BB born in Sydney in 1940, studied philosophy at Sydney University. Worked briefly in advertising and then ABC TV in late 1950s before moving to London. Head of production at the British Film Institute Productions Board 1966-70 where he specialised in short film documentaries. In 1971 returned to Australia. Association with Philip Adams and the renaissance of the Australian film industry.
Based on a true story of an Englishman, Harry Harbord Morant (Edward Woodward) (1864-1902), who falsely claimed descent from an aristocratic family and forced to flee to escape debts and being discharged from Royal Naval College, leaves England 1883 to start new life in Australia. Makes a name for himself as a "breaker" of horses and poet for the nationalist magazine The Bulletin. Volunteers to fight in South Africa and joins other skilled Australian horseman in South Australian Mounted Rifles in January 1900. Made dispatch rider, promoted to corporal then sergeant, served at battle of Bloemfontein and several other engagements. Considered staying on in South Africa as settler, joined Cape Constabulary rising to rank of Lt. Returned to England and was engaged to perhaps two different women - one of which was sister of friend Cpt Hunt of prestigious 13th Hussars. Re-enlisted early 1901 when war entered guerrilla stage and Lord Kitchener eager to bring it to a speedy end. Joined newly formed special fighting unit, the "Bushveldt Carbineers" (BVC) to fight the Boers on their own terms in Northern Transvaal. Light and fast unit unencumbered with supply trains. Majority of Australians but also British, South African, Americans, New Zealanders. Film claims that oral orders were given not to take Boer prisoners and to fight Boers with terror and guerrilla tactics. After Hunt's death and mutilation (broken neck, face stamped on with boots, cuts to legs (Victorian-era euphemism for genitals?) - Davey, p. xliii) in a Boer ambush in August 1901 Morant sought personal vengence for his friend's death - executing prisoner Visser who was wearing Hunt's jacket. Some months later German missionary Hesse killed in mysterious circumstances. British High Command decided to court martial 6 officers and 3 NCOs in Lord Kitcherner's BVC of whom Morant, Handcock, Whitton and Picton were implicated in "at least 20 murders" (Bryant, p. 141). To avoid unfavourable press attention prosecution was conducted in secret, an inexperienced Australian "bush lawyer" was appointed to defend them, the trial began on 8 January, 1902 the day after the defence lawyer was appointed, proceedings closed to press (against Crown regulations). Morant and Handcock were acquitted of missionary's murder but not 8 other Boers (4 of whom school teachers accused by Morant of being "train wreckers and marauders"). Whitton, Handcock and Morant were sentenced to death with recommendations for mercy; only Whitton's sentence commuted by Kitchener. Picton given dishonourable discharge. Commander of BVC reprimanded and removed from command, BVC disbanded. News of the verdicts was suppressed for 3 weeks. The younger soldier (Whitton) later wrote an account of his experiences as a self-styled "scapegoat of the empire".
Based on a play by Kenneth Ross, "Breaker" Morant (1978).
G.R. Witton, Scapegoats of the Empire: The True Story of Breaker Morant's Bushveldt Carbineers (Melbourne: D.W. Paterson, 1907). Reprinted 1982.
Breaker Morant and the Bushveldt Carbineers, ed. Arthur Davey (Cape Town: Van Riebeeck Society, 1987). Second Series No. 18.
Kit Denton, The Breaker (1973) (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1980).
Kit Denton, Closed File (Adelaide: Rigby, 1983).
F.M. Cutlack, Breaker Morant: A Horseman Who Made History. With a Selection of his Bush Ballads (1962) (Sydney: Ure Smith, 1980).
Hallman B. Bryant, "'Breaker' Morant in Fact, Fiction and Film," Literature/Film Quarterly, 1987, vol. 15, no. 3, pp. 138-45.
Arthur Conan Doyle, The Great Boer War (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1903). 16 editions appeared during the war.
Based on a true story of an Englishman, Harry Harbord Morant (Edward Woodward) (1864-1902), who falsely claimed descent from an aristocratic family and forced to flee to escape debts and being discharged from Royal Naval College, leaves England 1883 to start new life in Australia. Makes a name for himself as a "breaker" of horses and poet for the nationalist magazine The Bulletin. Volunteers to fight in South Africa and joins other skilled Australian horseman in South Australian Mounted Rifles in January 1900.
Set at the time of the Boer War (1899-1902). Boers were Dutch settlers who went to South Africa in 16th century and who refused to submit to British imperial control. Sought to establish an independent Boer Republic. British and colonial troops (including Australian volunteers) were sent to crush the rebellion. Boers did not have a regular army but used armed farmers who fought in an "irregular" i.e. "guerrilla" manner. Like the Americans in Vietnam 65 years later, the British often could not tell the difference between combatant and non-combatant (no uniform, part-time fighters). Again like the Americans in Vietnam, the British attempted to separate the civilian Boers from the fighters by herding civilians into "concentration camps" (US use of "strategic hamlets" in VN). Many striking parallels between this episode of Victoriam imperialism and American involvement in VN.
Film is shot as a series of flashbacks during the court martial. Filmed in Burra, SA.
34. "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I am come not to send peace, but a sword.
35. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
36. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household."
In prison cell I sadly sit -
A d-d crestfallen chappy!
And own to you I feel a bit-
A little bit - unhappy!
It really ain't the place nor time
To reel off rhyming diction-
But yet we'll write a final rhyme
While waiting cru-ci-fixion!
No matteer what 'end' they decide-
Quicklime? or 'b'iling ile? sir!
We'll do our best when crucified
To finish off in style, sir!
But we bequeath a parting tip
For sound advice as such men
As come across in transport ship
To polish off the Dutchmen!
If you encounter any Boers
You really must not loot 'em,
And if you wish to leave these shores
For pity's sake don't shoot 'em!
And if you'd earn a D.S.O.-
Why every British sinner
Should know the proper way to go
Is: 'Ask the Boer to dinner'!
Let's toss a bumper down our throat
Before we pass to Heaven,
And toast: 'the trim-set petticoat
We leave behind in Devon.'
and when we say we've always won
and when they ask us how it's done
we'll proudly point to every one of England's soldiers of the Queen.
There is one incident, however, in connection with the war in this region which one would wish to pass over in silence if such a course were permissible... (A)n irregular corps... (with its) wild duties, its mixed composition, and its isolated situation must have all militated against discipline and restraint, and it appears to have degenerated into a band not unlike those Southern "bush-whackers" in the American (civil) war to whom the Federals showed little mercy. They had given short shrift to the Boer prisoners who had fallen into their hands, the excuse offered for their barbarous conduct being that an officer who had served in the corps had himself been murdered by the Boers. Such a reason, even if it were true, could of course offer no justification for indiscriminate revenge... This stern measure (the execution of Handcock and Morant) shows more clearly than volumes of argument could do how high was the standard of discipline of the British army, and how heavy was the punishment, and how vain all excuses, where it had been infringed. In the face of this actual outrage and its prompt punishment how absurd becomes that crusade against imaginary outrages preached by an ignorant press abroad, and by renegade Englishmen at home. (p. 521).