Scapegoats of the Empire

By in Court Records on August 12, 2013

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Scapegoats of the Empire- by George Witton tells the story of court martial of Harry -Breaker- Morant.
Harry Morant was an Anglo-Australian drover, horseman, poet, and soldier whose renowned skill with horses earned him the nickname -The Breaker.- Articulate, intelligent, and well-educated, he was also a published poet.

During service in the Second Boer War – 1899 to 1902,- Morant was responsible for shooting prisoners of war, which he claimed he was ordered to do. Morant and the author George Witton and one other were court-martialed by the British Army.

In the century since his death, Morant has become a folk hero in Australia. His story has been the subject of several books and a major Australian feature film

This book was originally published in 1907 but was suppressed by the Australian government. (There is no right of freedom of the press in Australia – even today). Many copies of the Scapegoats of the Empire were burned and for a long time the book was unavailable. Prior to its reprint in 1982 there were only seven copies of the book which had survived in various Australian libraries and in the possession of Witton’s family.

3 thoughts on “Scapegoats of the Empire

  1. 1
    11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    Scapegoats: A diary of imperial injustice, October 28, 2010
    By 
    Mac

    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: Scapegoats of the Empire (Kindle Edition)

    I first heard of this book after seeing the movie “Breaker Morant” in 1980. I tried finding a copy of the book for a number of years (including Amazon searching for me).

    I’m not sure what I expected of this book but, in short, it reads like a diary. I have read many autobiographies and memoirs and they can frequently “read” like a story. This read more like a list of statements of the author’s experience. I’ve no complaints with the style — it’s to the point (although facts are frequently repeated) and gives a clear picture of the experience the author had with being accused of murder during wartime, convicted to death, commuted to life imprisonment, and ultimately being released after three years.

    Rarely would I recommend a movie along with a book — but, as excellent as I thought “Breaker Morant” was in 1980 — I am even more impressed now with how true to the book the movie really was.

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  2. 2
    5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    You saw the movie now read the book, July 17, 2011
    By 
    Peter Chart (Irvine California) –

    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: Scapegoats of the Empire (Kindle Edition)

    And if you havn’t seen the movie you really should. It is based on the book and is pretty faithful to it. The author George Witton was a junior officer attached to an irregular military group called The Bushveldt Carbeniers a unit raised in Australia and one of a number of volunteer units from all over the British Empire who volunteered [for about 5 shillings or aprox. one dollar a day] to help fight the Boers during the second Boer war that lasted from about 1899 to 1903.

    These irregular units fought behind the enemy lines using the same guerrilla tactics used by the Boer commandos. It was a very savage contest on both sides. As the war was coming to an end the British Commander in Chief, Lord Kitchener, was faced with a dilema. The Boer negotiators were demanding that certain men from this particular unit be court martialed for the murder of some Boer commando members, who were caught wearing British army uniforms and promptly executed, and for the murder of a Boer parson who was it appeared acting as a spy and carrying information between the Boer commandoes.

    In order to reach a settlement with the Boers to end the war Lord Kitchener decides that three officers have to be court marshaled. The senior officer Harry “Breaker”Morrant another officer and George Witton are duly Court Marshaled and sentenced to death. Witton has his sentence commuted to life in prison because he was very young [ and incidentally had done nothing to warrant any action being taken against him at all.] The conduct of the other two officers is decidedly more ambiguous but it is clear it has been encouraged and sanctioned indirectly by Kitchener himself. Having encouraged all the irregular troops to do the dirty work, until it is exposed the Senior British Officers are shocked! shocked! to discover what has been going on!

    The book narrates the circumstances leading up to all these events, the trial and its results it juxtaposes the argument put forward not unconvincingly by Kitchener that the execution of these “scapegoats” will save the lives of hundreds and a marked reluctance on the part of the Australians to play so prominent a part in history. The story brings into play all the tensions between the British and the Boers and between the British and the irregular troops and between various officer who are in effect being ordered to conspire in the death of the three prisoners. The book is not a great work of literature but it tells the story simply and well. The movie “Breaker Morrant” builds on the book and is riveting and well acted.

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  3. 3
    2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Finally available! Thanks Amazon., July 28, 2011
    By 
    Fritz

    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: Scapegoats of the Empire (Kindle Edition)

    I’ve wanted to read this book ever since seeing the movie Breaker Morant decades ago. The Kindle version finally gave me the chance. Witton tells the story of his adventures in the second Boer War, including his version of events related in the movie. The book is written in a matter-of-fact style, more like a diary than a novel. Witton is no Shakespeare, but I enjoyed the book very much both as a coming-of-age story and for the rich detail of everyday life during the period.

    If you haven’t seen the movie Breaker Morant, I suggest watching it first. It is also richly detailed and pretty faithful to the facts (although it speculates on a few points where history is silent).

    [...]

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