'Breaker' Morant (1980) Movie Script

Hurry up, man.
Party, right wheel.
This court of inquiry
has completed its investigation.
Do you wish to make any statement
or give any evidence?
Harry Harbord Morant.
Lieutenant, Bushveldt Carbineers.
I enlisted in South Australia.
I was with the second contingent
for nine months
and was promoted to sergeant in that corps.
I received my commission when l transferred
to the Transvaal Constabulary.
I returned to England on six months' leave
and with the help of my friend,
Captain Hunt,
patched up a quarrel,
an old quarrel with my family.
I had intended to go back to England
to live after the war.
On my return to South Africa,
I fought at Karee Siding
and Kunstadt under Lord Roberts.
I also fought with General French's
cavalry brigade at Diamond Hill.
After that,
there were requests for volunteers
to join the Bushveldt Carbineers
in the Northern Transvaal.
I joined on April 1, 1900.
April Fools' Day.
In the Carbineers, I was responsible for
the capture of Boer commando leader, Kelly.
I was recommended for a DSO.
I take full and entire responsibility
for the events at Fort Edward.
I was, however, acting under orders.
I was also deeply disturbed
by what happened to Captain Hunt.
No sentries.
Either they're asleep or there's no one there.
-No horses either.
Ask him if he's sure
if the information is correct.
They have returned from the Cape Colony.
They are very weak.
Stay here with three men
and this boy.
Keep the horses quiet. Cover us.
Is not good, Captain.
Get back!
Get back over here.
Fall back!
Mount up!
Let's get out of here!
Can't you send them back?
For Captain Hunt.
Watch it, Peter.
-Probably just a stone bruise.
-You think that's all it is?
-Yes. If he limps again, I'll swap it.
-Patrol's back!
Get the Breaker. Get the Breaker!
That's my horse!
What happened?
All right, you men, break.
-They've Captain Hunt.
-They were waiting for us.
There were many men.
Captain Hunt was shot.
There was nothing we could do.
Bullets whizzing by like blowflies.
Lost five men.
George, go set it up.
We're going out on patrol.
There was nothing we could do.
They must have known we were coming.
Known? Of course they bloody knew.
You can't trust these blokes.
How many sides you fighting on, mate?
Just because you sign a bit of paper
don't mean the war's over.
Mr. Taylor, so much for
your damn intelligence report.
Eight Boers, exhausted.
That's what you said.
Horses with fever, you said.
What do you say now?
I say avenge Captain Hunt.
Prisoners and escort!
Quick march!
Come in.
The court of inquiry
has come to a recommendation.
About time.
It has been decided to proceed with
a military court-martial here at Pietersburg.
You will remain under close arrest.
Major Charles Bolton
to see Lord Kitchener and Colonel Hamilton.
This way, sir.
Charles, my dear chap.
Good to see you again, sir.
You come highly recommended, young man.
Thank you, sir.
I have a rather important prosecution
I want you to handle.
Yes, sir.
Charles, you've heard of
the Bushveldt Carbineers?
Yes, a special force raised by Lord
Kitchener to deal with the Boer guerrillas.
Colonials, most of them. Australians.
I understand
they've been quite effective, sir.
Very effective.
We've just arrested three of them
for shooting Boer prisoners
and a German missionary.
I've received, Bolton,
a telegraph message from Whitehall.
The German government has lodged
a serious protest,
-about the missionary in particular.
-Yes, sir.
The Kaiser, as you know,
is our late Queen's grandson.
The fact is that Whitehall feels the Germans
are looking for an excuse to enter the war.
On the Boers' side, of course.
We don't want to give them one.
Needless to say, the Germans
couldn't give a damn about the Boers.
It's the diamonds and gold of South Africa
they're interested in.
They lack our altruism, sir.
Here's the report of the preliminary inquiry.
The evidence against the Australians
is overwhelming.
Who's handling the defense, sir?
We expect no difficulties there.
Selected one of their own chaps
a major from the New South Wales Mounted.
Still can't get used to it.
On the ship coming over here,
the blokes used to joke
about who'd be the first to get a VC.
Scratch yourself from that race, mate.
My father said the war
would make a man of me.
Everybody's father says that, George.
-It's really...
He believes in the British Empire, you know.
We all do in my family.
That's why I volunteered,
to help keep the Empire together.
I volunteered
because there's a depression back there
and I've got a wife and kid.
You believe in the Empire, Harry?
Do I?
Don't reckon he does, mate.
Major J.F. Thomas.
I'm your defending officer.
-George Witton.
-Harry Morant.
New South Wales Mounted.
What sort of a lawyer are you?
They haven't locked me up yet.
What sort of soldier are you?
They're looking after you here?
Looks a bit Spartan.
Well, it's not exactly the Hotel Australia.
More like a coffee palace. No grog.
They gave you the report
on the preliminary inquiry?
-But the trial starts tomorrow.
-We thought you were going to miss it.
You don't know anything about us.
Only what's in the preliminary report.
And that, gentlemen, is not very flattering.
As a matter of interest,
how many courts-martial have you done?
Jesus, they're playing with
a double-headed penny, aren't they?
Would you rather
conduct your own defense?
But you have handled
a lot of court cases back home, sir?
No. I was a country town solicitor.
I handled land conveyancing and wills.
Wills. Might come in handy.
I'm going to need a lot of information.
Do you think they're going to imprison us
or cashier us, sir?
-My father, if he found out...
-Haven't they told you?
There are several murder charges.
The penalty is death.
"Long as the waves shall roll
"Long as fame guards us whole
"And men who heart and soul
thrill to true glory
"Their deeds from age to age
"Shall voice and verse engage
"Swelling the splendid page
of England's story"
It's a matter of discipline and tradition.
Do you think this could've happened with
any contingent besides the Australians?
But Morant's not an Australian.
You're splitting hairs. He's been out there
15 years, learned all their bad habits.
I never thought
you colonials got lost, Major.
I've been at the prison, sir.
Major Thomas, Major Bolton.
Captain Nicholson.
Lieutenants Reed and Baxter.
How do you do?
I understand your Mr. Morant
is something of a poet, Major.
That's right.
He wrote for a paper called The Bulletin
in Sydney.
A Tennyson of the Transvaal.
The Byron of the Bushveldt Carbineers.
Why is it he's referred to as Breaker Morant?
Ladies' man, perhaps? A breaker of hearts.
No, he was a horse breaker.
I understand, the best in Australia.
Quite a Renaissance figure.
I daresay,
if everything goes well,
he could come and recite for us one night.
In the meantime, this refined-looking fellow
is an ex-opponent of ours,
who's wisely signed
the non-combatant pledge.
They say he has a fine voice.
Only speaks Dutch, though.
So, Mr. Baxter and ladies,
you'll have to tell us what it's all about.
A few things to clear up.
How many men at Fort Edward?
About 50. Sometimes more, sometimes less.
-And most were Australians?
-We told you all this last night.
-About 45 of them were.
The intelligence officer, Captain...
-Taylor, yes.
-What did he have to do with this?
Then who do you think filed the report
that led to your arrest?
Don't know, but it wasn't Taylor.
He was a good bloke.
Bring in the accused.
This court-martial is convened by order of...
I'd like to ask for an adjournment, sir.
-Adjournment? We've only just arrived.
-Yes, sir.
I only just arrived in Pietersburg yesterday.
It doesn't give me much time
to prepare a defense.
The prosecution's had six weeks.
There are witnesses who have
traveled over 60 miles for this hearing.
Do you expect us to keep them around
at taxpayers' expense?
-Yes, sir. l need time...
-Quite out of the question, Major...
This court-martial is convened by order...
Yes, Major Thomas.
This court-martial is unconstitutional, sir.
The three defendants
are Australian subjects,
and as the country is now
an independent commonwealth,
they can only be tried
by the Australian Army.
The defendants, Major,
were serving in the Bushveldt Carbineers,
a unit under British command.
This court-martial is convened by order of
Horatio Herbert,
Lord Kitchener of Khartoum,
Commander in Chief of British
and Colonial Forces in South Africa.
The charges are as follows:
Defendants Morant, Handcock, and Witton
are charged with the murder
of a Boer prisoner named Visser.
They are also charged with the murders
of six other Boer prisoners,
names unknown.
In addition,
Lieutenants Morant and Handcock
are charged with the murder
of a German missionary,
the Reverend H.C.V. Hesse.
How do you plead?
Not guilty.
-Not guilty of all three charges?
-Yes, sir.
Your first witness, Major Bolton.
Call Mr. Donald Robertson.
Robertson, who's he?
We told you about him last night.
Take this Bible in your right hand.
Now repeat after me,
I swear by almighty God...
I swear by almighty God...
...that the evidence I shall give
before this court...
-...shall be the truth...
-...shall be the truth...
-...the whole truth...
-...the whole truth...
-...and nothing but the truth.
-...and nothing but the truth.
Thank you.
Would you like to take the witness chair?
Captain Robertson,
you were in the regular army for 20 years.
Yes, sir. I was with the 10th Hussars
before taking command of
the Bushveldt Carbineers in the Transvaal.
And how was discipline in the Carbineers?
Impossible. Especially with the Australians.
They didn't like picket duty or guard duty.
The only day we could get them
on parade was payday.
Could you give the court
any other examples
of their breaches of discipline?
There were so many.
They'd only salute the officers they liked.
-Reckon you didn't get too many salutes.
Some of them had these illegal stills.
Made this really strong drink
out of corn and boot polish.
-You'd know. You were their best customer.
They stole cattle and sold them.
Now, this cattle, did it belong to...
I must object.
Two of the defendants
were not even at Fort Edward...
Sir, I'm trying to establish for the court
the irregularities and un-soldierly behavior
of the Bushveldt Carbineers.
Objection overruled.
Thank you, sir.
Would you go on please,
Captain Robertson?
I had to reprimand Handcock here
for what l considered to be
a serious breach of the rules of war.
And what was that?
He placed prisoners of war in open wagons
in front of train engines.
They could have been shot at
by their own side.
Thank you. That'll be all, Captain.
Just hold your horses there.
Do you wish to cross-examine
the witness, Major Thomas?
Yes, sir, I do.
Now tell me... Tell us,
when you joined the Carbineers,
what were you told they'd be doing?
-Fighting the enemy.
I mean, how?
It was a new kind of corps, wasn't it?
That's right.
We had to fight behind the lines,
against the Boer commandos.
That's a new word.
That's a Boer word, isn't it?
What does it mean?
The commandos had to live off the land.
Use hit-and-run tactics.
Surprise attacks, that sort of thing.
The Boers did it,
so it was the only way we could fight back.
And it must have been very difficult
to maintain discipline
under these sort of conditions?
It was, with the Australians.
-But you tried?
Like when you reprimanded
Lieutenant Handcock
for putting the war prisoners
in the carriages in front of the engines?
I told him
we didn't do that sort of thing.
But in the Carbineers, I mean,
you were doing a lot of things
that you'd never done before.
That's right, but there's a limit.
What was Lieutenant Handcock's reason
for placing these carriages of prisoners
in front of trains?
The Boers had been mining the lines
and blowing up a lot of trains.
He thought it might stop them.
Did it?
Yes, they did stop blowing up the trains,
but I don't think that's the...
When you were in command at Fort Edward
before the late Captain Hunt
and Lieutenant Morant took over,
what did you do with Boer prisoners?
How do you mean?
Fort Edward's only a farmhouse.
There aren't any facilities for them there.
What did you do with them?
We sent them down here
under guard to Pietersburg.
I see.
How many of them
did you send down here to Pietersburg?
Fifty, seventy,
-I really couldn't say.
-I've been informed
that during your command
only 29 prisoners were sent to Pietersburg.
So what did you do with the others?
It's quite a discrepancy, isn't it,
-between 50...
-Objection, Mr. President!
-This man is not on trial.
-He bloody ought to be.
Extraneous comments prejudice your case,
Lieutenant Handcock.
-What in hell does that mean?
-Objection allowed.
Was there a policy
to shoot prisoners
in the Bushveldt Carbineers?
Mr. President!
The defending officer is attempting
to incriminate the witness.
Major Thomas, objection allowed.
The witness is not on trial.
Sir, I'm trying to establish the credibility...
-I'm sorry, lack of all credibility...
You are incriminating the witness, Major!
All right.
Just one more question.
Did you discontinue the practice
of placing prisoners in open carriages?
No, I didn't.
Why not, if you objected to it?
Could it have been that the practice,
though irregular,
was effective in controlling Boer attacks?
That will be all, Mr. Robertson.
You may stand down, Mr. Robertson.
Good on you, mate.
I will proceed now, sir,
with the extraordinary events
following the death of Captain Hunt
-and the subsequent murder of the Boer...
This has not yet been proved.
Objection allowed.
The subsequent death
of the Boer prisoner, Visser.
Sergeant Major Drummond,
following your patrol's return
to Fort Edward,
Lieutenant Morant ordered the force
to return immediately
to Phil Jurne's farmhouse.
Yes, sir. He didn't even let us have a feed.
George, check the house!
Five men, with me!
Is it Hunt?
What's left of him.
We'll rest the horses,
then we'll go after them.
They got nearly two days' start,
and we don't have the direction.
They'll have gone to the Waterberg.
Where else can they go?
We rode another couple of days,
up on to the high veldt.
Hardly ever stopped.
Morant was right
about where they'd gone.
We'll get them now.
-We ought to wait an hour, it'll be dark then.
-We'll get them now!
We got a few of them,
but most of them got away.
Get on back.
Horseback! Hurry it up.
Get that body off the tent.
Come on, you blokes, get some of this
Boer coffee in you while you can.
-We've got to follow.
-Bugger the Boers.
What do you think you're doing?
Come on, get out of there.
Get out of there.
You're in trouble, mate.
Get up.
He's wearing Hunt's uniform.
Get up there.
Your name?
-Ask him his name.
-What is your name?
Teunis Visser.
You were at the farmhouse.
You killed Captain Hunt, the British officer.
-He says no. He didn't kill him.
-What do you mean you didn't kill him?
You're wearing his bloody jacket, blast you!
What do you mean you didn't kill him?
This man killed Captain Hunt!
He will be executed immediately!
I want an eight-man firing squad.
I reckon we ought to
take him back to Fort Edward.
I want to be on the firing party, Lieutenant.
He killed Captain Hunt.
If he did not, he would not have his uniform.
Please, Lieutenant.
Most of the blokes aren't too keen on this.
Why don't you have a yarn with him?
He might take some notice of you.
You killed him!
You're wearing his bloody jacket, man!
-He will be executed, George.
Captain Hunt had bullet wounds
only in the shoulder and the leg.
They mutilated him!
They mutilated him with knives
while he was still alive.
He'll never get to heaven if he doesn't die.
Yeah, he's gonna sleep real good tonight.
Get up, come on.
Did you object
to Lieutenant Morant's
treatment of the prisoner?
Yes, sir.
Do you consider
that the prisoner was given a fair trial?
No, sir. Not in the state
Lieutenant Morant was in.
He was like a madman, sir.
Thank you,
Sergeant Major Drummond.
Any questions, Major Thomas?
You are aware
that Lord Kitchener issued orders
that Boers caught wearing khaki
were to be shot?
Major, Lord Kitchener's order
only applied
if they were wearing khaki
with an intention to deceive.
-The first l've heard of that.
-That's how they're interpreting it.
More like he was trying to keep out the cold.
The Boers are real short of supplies.
You are a regular soldier and were one of
the first to join the Bushveldt Carbineers.
-You served under Captain Robertson?
-That's right.
Would you agree
that discipline had improved
once Mr. Robertson was removed
and Captain Hunt
and Lieutenant Morant took over.
I suppose.
Try yes or no, Sergeant Major.
Morant and Handcock
broke up illegal stills, did they not?
-And forced troopers to return stolen cattle?
There were, in fact,
dismissals from the corps.
Did this cause resentment
against Morant and Handcock?
A bit. It's natural.
And some of those dismissed
are now witnesses for the prosecution?
Were not you yourself reprimanded
for holding stolen cattle?
I explained that!
I came across them while l was on patrol.
I only impounded them, that's all!
I have no more questions.
You may stand down, Mr. Drummond.
-You couldn't lie straight in bed.
-I don't have to take that from you.
Come outside,
I'll knock your bloody head off.
Control yourself, Mr. Handcock,
or you'll find yourself in serious trouble.
You find that amusing.
I was just wondering
how much more serious things could be.
Anytime, mate.
Since signing a non-combatant agreement
you've been a guide and interpreter
to the Carbineers?
Would you please tell the court
exactly what happened
after the capture of the Boer prisoner?
No one wanted to go on the firing party.
So he said if we did not,
he would shoot the prisoner himself.
Mr. Botha, do you consider
that the prisoner, Visser,
received a fair trial?
Objection! The witness
is obviously not qualified to answer.
I will rephrase the question.
Was the trial of Visser in any way
similar to this court-martial?
No. Nothing like this.
I repeat,
the witness is not in the British Army.
He is not qualified to answer.
I believe the question is pertinent.
You may proceed, Major Bolton.
I have no more questions, Mr. President.
But I would like to add that I've been
generous in even using the word "trial"
or "court-martial"
in relation to the killing of Visser.
It was a conspiracy. lt was a consultation.
It was a measure to mature
a criminal purpose, but it was not a court.
Trooper Botha.
Didn't you volunteer
to shoot the prisoner Visser?
If word got around town
he was offering to shoot his mates
his life wouldn't be worth half a crown.
-You volunteered, Trooper Botha.
No. I only obeyed orders.
That is a lie.
Didn't all the troopers
in the firing squad volunteer?
No, I was commanded.
You knew Captain Hunt had told
Lieutenants Morant and Handcock
not to bring in prisoners,
-but to shoot them.
-I did not.
I knew nothing of such orders.
Company, halt.
Company, order.
Number one sentry, step forward.
Lieutenant Morant,
Captain Hunt was
a particular friend of yours.
Yes. I mean...
I was engaged to his sister in England.
So his death
was very disturbing to you.
It was more the way he died.
He was mutilated.
You were present at the action
where Captain Hunt was killed?
Then how do you know
he wasn't killed in a fair fight?
Because I saw his body.
Some time later.
You can't possibly know
how Captain Hunt met his death.
So you cannot produce any evidence
to connect Visser with it.
So then why did you order him to be shot?
It is customary during a war to kill
as many of the enemy as possible.
Was your court at the trial of Visser
constituted in any way like this?
-What rule did you shoot him under?
-Like this?
No, sir, it wasn't quite like this.
No, sir, it wasn't quite so handsome.
And as for rules,
we didn't carry military manuals
around with us.
We were out on the veldt,
fighting the Boer the way he fought us.
I'll tell you what rule we applied, sir.
We applied rule 3-0-3.
We caught them
and we shot them under rule 3-0-3.
Farewell to Lochaber
And farewell, my Jean
Where heartsome with thee
I hae monie days been
Did you get a reply from the consul?
No. Either the English
aren't sending the telegrams
or the Australians are ignoring them.
How's your eyesight, Sergeant?
Very weak, sir.
Thank you.
You're the best witness
the prosecution's got, Harry.
Better watch your temper.
Yes, I'm sorry.
It's my great failing. lmpetuosity.
Most un-British.
You better watch yourself, too.
This is a British court-martial,
not a backbox pub.
We've got a few witnesses of our own
tomorrow, anyway.
Not many.
Just about anyone with a good word for us
has been sent to India.
Go on, read it to us, Harry.
Peter, come on.
You know you loathe poetry.
There's not much else to bloody do here.
Come on, read it.
"Oh, those rides across the river
"Where the shallow stream runs wide
"And the sunset's beams were glossing
strips of sand on either side
"We would cross the sparkling river
on the brown horse and the bay
"Watch the willows sway and shiver
and the trembling shadows play
"'Tis a memory to be hoarded
"Of a foolish tale and fond
"Till another stream be forded
"And we reach the great beyond"
I don't want to die.
Every life ends
in a dreadful execution, George.
Yours will be much quicker
and less painful than most.
And a lot earlier than most.
I swear by almighty God...
Just a Charlie who used
to be with the Carbineers.
Boers aren't fond of turncoats.
Captain Taylor,
you were with the Bushveldt Carbineers,
but not actually a member of the corps?
That's correct.
I joined the Carbineers
as intelligence officer
at the request of Lord Kitchener.
I had lived in South Africa
before the war and spoke some of
the native languages as well as Dutch.
And were you senior to Lieutenant Morant?
I was senior, yes,
but the day-to-day running of the corps
was left to Lieutenant Morant.
Although he sometimes
referred matters to me.
And what is your opinion
of Lieutenant Morant?
A good fellow.
One could not help liking him.
He was a little hotheaded.
Inclined, perhaps, to do things
on the impulse of the moment.
The men obeyed him. He's a good soldier.
Did you know Captain Hunt well?
Hunt? Yes, I did.
Did you know of any orders
to shoot Boer prisoners?
There was an understanding.
Kitchener is quite right, you know.
Lord Roberts is far too correct
for this kind of a war.
All the internments, deportations
should be over in a matter of months.
-You'll be going home?
I don't think so.
There should be a few opportunities here.
Nothing will keep me in South Africa.
Good day. How did you do?
-Pretty good, by the look of it.
-No stopping me now, Peter.
Go well, Harry?
Not bad. One dead, one wounded.
Mind you, I got 13 of them.
Crept up on them while they were asleep.
This lot surrendered.
God, Harry,
we've got no facilities for prisoners,
can't even feed them.
Execute those men.
You too, Greg.
Simon, I thought the proclamation
only applied to Boers
caught wearing British khaki.
New orders from Kitchener.
Colonel Hamilton's confirmed it
to me himself. No prisoners.
The gentlemen's war is over.
Here, break your teeth on this.
Had Mr. Morant executed
any more prisoners
prior to the death of Captain Hunt?
-No, he had not.
-He had, then, disobeyed orders?
Strictly speaking, yes.
And he is now on trial
for later obeying those same orders?
I object, sir.
The Manual of Military Lawstates,
"Persons captured under arms
against British forces in the field
"shall be placed within the jurisdiction
of the nearest provo-marshal
-"or garrison commander."
-They were not the orders
-under which we operated.
You saw a copy
of Lord Kitchener's new orders?
-Sanctioning executions?
No. But they were common knowledge.
I told you they were verbal orders
from Pretoria.
-And no one can substantiate them.
-Captain Hunt relayed them.
-Captain Hunt is dead.
This evidence is completely irrelevant.
Irrelevant when l have established
that it was common practice
among the Bushveldt Carbineers
to shoot prisoners?
Why would an officer of Captain Hunt's
spotless reputation invent an order, sir?
We all admire your zeal in defending
your fellow Australians, Major Thomas,
but intemperate speech and
wild accusations do not further your cause.
Captain Taylor,
did you know of any other incident
similar to the Visser case?
I once saw a Boer dealt with
in the same manner
for wearing British khaki.
-He was shot, yes.
-You are still introducing irrelevant material.
I wish to establish,
and I have made the point before
in connection with Mr. Robertson,
that a precedent in this war
has been well and truly set.
Sir, I would like to point out
to my learned colonial colleague
that the fact of the crime
being previously committed
in no way pardons the behavior
of Lieutenant Morant and his friends.
I have no more questions.
You are, are you not,
the same Captain Taylor
who's yet to be court-marshalled
for the murder of six Boer prisoners?
I am.
Would it not be in your best interest
to suggest that orders were given
that Boer prisoners be shot?
Are you saying I'm lying, Major?
-Just answer my questions, Captain.
-You answer mine.
You are answering questions,
Captain Taylor.
Major Bolton is asking them.
I suppose it could appear that way.
Thank you.
That will be all, Captain Taylor.
Lights out!
Three cheers for
His Majesty King Edward VII!
Long may he reign!
-ALL: Hurrah!
I think it's wonderful,
George going to South Africa.
Join the Army and see the world.
He's so young...
The rest of us are too old,
eh, George?
George Witton.
Honor, glory, and a safe return.
George Witton.
Honor, glory, and a safe return.
I'm not much of a letter writer, you know.
If you ever heard from me,
it would probably be bad news.
When I have lived
long years in vain
And found life's garlands rue
Maybe that I'll come back
dear girl
At last
At last to you
Maybe that I'll come back
dear girl
At last
At last to you
-What did you say?
I can't understand you...
One week from tonight?
Our blokes have come to rescue us.
Don't be bloody silly.
It's a Boer attack.
I'm not sure I like you blokes
enough to help you.
That broke the monotony, didn't it?
The defendants were called upon
to do their duty, no more.
Sir, the Duke of Wellington stated,
"The performance of a duty
of honor and trust
"after knowledge of military offense
ought to convey a pardon."
What on earth does his statement
have to do with military law?
I will tolerate no further mention
of this morning's events in this court.
But, sir, the Duke of Wellington
influenced nearly all our military law.
-Why bother, Major?
We'll proceed with the second charge,
concerning the six Boer prisoners
killed at Fort Edward on August 23, 1901.
Anyway, it was dark. Pitch dark.
Not even a moon. Couldn't see a thing.
But a bet is a bet,
and 50 is a hell of a lot of money.
Mind you, l'd had a few drinks.
Quite a few drinks.
Anyway, there's the fence. Cast iron.
Seven foot high.
Spikes on the top.
It was so dark, l couldn't even see it,
-so we put some candles on the top.
-And you cleared it.
-You've heard it before?
-We all have.
Yes, I cleared it and I won the bet.
I paid off all my debts in...
Where the hell was it?
-Canada. Thank you very much.
And I got the...
-He ought to be on the other side.
-Why is that?
He's a big enough bore, ain't he?
There's a group of Boers coming in.
They've got white flags.
That's an old one.
We get close and they blow our heads off.
Not this lot. They look really shabby.
In that case, another few three feet,
go back out in the veldt and snipe at them.
Sergeant Major Drummond.
Take more troopers.
-Corporal Sharp, take his post.
-Right, sir.
They're part of the group
that killed Simon Hunt.
How can you be sure?
Kelly's commandos. The rest disbanded
or moved into Portuguese territory.
Execute them.
-Aren't we supposed to...
-This is guerilla war, not a debutante's ball.
-There are no rules here.
-Blast that man.
George, tell Handcock
to get a squad together
after the old man's left, will you? Go on.
You got to get
a firing squad together, Peter.
It's wrong, mate, and you know it is.
Don't argue this with me, mate.
I just follow orders.
Hey, look at this.
I got these from that lot.
Ever seen what they can do?
Put a neat little hole here
and at the back, boom. All gone, nothing.
Don't talk to me
about what's right or wrong.
-Morning, Lieutenant.
-Morning, Mr. Hesse.
-Who are these men?
-Boer prisoners, sir.
I'd rather you didn't speak to them.
You moving on today, sir?
As soon as I get some water for my men,
I'll proceed for Leydsdorp.
-Boer guerilla country, sir.
But they do not bother a harmless old man
who is spreading the word of God.
But the white flag.
They came in under a white flag.
Do you remember the order
from Pretoria High Command?
If they show a white flag, we don't see it.
I didn't see it.
Harry, you never gave a damn for orders
if you didn't agree with them.
-You're doing this to avenge Captain Hunt.
-You're probably right, lad.
It won't bring him back,
but it's the next best thing.
Mr. Hesse, sir. You spoke to the prisoners?
I gave you strict instructions not to, sir.
I'm sorry, Lieutenant Morant.
They called me to pray for them.
The Boers are religious men.
I could not refuse.
I propose to settle
once and for all, sir,
the matter of whether or not
orders were issued to shoot prisoners.
Do you, Major Thomas?
Major Bolton has proved
there were no standing orders
and Captain Hunt is dead.
A formal request that Lord Kitchener
attend this court-martial.
Lord Kitchener?
He can tell us himself whether or not
such orders were issued.
You are impertinent, Major Thomas.
Are you suggesting that
the most senior soldier in the British Army,
a man venerated throughout the world,
would be capable of issuing an order
of such barbarity?
I don't know, sir.
But I do know
that orders
that one would consider barbarous
have already been issued in this war.
Before I was asked to defend these men
I spent some months
burning Boer farmhouses,
destroying their crops,
herding their women and children
into stinking refugee camps
where thousands of them
have died already from disease.
Now, these orders were issued, sir,
and soldiers like myself and these men here
have had to carry them out,
however damned reluctantly!
There is no precedent for this request.
There is no obligation whatever
for Lord Kitchener to attend this courtroom.
"The accused is allowed full liberty
to cross-examine any witness against him
"and to call any witnesses
"or make any statement in his defense."
May I join you?
Well, our little case seems to be attracting
quite a lot of interest.
Yes. Been requests
from some of those correspondent fellows
to attend the court.
All turned down, of course.
Of course.
I've been wondering if you realize
how anxious your own government is
for a conviction.
-What do you mean?
-Well, you've just become a commonwealth.
Your prime minister,
Mr. Barton, wants to dissipate
any lingering impressions
of a frontier colony. Frontier behavior.
You can be quite sure their conviction
will meet with Australian approval.
-Of course Morant and his friends are guilty.
-Are they?
Why not arrest the firing squad?
They did the actual killing.
But they were following Morant's orders.
That's right.
Just as Morant was following orders.
You do realize
that when High Command denies
that the orders were issued,
your whole case will collapse.
Perhaps your request that Lord Kitchener
attend this court
-is not in your clients' best interest.
-I had thought of that.
-Then you will withdraw the request?
It seems quite simple to me.
I don't know how it's come to this.
-You said our fellow there, that Irishman...
-Captain Taylor, sir.
-Taylor, yes,
assured you the case against
the Australians was overwhelming.
Now he seems to spend most of his time
giving evidence on their behalf.
Certain proprieties have to be observed, sir.
And Taylor fought with Morant,
it creates a bond.
I don't think he's the problem.
Major Thomas is putting up
an unexpectedly good defense.
Two of the court members are showing
sympathy for the Australians.
I daresay it's too late
to transfer them to India?
I did mention at one time, sir,
the complexities of charging soldiers with
murder while they're actually in the field.
Good God, Johnny, l'm not trying to prove
some academic point.
I'm trying to put an end to this useless war.
The Boer leaders must see
in this court-martial
the demonstration of our impartial justice.
If these three Australians have to be
sacrificed to help bring about
a peace conference,
-it's a small price to pay.
-I quite agree, sir.
Though I doubt the Australians
share our enthusiasm.
You go to Pietersburg, Johnny.
You deal with the order
to shoot the prisoners.
What do I say?
I think you know what to say.
-Shall be the truth...
-Shall be the truth...
-...the whole truth...
-...the whole truth...
-...and nothing but the truth.
-...and nothing but the truth.
Thank you, sir. If you'd like to take
the witness chair, please.
Colonel Hamilton, last July,
Captain Hunt took two polo ponies
to Lord Kitchener's headquarters in Pretoria.
At which time, you had a conversation
with him regarding war prisoners.
Do you recall that conversation?
I have no recollection whatever.
I have never spoken to Captain Hunt
with reference to his duties
in the Northern Transvaal.
-You're a liar!
-You are under oath, sir.
-I am aware of that.
Major Thomas, I trust you'll agree
that closes the issue of the alleged orders
to shoot prisoners.
On the contrary, sir.
I regard Colonel Hamilton's denial
as having no bearing at all on the defense.
I submit that it is, in fact,
inadmissible evidence.
A conversation
is stated to have taken place
between Captain Hunt
and Colonel Hamilton.
Which conversation was relayed
by Captain Hunt
to Lieutenant Morant.
Now it really doesn't matter from whom
Captain Hunt had his instructions.
The fact is clear from the evidence
that Captain Hunt did tell his subordinates
not once, but several times,
that no prisoners were to be taken.
This fact is admitted by witnesses
for the prosecution.
Captain Hunt's instructions
were entitled to be obeyed,
which goes to remove any suggestion
of malicious intention
on the part of the defendants.
This entire court-martial, sir,
should be dismissed.
Let us pray.
O Lord of Hosts, we entreat thy blessing
for the soldiers of our race
called to do battle in South Africa.
Be thou a strong tower for them
against the enemy.
O thou who dost accomplish thy will
by war as well as by peace.
I used to hate Sundays in Melbourne.
No trams or anything.
On a hot day, you couldn't even
get down to St. Kilda's for a swim.
-Did you have family readings?
We did.
I had to sit in a high-backed chair
wearing a white lace collar
while my father read
selectionsfrom pilgrim's Progress.
"How glorious it was to see
the open region filled with horses,
"with trumpeters and pipers,
"with singers and players..." Etcetera.
Sunday was a good day
for chasing a few tarts around Bathurst.
Everyone else was in church.
I used to whip down the riverbank
for a bit of smooching.
Worst thing about dying, no more girls.
Well, coming up for the homestretch.
-Any news of the other two cases?
-No, nothing.
In my view, everything hinges
on the last one. The German missionary.
-You sticking with that story?
-Why, what's wrong with it?
Damn it, man.
He leaves Fort Edward in a cart.
A few hours later, you leave with a rifle.
In the morning, he's dead,
and you trot out some fairytale
about shooting game.
-We don't have to give evidence, do we?
But refusal will be equivalent
to an admission of guilt.
I was in a public house
a few nights ago, sir.
-Were you, Sergeant?
-Yes, sir.
I was standing near one of the witnesses.
In his cups, he was.
A very indiscreet gentlemen, sir.
We will proceed, gentlemen,
with the final one of the three charges.
The death of the Reverend H.C.V. Hesse.
Lieutenants Morant and Handcock
have pleaded not guilty respectively
to inciting and committing the murder.
Major Bolton.
You realize you're under oath,
-Corporal Sharp.
-Yes, sir. Right, sir.
This bloke'd say anything
except his prayers.
On August 23 last,
that being the last day
Reverend Hesse was seen alive,
you were on sentry duty. ls that correct?
That is correct, sir.
Did you see
the deceased that day?
What, sir?
The deceased.
The Reverend Hesse.
Yes, sir, I saw the deceased that day.
It was about 10:00 a.m.
Lovely day, sir. We could do with
a drop of this weather in London.
Thank you very much.
It gets very foggy there, sir.
You can't see a foot in front of your face.
That's a hand, see?
It's a joke. Silly old bugger.
I hope you drown in your Communion wine.
I checked the deceased's pass, sir.
It was signed by Captain Taylor.
Then he went off, sir.
-You never saw him again?
-The deceased, sir?
No, sir, not again.
Did you witness anything else
which might affect this court-martial?
Yes, sir. Barely half an hour later, sir,
Lieutenant Handcock rode up
to Lieutenant Morant, sir.
It was just alongside the tent line, sir.
How did Lieutenant Handcock look?
Like he was thinking, sir. Like...
-I can't think of a...
-Did he look like he was agitated?
Agitated? Yes.
That's it, sir, he looked agitated...
Major Bolton is leading the witness.
I will rephrase the question, sir.
Tell me, Corporal Sharp,
how did Lieutenant Handcock look?
-Agitated, sir.
-Thank you.
Is there anything else
that you wish to tell the court?
No, sir. Yes, sir.
They, sir, Lieutenants Morant
and Handcock,
weren't like real soldiers.
Troopers actually called them
by their first name. Right to their face, sir.
-Thank you, that will be all.
-Thank you, sir.
Why did you leave
the Bushveldt Carbineers?
I requested a transfer, sir.
Were you not made to transfer?
Weren't you punished
by Lieutenant Handcock
for stealing Boer property while on patrol?
I can have your charge sheet
brought into the court, Corporal.
Yes, sir. It's true, sir.
And have you not been stating
in the hotels of Pietersburg
that you would walk barefoot
from Cape Town to Pietersburg
to be on a firing party
to shoot Lieutenant Handcock?
Might have said that over a pint, sir,
but it was only a bit of beer talking, not me.
You testified previously
that you told the Reverend Hesse not
to speak with Boer prisoners. Why was that?
He was German. It was for security reasons.
But we are not at war with Germany.
Every soldier is aware of the sympathy
that Germany shows toward the Boers.
Were you on good terms
with the Reverend Hesse?
Just cordial.
When he left Fort Edward,
you knew that he was going to report
back here to the authorities in Pietersburg.
I couldn't know what he was going to do.
But it would have been in your interest,
would it not, to prevent it?
I hardly know about that.
All I do know is that someone prevented him
and I'm still here on trial.
I suggest that you instructed
Lieutenant Handcock
to follow the Reverend Hesse
and to shoot him.
I had sent a message
to Colonel Hall in Pietersburg
informing him of my intentions
towards the Boer prisoners.
I have nothing to hide.
I find that statement hard to believe.
Then I suggest that you recall Colonel Hall
from India. He will confirm it.
I don't mind waiting.
Thank you, Lieutenant Morant,
that will be all.
Thank you, sir.
Call Lieutenant Handcock
to the witness chair, please.
I would like to request
an adjournment, sir,
until tomorrow morning.
Do I understand, Major Thomas,
that Lieutenant Handcock
won't be giving evidence?
No, sir, I simply need more time
to discuss the case with my client.
I have no objection, sir.
Request granted.
For God's sake, tell me the truth, Peter.
If you're concealing something,
I want to know it.
If you killed Hesse, l want to know.
It's not just your life.
You'll take Morant and Witton with you.
-We got no bloody chance anyway.
-I think you have.
They obviously regard this
as the most serious charge.
If I can convince the court members
that you're innocent on this one,
I think you could all be acquitted.
All right. But we got to be careful.
-I don't want these witnesses in court.
-Why not?
-Do you want to be executed?
-Of course not.
But I made a promise. Two promises.
Where did you go
when you left Fort Edward
approximately half an hour
after the Reverend Hesse?
-I went visiting.
Who could you possibly have visited?
I went to the farms
owned by the Shielses and the Vanderbergs.
-Why? Who was at these farms?
I knew the ladies, sir.
And they received you
into their homes alone?
I was quite well known to them.
You mean to tell me
you were on intimate terms
with two Boer ladies?
Yeah, you could put it that way.
Where were the husbands?
One's a prisoner of war
and the other's with the Boer commandos.
I was checking if they were all right.
-Good day.
Pretty glad to see me?
You spent the full afternoon
at these ladies' homes?
My oath. It was about 5:00
when l got to the Shiels' place.
Good day, Mrs. Shiels, here you go.
I'll just have a cup of coffee.
I'm tired, I've been riding all day.
Okay, you talked me into it.
I would like to present the court
with written depositions
from both the ladies in question.
Lieutenant Handcock, what does
Mrs. Vanderberg mean by "entertain"?
Did you sing to her?
Sir, you can appreciate that these ladies'
reputations are in a vulnerable position
and as these letters confirm
Lieutenant Handcock's whereabouts
on the day in question,
could they not forgo the embarrassment
of actually appearing in court?
-Major Bolton?
-I have no objection, sir.
I must say I find this sort of behavior
from a soldier in the British Army
morally disgraceful.
These were married women.
They say
a slice off a cut loaf is never missed.
Lieutenant Handcock's
personal morality is not on trial, sir.
Who do you think did kill the missionary?
What about your lady friends?
That was later.
-Does Major Thomas know?
And he's not going to.
But we've always told the truth.
Major Thomas has been pleading justifying
circumstances and now we're just lying!
We're lying?
What about them?
It's no bloody secret our graves were dug
the day they arrested us at Fort Edward.
Yeah, but killing a missionary, Peter.
It's a new kind of war, George.
It's a new war for a new century.
I suppose this is the first time
the enemy hasn't been in uniform.
They're farmers.
They're people from small towns.
They shoot at us from houses
and from paddocks.
Some of them are women, some of them
are children, and some of them
are missionaries, George.
-That minister was talking to the prisoners.
-I know.
I'm damn certain that Hesse was the one
who led Simon Hunt into that trap.
-Now he tells me he's off to Leydsdorp.
Anything can happen
on the way to Leydsdorp.
The main fact of this case,
that Boer prisoners were executed,
has never been denied by the defense.
I feel that that there is no evidence
at all for bringing charges
against Lieutenant Witton.
A junior officer
who had no reason to question
the instructions of his superiors.
And his only crime
was that he shot a Boer
in self-defense.
And further,
no one denies the admirable
fighting qualities of the Boers,
nor, in general,
their sense of honor.
those Boers fighting
in the Northern Transvaal
in commando groups
are outlaws, renegades.
Often without
any recognized form of control.
Addicted to the wrecking of trains,
the looting of farms.
Lord Kitchener himself
recognized the unorthodox nature
of this warfare
when he formed a special squad
to deal with it.
The Bushveldt Carbineers.
Now, when the rules and customs of war
are departed from by one side,
one must expect the same sort of behavior
from the other.
Accordingly, officers of the Carbineers
should be,
and up until now, have been,
given the widest possible discretion
in their treatment of the enemy.
Now I don't ask
for proclamations condoning
distasteful methods of war.
But I do say
that we must take for granted
that it does happen.
Let's not give our officers hazy,
vague instructions
about what they may and may not do.
Let's not
reprimand them on the one hand
for hampering the column with prisoners,
and at another time
and another place,
haul them up
as murderers
for obeying orders.
Lieutenant Morant shot no prisoners
before the death of Captain Hunt.
He then changed a good deal
and adopted the sternest possible measures
against the enemy.
Yet there is no evidence to suggest
that Lieutenant Morant has
an intrinsically barbarous nature.
On the contrary.
The fact of the matter is
that war changes men's natures.
The barbarities of war
are seldom committed by abnormal men.
The tragedy of war is
that these horrors
are committed by normal men
in abnormal situations.
Situations in which
the ebb and flow of everyday life
have departed
and have been replaced
by a constant round of fear
and anger and blood and death.
Soldiers at war
are not to be judged by civilian rules.
As the prosecution
is attempting to do.
Even though they commit acts,
which, calmly viewed afterwards,
could only be seen
as unchristian and brutal.
And if in every war,
particularly guerilla war,
all the men who committed reprisals
were to be charged and tried
as murderers,
court-martials like this one
would be in permanent session.
Would they not?
I say
that we cannot hope to judge such matters
unless we ourselves
have been submitted to the same pressures,
the same provocations
as these men
whose actions are on trial.
Steady, don't spill a drop.
Thank you.
To Bushveldt Carbineers,
-the best fighters in a bad cause.
-Bloody hell.
-Where the hell did you get this from?
-One of the jock guards.
-What do you mean, a bad cause?
-I thought we cleared up all their stills.
The bad cause was the Boer War, you know.
Half a million men
fighting a few thousand farmers.
Every bugger we kicked
out of the Carbineers came down...
You volunteered.
You can't always choose which side
you're going to fight on, can you?
And these days it's so very easy
to be on the wrong side.
Especially if you leave Australia
one step ahead of the debt collectors.
Watch your language.
"When a man hath no freedom
to fight for at home
"Let him combat for that of his neighbors
"Let him think of the glories
of Greece and Rome
"And get knock'd on the head for his labors
"To do good to mankind
is the chivalrous plan
"And is always as nobly requited
"Then battle for freedom wherever you can
"And, if not shot or hang'd
"you'll get knighted"
You write that, Harry?
No, it was a minor poet called Byron.
-Never heard of him.
-Like I said, he was a minor poet.
I know some good poems, too.
That surprised you, didn't it?
"There once was a man from Australia
"Who painted his arse like a dahlia
"The color was fine, likewise the design
"But the aroma, that was a failure"
Champagne from two of the court members.
You've been officially acquitted
on the Hesse case.
You beauty!
That's it, Harry. Why don't you
leave the dust around Bathurst!
Don't get too carried away.
You might still do a couple of years.
It's better than a one-way trip to
kingdom come, isn't it? George, come here.
Let's plunder the champagne.
-Come on.
-I'm fine!
To freedom and Australia.
Freedom and Australia!
To freedom, Australia and horses.
Freedom, Australia and horses.
Freedom, Australia, horses and women!
Live every day as if
it were going to be your last.
One day, you're sure to be right.
Can l have a word with you?
We'll be home in time
for the Melbourne Cup.
Don't count your bridges.
What do you mean by that?
You said yourself...
I wouldn't be too certain
of this verdict, Harry.
And what about you?
Your trial is coming up soon, isn't it?
They don't want me.
Intelligence service,
Kitchener's staff, and all that.
No, it wouldn't go down very well.
But a wild, simple fellow like Handcock,
and a black sheep.
-We won't be missed.
-That's right.
I can have a horse standing by for you.
Some of the guards are sympathetic.
And where would I go?
Lorenzo Marques. Portuguese territory.
Take a boat and see the world.
I've seen it.
Right turn.
Mr. Witton, sir.
Right turn, quick march.
George Ramsdale Witton,
you have been found guilty of murder
and sentenced to death.
Lord Kitchener has been pleased
to commute your sentence
to penal servitude for life.
Escort. Halt.
Mr. Morant, sir.
Left turn.
Quick march.
Harry Harbord Morant,
you have been found guilty of murder
and sentenced to death.
Shot, tomorrow morning.
Mr. Handcock, sir.
About turn.
Quick march.
-Same as Morant.
Escort, halt.
Can l help you, sir?
-I wish to see Lord Kitchener.
-I'm afraid that's not possible.
-Do you have an appointment, sir?
-I don't need an appointment.
I demand to see him straightaway.
The death warrants have been signed.
There's nothing you can do.
Let me see Lord Kitchener, sir.
The trial was a bloody sham.
Two members of the court
recommended mercy
for Handcock and Morant as well as Witton.
In which case,
the casting vote belonged to the President,
Lieutenant Colonel Denny.
Lord Kitchener's been called away
for a few days.
Out on the veldt somewhere.
Quite un-contactable.
I want a stay of execution.
So that l can send a telegram to the King
and to the Australian Prime Minister.
The sentence has been approved
by Whitehall
and the Australian government has
expressed its support of our decision.
Forget it, Major. It's a sideshow of the war.
I have some good news.
There's hope of a peace conference
in a couple of months.
Soon we can all go home.
Could have had the decency
to measure us first.
Don't suppose they've had
many complaints.
I'm going to find out the grand secret.
I'll face my God
with the firm belief I obeyed my orders
and served my king as I thought best.
If I overstepped my duty,
I can only ask my people
and country for forgiveness.
Take care of my little son at all costs.
No matter what I may have done,
you and he were the source
of my greatest joy.
"The night's a trifle chilly
"and the stars are very bright
"A heavy dew is falling
"but the tent is rigged aright
"You may rest your bones till morning
"then if you chance to wake
"Give me a call about the time
that daylight starts to break"
-See you in hell, mate.
-Goodbye, George.
-Why did they do it to us, Harry?
They have to apologize
for their damn war, George.
They're trying to end it now,
so they need scapegoats!
Scapegoats to the bloody Empire!
Cheer up.
Look as though you're going to a funeral.
-It's all right, Major.
I've had a good run.
There's nothing for me in England anymore.
And back in Australia,
they do say that
if you need a couple of stiff brandies
before you climb up on
a wild horse,
you're finished.
Would you make sure
they're posted for me, please?
And see that this gets published.
We poets do crave immortality, you know.
Thank you.
You want the padre?
No, thank you. l'm a pagan.
-And you?
-What's a pagan?
It's somebody who doesn't believe
there's a divine being
dispensing justice to mankind.
I'm a pagan, too.
There is an epitaph l'd like.
Matthew 10:36.
All right, gentlemen.
Peter, this is what comes
of empire building.
Matthew 10:36?
"And a man's foes shall be
they of his own household."
"It really ain't the place nor time
to reel off rhyming diction
"But yet we'll write a final rhyme
While waiting crucifixion!
"For we bequeath a parting tip
Of sound advice for such men
"Who come across in transport ships
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!
"Let's toss a bumper down our throat
Before we pass to Heaven
"And toast: 'the trim-set petticoat
"'We leave behind in Devon"'
Shoot straight, you bastards!
Don't make a mess of it!