:

“Handcock was an Australian, he was never the bloodthirsty desperado that (after he had been shot) he was made out to be; he was simply the chosen tool of unprincipled men, who held the power to command. He was born and reared to bush pursuits, and was a hard worker; if he was not doctoring the back of a worn-out horse, he was at the forge shoeing. He never initiated any outrage, but he had a keen sense of duty, and could be absolutely relied upon to fulfil it. He had been under fire many times, and there never was a braver man.”
“Major R. W. Lenehan, late of the Bushveldt Carbineers, gave evidence that Lieutenant Handcock was a veterinary officer, and that he had not wished him to go to Spelonken, but upon representation being made he allowed him to go. Mr. Handcock had a very strong sense of duty, and anything he was ordered to do he would do without the slightest question, no matter what it might be.” 
Maj. Lenehan testifying in the Eight Boers case – Scapegoats of the Empire (p117)

    The following letter is particularly important. As military chaplain Rev. Brough would have been the confidant of many of the members of the Pietersburg garrison and so would have a fairly strong understanding of the character and personalities of all those involved in the courts-martial. 

“Dear Madam,--I was military chaplain at Pietersburg, in the Northern Transvaal, during all the time that the Bushveldt Carbineers had their headquarters there, and I knew your late husband and all those officers and men who were concerned, for and against, in his trial, and I attended most of the sittings of the courts. And, knowing what I know, I want to say to you that, great as may be your grief for the loss of him, you need feel no shame, but rather pride, on his account. He was a good-hearted man, and a brave soldier, simple and fearless, and he did what he was told. If he did wrong-I do not say that he did-it was the fault of his superiors, and [sic] gave him their orders. In the matter of the shooting of the Boer prisoners, of which he and others were found guilty, he acted under the orders of Lieutenant Morant, a man of strong feelings and eager to avenge the savage murder of his friend Captain Hunt. 
In the matter of the shooting of the missionary, the only one of the crimes charged which really excited any moral indignation, the court, without hesitation, found him not guilty, and never, I should think, has a feebler charge been brought before a court. 
I was not a friend of these officers of the Bushveldt Carbineers, but my sympathy was aroused by the harsh treatment they received-in being kept in close arrest (I myself, the chaplain, was requested not to visit them) for some months before they were tried, and by the way the case was, as it were, prejudged from the statements of bad men …”
Rev Joshua Brough writing to Handcock’s widow – (Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal, Saturday 3 January 1903, p3)

     I believe that Rev. Brough’s letter is highly significant for a number of reasons so I intend to discuss it further in another post.
  Major James Thomas, the defending officer, is another person whose opinion is very important. He would have spent a great deal of time in the company of the defendants during the trials and so would have come to know them quite well. He was clearly very impressed by Peter Handcock as the following testimonies show:
  This extract is from a letter written by Thomas on 27 February 1902, the day of the executions, to an unnamed recipient: 
“…I begged especially for Handcock who was merely present as a veterinary lieutenant when Morant ordered the Boers to be shot for outrages. I pleaded his want of education and of military knowledge and all that I could plead, but in vain. Poor Handcock was right when he wrote – ‘Our graves were dug before we left the Spelonken.’ They were dug; I see it all clearly now and why. I know what I cannot write in this accursed, military-ridden country. Poor Handcock! A brave, true, simple man!" Breaker Morant, F.M. Cutlack (pp99-100)

  On 17 May 1902 Thomas wrote from South Africa to The Hon. John Lee, Premier of NSW. That letter stated in part:

“…But the matter of Vet. Lt. Handcock wants special elucidation – especially in view of the lying and filthy statements made in some of the English newspapers, and which find ready sale here. 
I say, and always will say, that Handcock’s life should have been spared – for he was a splendid stamp of a man … He was a man for whom I had the very greatest regard…”
In Search of Breaker Morant, Carnegie and Shields, p164

   On 2 May 1902 he wrote to the premier of Western Australia:

“As for Handcock … the most that can be urged against him is that he had an exaggerated idea of patriotism and soldierly duty. He simply obeyed the orders of Morant, who alleged that the reprisals were legal and justifiable”
Source: Steve Playford "No Surrender"

    And on 6 March 1903 he wrote to the Berlin Mission:

“I am sorry Mrs. Heese wrote a letter afterwards saying Lieutenant Handcock shot her husband. Lieutenant Handcock was fully discharged by the court of that offence and I feel quite certain he was not the man who shot Rev. Heese. I have always said so and I told Rev. Krause so. I doubt very much if the fighting Boers did it – but I strongly suspect a Boer (who joined the English troops) of doing it. I feel quite sure it was not Lieutenant Handcock…”
Source: Steve Playford "No Surrender"

   All of the above opinions come from people who actually knew Peter Handcock. Contrast them with Craig Wilcox’s opinionated epitaph in Australia’s Boer War, the so-called official history, published 100 years later:

“a simple-minded and brutal man” (p379)
    Fellow historian Geoffrey Blainey spoke at the book’s launch in 2002 - a book bearing the Australian War Memorial logo and supposedly a history of Australia’s involvement in the Boer War. The newspaper report of his speech concentrated on his criticism of Morant and his belief that he was an undeserving hero rather than focussing on the many fine achievements of Australian troops in this conflict. Referring to Peter Handcock, Blainey chose to parrot Wilcox’s opinion:
“Fellow lieutenant Peter Handcock was a ‘simple-minded and brutal man’, he said, quoting the book” 
Herald Sun, Melbourne, Vic, Nov 20, 2002, p30

    It’s a shame that those involved with the preservation of our military history are unable to do so with impartiality. Surely it is incumbent on them to present all the known facts and allow people to draw their own conclusions.
   Above is an 1890 photo of the Newmarket Hotel, which was located in William Street, Bathurst, which, like Shanahan's Family Hotel, was not far from where Peter Handcock worked. Peter Handcock would have been around the age of 22 at the time the photo was taken, and given the size of Bathurst at the time the chances of him having known the people in the photo would be very close to 100%.
   Pictured above is the Catholic church in Bathurst where Peter Handcock and Bridget (nee Martin) were married in 1888. The church is still of course in constant use. 
   Above is a photo of an entrance to the property of Brucedale, within Peel. Is that where the Handcock farm was? Did William Handcock, Lieutenant Peter Handcock's father, own the farm or was he leasing it from the owners of Brucedale? Did the owners of Brucedale buy the Handcock farm at a later time? Is none of this true and was the Handcock farm elsewhere? I would appreciate it if someone could clear this matter up for me and the many people who have an interest in the life of L't Peter Handcock.
   When I visited Peel I took a photo of the above Anglican Church. The sign does not say when it was built, but if it was around when Peter was growing up in Peel he is unlikely to have attended it to worship given that he was a Catholic. He would have however, attended weddings and funerals at the church. Peel, like many small villages, grew smaller with time due to agriculture becoming less labour intensive, better roads and faster and more reliable cars. Its post office closed in 1965 and its school closed in 1969. Most houses within the Peel district have been built in recent times. There seems to be other buildings still standing in Peel that would have been around during Peter Handcock's time, but for an outsider like me trying to identify them was not an easy job.

  I am not sure when the photo directly above that shows within the village of Peel, a bridge, the Peel Hotel, a mill and stores, was taken, but we can be almost certain it was during Peter Handcock's era. He of course would have walked over that bridge many times. Those buildings no longer exist and the original bridge was removed and replaced with another and moved to the right as you face the entrance to Peel coming from Sofala. The photo above the one I am referring to I took when visiting Peel recently. A local told me where to stand in order to capture the approximate position of where the photographer stood when the older photo was taken. I think I am out by several metres.
      It's such a pity nobody interviewed Peter's peers. Some of them would have had a pulse right up until 1960 or a bit later. There were of course others who knew him and lived beyond that time period, but as they would have been younger than Peter they could not have known him as well as those who were his age or a bit older. 
  Although those who knew Peter Handcock are obviously deceased there must be some old people in nursing homes around Bathurst and elsewhere who had a parent/s or grandparent/s or older relo's or friends who knew Peter well prior to him enlisting. And given the controversy surrounding his death those folk would have had stories about Peter passed down to them. 
   Even people as (relatively) young as me (I turn 65 this year, 2016) may have, when kids, met peers of Peter Handcock who knew him as a youth in Bathurst, even though persons born around the time I was born would probably have been too young to have been able to appreciate the stories they had to tell.     
   I can remember yarning to a mate's grandad who was a Boer War veteran when I was a boy in the early 60's, and I can remember in 1960, as a 7 or 8 year old, having a long yarn to an old lady who initiated a conversation with me who told me she was 95. She would have been born in 1865, three years before Peter Handcock was born. Taking into account my experiences there must be persons alive today who are 20 or more years older than me who can recall having extended conversations with peers of Peter Handcock, and they would have been old enough to have taken in anything that was said of Peter Handcock. Maybe some of those folk can be found in or around the Bathurst area or elsewhere and maybe some of them have, stored within their memories, information about Peter's character that could be recorded.
   Maybe a student of history or anyone else with an interest in the history of Bathurst or the Handcock-Morant story could seek them out. It needs to be done sooner than later because if such folks exist, and they probably do, they are a rapidly vanishing repository of such knowledge. Old people often crave stimulation, particularly those in nursing homes. And if any of them know anything about Peter they would be more than willing to talk about him with researchers.
    To sum things up, although it is unlikely I will write another essay on Peter Handcock, I will update this one as I receive more information on the man. For that reason I would like to ask readers if they can add to the information I have so far collected on him and/or correct me if they believe I have got any of my facts wrong. If or when I receive such information I will use it to update this essay and send the updated information to the Bathurst Historical Society, Richard Williams and any other persons who have in interest in Peter Handcock's life. Any relevant photos would also be appreciated.
   I have had an interest in Peter Handcock due to my dad, the late Roy Wheeler, having once written a poem which overviews the life of Breaker Morant. I wrote some music for that poem and called it the "Breaker Morant Waltz," (C) Wheeler/Wheeler. It can be heard by clicking on the embedded youtube video below.
   By collecting what has been written about Peter Handcock I am hoping knowledge of his early life will continue to grow as others, including historians, build upon that knowledge.  
    I have tried to look for landmarks or streets than have been named after Peter Handcock in Bathurst but have found nothing. I really hope they exist. If they don't I urge the Bathurst council to rectify the matter as soon as possible. I am not asking the Bathurst Council to name streets or other landmarks after him or to erect a monument to him because he should have been regarded as a hero; I am asking them to do so to remember him as a vicim who did not receive a fair go, and as Australians we are supposed to give everyone a fair go.
    Some will see what I have done on this post as ancient history and irrelevant, but history is something we should learn from. To explain, I will say that at times we may have little choice other than to become involved in a war, such as occurred during WW2 when we were faced with a real threat of a direct invasion. But other wars we have been involved in were not our wars and we should have stayed right out of them. This occurred in the Boer War, as well as the Vietnam War, in which I lost my brother. Those sorts of wars are still being fought today to protect vested interests. 
    By learning of what happened to Peter Handcock and Breaker Morant the youth of today can also learn from their experience by learning to think critically before allowing themselves to kill and risk being killed simply because the government of the day asks them to become cannon fodder. In other words, they must learn to be very suspicious of the words of authority until authority can demonstrate why it should be obeyed.
    If I were a Bathurst resident and a youth worker or a school teacher I would consider encouraging giving the young an invaluable lesson surrounding what happened to Peter Handcock, who was one of their own. I would do that by giving them the historical facts without actually telling them whether or not he got a fair go. It would be up to the young of Bathurst to decide that for themselves. 
   Maybe readers could consider forwarding the link to this essay to the history sections of the schools within the Bathurst area, because I was to find that many of the Bathurst residents I spoke to knew absolutely nothing about Peter Handcock. 
    Along with giving the young the facts surrounding Peter's life and death youth workers and teachers could conduct a tour that visits landmarks associated with him, such as where he lived, where he worked, etc. It would of course include the Bathurst Boer War Memorial where they could see where his name was added in 1964.
    In deciding whether he really got a fair go, I believe that the Bathurst youth, after having visited landmarks associated with the man, would be more than likely to be conscious of the fact that before his insides were ripped apart by a barrage of bullets from persons who were fighting on his side, he, like them, had been a healthy young person who had walked the very same streets they walk upon. 
   Yes, I know Peter did to the Boers what the firing squad did to him, but a youth of Bathurst examining the circumstances of Peter's execution should bear in mind that those who fired upon Peter Handcock, and the military court that directed the latter to fire upon him, were supposed to be on his side.
   Today's Bathurst youth would also hopefully realise that as well as Peter being deprived of his life, his widow, Bridget, was deprived of her husband, and his three children were deprived of their father. And it was all because he obeyed an order to do what he did while fighting under extreme conditions against a ruthless enemy. His situation in no way can be compared to the war crimes of the top NAZIS and Kitchener, who needlessly slaughtered non-combatants.
    This realisation was not lost on Richard Williams, Lieutenant's Peter Handock's great grandson, as Richard grew up having known his grandfather, who, as I have said, was Lieutenant Peter Handcock's son, Peter Handcock the younger. 
    Richard would like to have learned more about his great grandfather directly from his grandfather, but as I have said, his grandfather found the whole subject relating to Lieutenant Peter Handcock too painful to talk about. Most of what Richard learnt came from his mother, who was Peter the younger's daughter. And it was Richard's mother who let Richard know that Peter the younger was very bitter about growing up without his dad and was obviously traumatised by his execution and the circumstances that led to it.
     As I have also said, Peter the younger would have been about 8 when he last saw his father, which would have been prior to Peter senior leaving Bathurst to work on the NSW Railways at Manildra, and prior to his enlistment. When he waved goodbye to his dad he would have had no idea he would never see him again, and he would have waited anxiously for his return. He would have only been about 10 when he was confronted by the reality of what had happened to his dad, and at that age it is hard to imagine how he handled it. 
    Other than the obvious emotional turmoil Peter's execution would have given his family, I presume Bridget struggled financially with 3 kids to feed and no husband.
     Having been present at the Bathurst Boer War Memorial when his dad's name was added in 1964 however, did give Peter the younger some comfort, even though he had to wait until his life was almost over before the event occurred.
   Below is an embedded youtube video which is a slide show entitled the "Breaker Morant Waltz," which also focuses on Peter Handcock. After clicking on the arrow should you wish to expand it click on the broken rectangle which will appear below it. The historic photo slides in the video, which centre around Breaker Morant and Peter Handcock, have already been described and shown in this essay. The more recent slides however, are of the late Roy Wheeler playing the piano (he plays the organ in the video), and Dennis "Spud" Murphy on the voice. It is also on the following link should you wish to bypass the embedded link.
When young Edwin Murrant arrived on our shore
Australia was not yet a nation.
He was keen to discover what Fate had in store
And he worked on a North Queensland station.
A young Irish girl was the governess there
And her charms he was quick to admire.
He wooed her and won her, their lives they would share,
And he married sweet Daisy O’Dwyer

But the marriage was doomed for Daisy soon learned
That she had been hasty and rash,
For what Edwin borrowed he never returned
And he wasn’t too honest with cash.
He saddled his horse and rode off down the track,
For his marriage with Daisy was over,
To his young Irish love he would never go back
And he followed the life of a drover. 

It was then he decided to alter his name
And he called himself Harry Morant,
But this was the start of a confidence game
Which he played when his money was scant.
"I’m the prodigal son of an old English knight",
He said as his creditors sighed,
"My father, Sir Digby, will set your bill right."
But Sir Digby, he never replied.

So Daisy moved on and the record relates
That her next marriage too was a failure.
She lived with the tribes, and was called Daisy Bates,
In the vastness of Western Australia
Now Harry was great at the rough-riding game,
The sort of bloke stockmen admire,
It was skill with the horses that soon brought him fame
And his deeds were retold round the fire.

In the calm of the night on a far distant track,
To the music of horse-bells soft chimes,
He’d dash off some verses about the outback.
He was handy with words and with rhymes.
He signed himself "Breaker" because he broke horses,
Was published with Banjo and Lawson
And out where the rivers run down their slow courses
Was known as poet and horseman.

He wrote of the stars shining bright on a camp
By the banks of the far Castlereagh.
He wrote of the nights that were dewy and damp
And of girls he had met on the way.
He remembered a horse that was wilful and strong,
But could wheel a wild steer or a cow.
We’ve heard of that horse in the ballad and song
"Who’s riding Old Harlequin now?"

Then came the Boer War and he answered the call.
He was sent where the fighting was hot.
With orders unclear he saw his mates fall
And somehow some prisoners were shot.
He was sentenced to death by a kangaroo court,
Together with Handcock, his mate.
He said his last words, as game as he fought,
"Come on you bastards, shoot straight."

Because of injustice his spirit won’t rest
And he’s back in Australia of course.
He’s haunting the stock routes he followed out west
And he rides on the ghost of his horse.
I reckon I’ve seen them as morning mists lift
From the bank of the Darling, I vow.
Then into the coolibahs silent they drift
And he’s riding Old Harlequin now.

(C) Roy Wheeler/Dave Wheeler.

  Should a reader believe any information I have presented in this essay is wrong or would like to add more information or supply relevant photos please either leave a comment below or email me directly by clicking on the contact button above.

Although I don't know if it is legal, if you go to youtube and type in "Breaker Morant" you should be able to find and see the whole movie for free. Below is one link I found. 

The embedded youtube clip below is a lecture with answers to questions by Peter Cundall, a man who has seen the very worst of war and who consequently became a pacifist. It should be compulsory viewing for all young people, and young men in particular who often, in their naivety, believe they are invulnerable and that war is glorious and great fun. Using naive and vulnerable young men as weapons in war can only be described as political paedophilia. It's a pity Peter Handcock had not met someone like Peter Cundall, who could have told him a few home truths, prior to him enlisting.



I have yet to receive a reply from Peter. If he has the capacity to reply to the points I have raised and responds I will publish his response.

Gooday Peter,
I heard you interviewed about your book on Breaker Morant and I have read several reviews on your book. So far there have been several elephants in the room in regard to your interview and the reviews. I refer to several facts surrounding your belief that Morant and Handcock were war criminals and should not be regarded at all as heroes.
    I believe very few people who have studied the subject regard them as heroes, but in regard to the question of whether or not they were war criminals and got a fair go is another matter. I will address the points which I believe should have been raised:

1/ Unlike soldiers of today who sign a document stating that they will obey all lawful commands, Morant and Handcock signed a statement saying they would obey any command. The word lawful was left out, and the Geneva precedent about lower ranked combatants not being able to use the "following orders" excuse had yet to occur. 
   Therefore, if Morant and Handcock could have proven that the order to take no prisoners had been given from the top it may have resulted in them walking free. And as they were not given an adequate opportunity in the trial to prove that that order had been given we can only conclude that they suffered an injustice.
     The evidence that the verbal order was given through the chain of command and that they were prevented from proving this in their court martial comes from the following facts:

a/ The most important witnesses who could have corroborated that the order was given were sent to India and were thus unable to testify in their court martial.

b/ The existence of the St Clair document gives documentary evidence that the order had been given. Colonel St Clair, who had access to the transcripts of the trial accepted that the order to take no prisoners had been given and he put it in writing in the said document. 

c/ The transcripts of the trial were conveniently “lost.” Very suspicious. 
d/ The 1902 article in the Adelaide Advertiser by ex trooper JA Heath includes an admission that he killed Boers himself and it also stated that the "take no prisoners" order had been given. See the following link.

e/The National Advocate article on the 12/9/02 on page 3 by another contributor who was there also states that the "take no prisoners" order had been given. I do not have the link.

f/The most crucial circumstantial evidence of the order having been given was Kitchener not making himself available for the trial, considering he was their chief witness. Nor did he offer an affidavit stating that the order had or had not been given.    

g/ Even if someone like yourself believes that Morant and Handcock were guilty of the acts and deserved their punishment, surely their inability to call the witnesses to prove in their trial that the orders were given amounts to an injustice from a legal perspective, even if you believe that their actions were immoral? 
If we presume that the witnesses had genuine reasons for not being able to attend the trial, which is highly unlikely, a proper court would have adjourned their cases until Kitchener and the other witnesses were available. Even suspected paedophiles seemingly caught in the act have a right to a fair trial, simply because sometimes what appears to be clear cut guilt upon closer examination shows an entirely different picture. 

2/It has been generally acknowledged that when the Boers captured prisoners it was not unusual for them to be shot. Common sense and anyone with a knowledge of the history of human behaviour, particularly when the combatants are not a part of a highly organised structure and answerable to virtually nobody, as were the Boers.
   I know two wrongs do not make a right, but these things happen in war. I worked with an Aussie WW2 digger who admitted to me that he saw  Japanese prisoners shot by Australians in New Guinea and I suspect he took part in the executions. It’s hard for me to caste stones knowing that Japanese atrocities against Australians did occur, as well as the fact that I was never exposed to what he went through and have not been put to the test. As such I may have done the same thing under the same circumstances and I may have also done the same thing if I was fighting the Boer.

3/During WW2 many Australian and allied airmen deliberately bombed from the air civilians, causing babies to be burnt alive in their prams and all sorts of other nasties. None of them have ever been charged with war crimes, as they were “obeying orders.” It seems it’s one rule for some and another for others.

In summary Peter, no thinking person regards Morant and Handcock as heroes, and from a moral perspective maybe they should have disobeyed their order, but that is easy for me to say now from the perspective of a 68 year old bloke sitting in a comfortable chair who faces no danger and who has faced nothing more life-threatening during his life than playing the two rugby codes, a few street brawls not involving weapons, having to drive in heavy traffic and having the flu. 
    But that is not the main point I’m making. The fact is they did not get the traditional Australian ‘fair go,” and as such can be seen as victims. What occurred exposes the system of the time to be discriminatory and hypocritical. 

Dave Wheeler   

UPDATE 15/1/21- I have not had a reply from Peter Fitzsimons and I would be very surprised if he ever responds. This is probably because he does not have the capacity to counter the points I have raised. It seems obvious to me he’d made up his mind about Morant and Handcock before he began his research and as such ignored proven historical facts.


In addiction to his appalling interview on the Drum, Peter FitzSimons wrote a disgraceful article in the Sydney Morning Herald on Anzac Day, 25/4/21, repeating and elaborating on much of what he said on the Drum about Peter Handcock. Maybe he thinks creating controversy by rewriting history will sell more of his books, and if this was the case what a day to choose to flog a book! I wrote the following email to him, issuing a challenge, as a result of his article. I will keep you posted if I get a response from him, but I doubt he has the guts to take me on: 

   If you want to read an excellent review on Peter FitzSimons’ book “Breaker Morant,” go to the following link and read a review entitled “Fiction is Not Fact,” by Richard Williams, a great grandson of Lt Peter Handcock. Unlike FitzSimons, whose version of history is mainly pure fantasy, Richard is very thorough when it comes to quoting credible sources that throw a far more objective and factual light on the actions of Morant and Handcock during that period. 


 I read your article in the Sydney Morning Herald on Anzac Day in which you seem to have recommended that L’t Peter Handcock’s name be removed from the Bathurst Boer War Memorial.

    I believe it was a disgraceful article because you have the facts wrong in many respects regarding Handcock’s actions. And you refuse to accept the fact that Kitchener, a psychopath who has an appalling record, did indeed give the order to take no prisoners. There is plenty of evidence for him doing so and you have ignored it all. 

    Nor have you addressed adequately the arguments for why Morant, Handcock and Witton did not get fairness in their court martial and why it is entirely relevant to the debate. 

   Of course you have every right to have your own opinion on what occurred, but you have not addressed any of the counterarguments I raised when I wrote to you after your appearance on the Drum, as you did not reply to me. And I doubt you replied to anyone else who brought up those and other counter arguments after that episode or after your recent effort in the SMH. 

    From what I’ve seen you have not directly debated anybody on what is and is not fact in relation to the actions of Morant and Handcock.

   I dare you to take on directly in a public debate a true expert on the subject with whom you disagree, preferably in written form over the net to ensure sensationalism is taken out of the equation and that time is not too limited. 

   I doubt you would have the courage Peter, considering you would not even argue the facts surrounding the case with someone like me, and I have nowhere near the knowledge on the subject as people like Jim Unkles, Richard Williams (a great grandson of Peter Handcock) and several professional historians I know of who also see things my way. 

   The only sort of counter argument you have come up with to support your version of history was that you have written x amount of books and that certain historians back your point of view. Obviously you have never studied dialectics, because a 1st year student of philosophy would be able to explain to you that referring to the alleged expertise of others to support one’s point of view has nothing to do with the price of eggs. 

     What matters in debate is what sort of argument and supporting evidence one can come up with; not whether or not Joe Blow agrees with one’s point of view. And in that respect you have not come up with any substantial supporting evidence to back up your version of history in any of your interviews or articles I have seen or read.

   As I have said, I doubt you’ll respond to me Peter; it seems you would rather sensationally hammer out your point of view in a newspaper article or a TV interview where there is nobody there to directly oppose you while you talk or write. 

   It seems you are very much like a boxer who enters the ring insisting his opponent does not raise his guard or punch back. If I was wanting to push my viewpoint I would take on directly the very best the opposition has to offer rather than be interviewed alone with no more opposition than a few questions asked by a journo who is poorly playing the devil’s advocate as a result of knowing virtually nothing about the subject.   

   I would consider myself a bully if I used the media in the way you appear to have been using it, considering you have far more ready access to mainstream media than most of us who oppose your viewpoint on the subject. It is hardly a level playing field.

     Yes, I know you get indirect responses through other media outlets from those who do not agree with you, as well as on social media, but it is direct opposition by worthy opponents on mainstream media that immediately exposes flaws in arguments to major sections of the public and it makes it more difficult to cover up inconvenient truths.

   Anyway Peter, I have attached a white feather to this email, which you are invited to accept if you do not have the courage to take on in direct debate someone of worth who opposes your point of view on Handcock, preferably by way of written debate over the net. 

  You played for the Wallabies; and top level rugby takes courage. Surely you also  have the courage to place your cherished beliefs on the line by risking being checkmated in public by way of direct debate by worthy opposition?

    By the way; are you going to publicly condemn as war criminals the WW2 Australian and allied fighter pilots and crew who followed orders to drop bombs on civilians? It must have resulted in thousands of civilians, including babies in prams, being burned alive. Come on Peter; I dare you. Some of those fighter pilots may still be alive, and if not most of them would have living descendants who would come to their defence. 

   I have thought of a way we could bring this issue to the public’s attention by way of a level playing field. It is important the debate be had properly, and it should not be restricted to persons such as you and me even if it is only you and I who partake in a direct debate.

    To elaborate, I suggest you conduct an email debate with me on the subject of whether Handcock’s name should be removed from the Bathurst Boer War Memorial, with each side being allowed up to 48 hours to reply and to be able to receive assistance from outside parties if desired. 

    As we would be receiving outside help from professional and other amateur historians on the subject we would be partly acting as go-betweens for others in order to bring up their arguments, as well as our own.

     The objective of the exercise would be to give readers the best opportunity to decide for themselves the truth or probable truth in regard to Handcock’s actions by way of constructive written, public debate from the best either side has to offer. 

    In order to do so part of the deal would be that both parties would allow the whole debate to be published by either side on our respective website and blog, or by anyone else, as long as the text was not changed in any way and that it was published in full. From there it could travel to mainstream media. 

    I have no fear of such a debate because I have no fear of you publicly checkmating me and me being forced to swallow my words, even though I acknowledge that it is in my opinion a small possibility.     

    Let’s see if you can also show some courage by adopting the same stance Peter, and in doing so reject the white feather I have sent rather than embrace it by way of not responding to my invitation to debate this matter. 

    I will be posting this email on my blog at the end of an essay I did on Peter Handcock and as such letting my readers know that I have issued to you a challenge. How you respond or if you respond is up to you. 


Dave Wheeler 30/4/21





  1. Well done Dave a great effort, yes a very large miscarriage of justice, as Australians had never before come up against political scape goats. BZ Mark

  2. I have just learnt of this wonderful man & of the injustice that was done to him - I feel. I watched the movie as a child not realising it was true. I want to thank you for this insight into all the information you provided. Cheers Michelle - Thank god for family history or I would still be none the wiser as I found I am distantly related to this man. Very sad story I think

  3. Well said Dave. I didn't think that even FitzSimons would be so cynical as to abuse the sanctity of Anzac Day and base his arguments on his own perverted version of history - but I'm sure his cult followers loved it, they seem to believe everything he writes without question because that is what they want to believe and I think he knows it. Thank you for taking the time to defend Peter Handcock's reputation.