Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Resting Place Of Breaker Morant

The story of Breaker Morant is one etched into the Australian folk law, I assume because we all studied it at school, and the name is paired with the notion of "war hero" and a sense of injustice and wrongdoing.

A Lieutenant in the Second Boer War, Morant and colleague Hancock were court martialed and sentenced to death for the summary execution of captured prisoners-of-war - so a convicted war criminal.

But much speculation surrounds the events and evidence of the deaths of the captured prisoners, and I remember clearly the arguments around chain of command and therefore responsibility from our studies of the story at school. Re-reading some of the background for this post, I am now, again, totally confused about the circumstances. But I remember the name as such an important one within the fabric of Australian war history.

Morant was buried with Hancock in Pretoria, where they were both executed just over 100 years ago.

I wouldn't have actually recalled the connection with South Africa and this Aussie war story, but for a little snippet about the gravesite in the Lonely Planet. On a day off before the cricket in February, around the anniversary of their deaths in fact, we made a trip to search out such a unique part of Australian wartime stories.

The graves are in Hero Acre Cemetery, which was not actually labelled as such, and our very patient bongo-driver tried his best to work with our lack of an idea of what we were looking for. When we got to the unmarked cemetery, we all walked around for some time, reaching a point where I was sure some of the group was going to give up on such a hunt, with such flimsy instructions to find what we were looking for.

But then someone spotted the little sign on a path, which pointed us to the right section, and we had found it. It felt pretty significant to reach the resting point of such a famous name, in such a tricky place to find. A very Aussie moment, on another continent, far away.

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