QSA DID 2804: EH Morant’s charge sheets for larceny of pigs and a saddle, dated 23 April 1884
News of the day

(By J. C. L. Fitzpatrick, in the Sydney " World's News.")

Bold, dare-devil Harry Harbord Morant has ridden his last race and written his last verse — has fallen with the contents of a dozen rifles in his breast; not the bullets of the foe whom he went to fight, but leaden missiles from weapons wielded by men of his own nationality. Condemned on February 26, Morant and Handcock were promptly shot next day on a charge of having killed a number of surrendered Boers.

Harry Morant, letter known to the newspaper reading public as " The Breaker," will be remembered by the denizens of many outback country towns in New South Wales, and there are not a few of his old acquaintances whose pangs of regret will be sincere when they learn of his inglorious end. A dashing horseman, ready to face the most impossible of fences, and to ride at a moment's notice the worst equine outlaw the country could produce; passionately fond of polo and hunting, and every other pastime and sport into which an element of danger entered, for he believed, with A. L. Gordon, that

No fame was ever worth a rap

For a rational man to play,

Into which no danger, no mishap,

Could possibly find its way.

A lover of wine, and an admirer of women folk, and the author of many charming verses of more than average merit, Harry Morant, despite all his human failings, was a man of many good parts. The writer enjoyed numerous opportunities of being brought into contact with " The Breaker" during his sojourn in New South Wales, and learned that there was much in his character to be admired; he was generous to a fault, when in the position to be so, which, unfortunately was not very often; he was courageous and kindly-hearted, and he thought much more about the comfort of his horse than he did of his own.



An immigrant Englishman who claimed to be the illegitimate son of Admiral Sir Digby Morant, Harry Harbord Morant acquired an outstanding reputation as a horsebreaker throughout inland Australia. He was also a minor bush balladist who contributed to a number of leading journals, including the Sydney Bulletin. In April 1884, Morant was charged with larceny at Charters Towers, both cases being discharged when the prosecution failed to establish a prima facie case. This was the beginning of a conflict with authority which would raise Morant to folkloric status and question the constitutional rights of Australians serving in British military forces. When the South African war broke out in 1899 Morant enlisted in the South Australian Volunteers and sailed from Adelaide in early 1900. The following year he received a commission in the British irregular force known as the Bush Veldt Carbineers which was largely composed of colonial troops. After the death in action of his commanding officer, Captain Percy Hunt, Morant took temporary charge of his unit and it was during his period of command that a British Court of Inquiry began investigating allegations that Boer prisoners had been executed. In January-February 1902 a British court-martial found Morant and two other Australians, Peter Handcock and George Whitton, guilty of murder, with all three being sentenced to death. Whitton’s sentence was soon afterwards commuted to life imprisonment, but Morant and Handcock were shot by firing squad on 27 February 1902. When news of the executions reached Australia there was considerable outrage, and debate over the issue reached the highest level of government. Their execution later influenced the inclusion of Section 98 in the Australian Defence Act, which stipulated that no Australian serviceman could be tried by a ‘foreign’ court-martial.


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