‘Breaker Morant’ trio issued service medals

‘Breaker Morant’ trio issued service medals

 Posted by Brian Hartigan

Lieutenants Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant, Peter Handcock and George Witton are being issued service medals they were entitled to – 120 years late.

The medallic recognition for meritorious and loyal service is eventually being issued thanks to tireless efforts by ‘Morant’ campaigner James Unkles.

Retired Australian military lawyer James Unkles has been working on the ‘Morant’ case as a passion project for more than 10 years, on behalf of the descendants of Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant, Peter Handcock and George Witton.

This is his latest report….

Service Medals

I am pleased to announce on behalf of the descendants of Morant, Handcock and Witton, medallic recognition that they rendered loyal and exemplary service to the Colonial Contingents during the Boer War.

Australian and British authorities no longer issue medals for service in the Boer War – however replica medals can be sourced for descendants once details of service are confirmed.

There is no legal impediment to such medals being issued to the descendants of these men.

Details of Service

Morant, from Renmark, served as a volunteer with the 2nd South Australian Mounted Rifles during the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902).

His service was meritorious and loyal.

He was commended by his CO for his service to the Regiment.

Morant held the rank of Lance Corporal and was promoted to Sergeant during his service in South Africa.

Morant eventually also served in British Contingent, the Bushveldt Carbineers.

During his service he was commended for the capture of notorious Boer Commander, Kelly.


Handcock, from Bathurst, joined NSWs Mounted Rifles and deployed to South Africa on 17 January 1900 and served for 12 months.

His service was meritorious and loyal.

He then joined the Bushveldt Carbineers as a Lieutenant on 21 January 1901.

Witton, from Victoria, joined 4th Victorian Imperial Bushmen as a Corporal, and went to South Africa on 1 May 1900.

His service was meritorious and loyal.

He also joined the Bushveldt Carbineers as a Lieutenant, on 1 June 1901.

Medals were recognised for Lt Witton’s service.

One of his descendants, Brian Turley, celebrated Witton’s service to 4th Victorian Imperial Bushmen, on 1 November 2021 (pictured).

Presentations to the descendants of Lieutenants Handcock and Morant will follow as soon as can be arranged.


In service of the the British Empire, the Australian colonies offered troops for the war in South Africa. Australians served in contingents raised by the six colonies or, from 1901, by the Australian Commonwealth.

The Australian colonies had volunteers serving in contingents. About 25,000 Australian served in the war.

The war is also remembered for the controversial trial and execution of Lieutenants Harry Breaker Morant, Peter Handcock and the imprisonment of George Witton for shooting Boer prisoners.

On 27th of February 1902, Lieutenants Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant and Peter Handcock were executed,  George Witton was imprisoned.

Historians have claimed these men were used as scapegoats for the political interests of British Military Commander, Lord Kitchener and his political masters.

Evidence has emerged these men were not tried and sentenced according to law and advocacy continues to have this injustice addressed.

A House of Representatives motion tabled in 2018 by Scott Buchholz MP on 12 February 2018 highlights this.

The motion expressed sincere regret and apology to the descendants of these men for the manner in which Morant, Handcock and Witton were treated.

The Motion stated:
‘sincere regret that Lieutenants Morant, Handcock and Witton were denied procedural fairness contrary to law and acknowledges that this had cruel and unjust consequences; and,

sympathy to the descendants of these men as they were not tried and sentenced in accordance with the law of 1902’.

Scott Buchholz’s address to the House is compelling:

‘Lieutenants Morant and Handcock were the first and last Australians executed for war crimes, on 27 February 1902. The process used to try these men was fundamentally flawed. They were not afforded the rights of an accused person facing serious criminal charges enshrined in military law in 1902. Today, I recognise the cruel and unjust consequences and express my deepest sympathy to the descendants’

James Unkles



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