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"Morant had been drafted by the British to help fight a guerrilla war against the Boers as part of the Bushveldt Carbineers, a story recounted in Kit Denton's novel and the 1980 movie detailing Breaker Morant's life."

he was drafted?

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"On 9 May 2012, Nicola Roxon indicated that the Australian government would not be pursuing the issue further with the British, on the basis that there was no doubt that the three men had committed the killings for which they were convicted. The Australian government’s position is that pardons are only appropriate where an offender is both ”morally and technically innocent” of the offence. Roxon also noted the seriousness of the offences involved, explaining that “I consider that seeking a pardon for these men could be rightly perceived as ‘glossing over’ very grave criminal acts.”

No matter what the reality TV trial brings, the aussie Govt remains rational.

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Sure they did it--and the Rev. WAS a spy.

I'm not a fan of "symbolic" posthumous pardons. I'd rather see posthumous convictions of the bloody-minded Official Scapegoaters who slept well and collected pensions ever after, if anybody thinks The Law can alter history.

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Have not read the book or seen the film, but dont recall ever having read about Boers shooting British Prisonners?

In fact, as posted a few days ago, some British soldiers were captured and released a number of times ... noone thought to shoot them, even though it seemed certain they would take up arms again...

So whatever legal technicality they are dusting off now... I think they deserved what they got.

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My impression, based on a little subsequent reading, is that the movie is essentially accurate. Barring the dramatic licence of Hancock having a snappy comeback for everything, and maybe he did, the facts were correct.

As the lawyer advocating for them, and the film, point out there were orders given by Kitchener, or at least his headquarters to shoot Boers captured with British weapons or in British uniforms. There had been cases of Boers using the uniforms to surprise British outposts and patrols but, again as the film points out, most of the civilian population were in concentration camps - a British invention, BTW - and the hold-out Boer fighters were starving, reduced to following British columns to pick up ammunition dropped from badly made bandoliers and wearing whatever clothes they could steal or forage, including parts of the British uniforms.

I'm not sure there's evidence that the Boer mutilated the CO of the Bushveld Carbineers, the incident in the film which precipitates Morant's first order to shoot prisoners. It seems a bit out of character for the Boer, but these were, after all, the hard cases who refused to come in even after many of their leaders had surrendered and there were certainly recorded cases of Boer waving white flags then firing on advancing Brits. Pretty clearly, the act which saw them tried was the murder of the German missionary, which had the Kaiser breathing fire and threatening to get involved, well before Britain was ready to contemplate a conflict with Germany.

However, as Rick points out, he WAS a spy and the line between he and Boers must have seemed pretty slim by that point in the war. The Imperials were faced with the same anger and frustration, not to say real danger, of fighting by a set of rules which the enemy used to its advantage! Much like so much of the 'asymmetric warfare' Western soldiers face in places Iraq and Afghanistan or Vietnam. On the other hand, as 'their lawyer' and the film point out, they did do it and, both by our rules and the rules and laws of the time, one of the things separating 'us' form 'the wogs' was that we didn't stoop to their methods whatever the justification.

Finally, the film has it right about the process: stacked to the rafters to ensure the verdict and the executions so London could look good. I see the Aus. governments point - they were probably 'legally' innocent, or could certainly have made a case for it in a fair trial but morally? Not so much. I think the over-turned verdict is great, as an important symbolic act, because symbols are important. Pardons might be a bit much.

Lecture over!

Edited by peter monahan

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My impression, based on a little subsequent reading, is that the movie is essentially accurate. Barring the dramatic licence of Hancock having a snappy comeback for everything, and maybe he did, the facts were correct.

As the lawyer advocating for them, and the film, point out there were orders given by Kitchener, or at least his headquarters to shoot Boers captured with British weapons or in British uniforms. There had been cases of Boers using the uniforms to surprise British outposts and patrols but, again as the film points out, most of the civilian population were in concentration camps - a British invention, BTW - and the hold-out Boer fighters were starving, reduced to following British columns to pick up ammunition dropped from badly made bandoliers and wearing whatever clothes they could steal or forage, including parts of the British uniforms.

I'm not sure there's evidence that the Boer mutilated the CO of the Bushveld Carbineers, the incident in the film which precipitates Morant's first order to shoot prisoners. It seems a bit out of character for the Boer, but these were, after all, the hard cases who refused to come in even after many of their leaders had surrendered and there were certainly recorded cases of Boer waving white flags then firing on advancing Brits. Pretty clearly, the act which saw them tried was the murder of the German missionary, which had the Kaiser breathing fire and threatening to get involved, well before Britain was ready to contemplate a conflict with Germany.

However, as Rick points out, he WAS a spy and the line between he and Boers must have seemed pretty slim by that point in the war. The Imperials were faced with the same anger and frustration, not to say real danger, of fighting by a set of rules which the enemy used to its advantage! Much like so much of the 'asymmetric warfare' Western soldiers face in places Iraq and Afghanistan or Vietnam. On the other hand, as 'their lawyer' and the film point out, they did do it and, both by our rules and the rules and laws of the time, one of the things separating 'us' form 'the wogs' was that we didn't stoop to their methods whatever the justification.

Finally, the film has it right about the process: stacked to the rafters to ensure the verdict and the executions so London could look good. I see the Aus. governments point - they were probably 'legally' innocent, or could certainly have made a case for it in a fair trial but morally? Not so much. I think the over-turned verdict is great, as an important symbolic act, because symbols are important. Pardons might be a bit much.

Lecture over!

Just one small thing I would like to add: In reality two Boers were also found dead, stripped of clothing and mutilated at the scene of the skirmish.

Edited by Rodian

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"Just one small thing I would like to add: In reality two Boers were also found dead, stripped of clothing and mutilated at the scene of the skirmish."

Rodian

Do you mean the skirmish in which the Carbiniers CO was killed or the one in which the Boer attacked the prison where the three were held? In the latter case, BTW, they were apparently released to help hold of the attack. Not 100% sure that happened but will try to check!

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Yes, I'm referring to the one where the CO was killed.

I'll post up their names when I get back home where I have access to my books.

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Yes, I'm referring to the one where the CO was killed.

I'll post up their names when I get back home where I have access to my books.

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The skirmish on Duivelskloof farm happened on 6 August 1901. Captain Hunt and Sergeant F. Eland were killed and the rest of the unit retreated to a nearby German missionary station.

When Morant went back with reinforcements he found Captain Hunt stripped of clothing and mutilated. What the film doesn't mention is that during Morant's trial one of the men from the unit (surname Silke) testified that they also found Veldkornet Viljoen and another Boer dead inside the farm house, their clothing also missing and their bodies also mutilated.

J. Visser, the Boer suspected of killing Captain Hunt, was executed by Captain Alfred Taylor (nicknamed "Bulala" aka "murderer" as well as "Bamba" aka "Thief" by the local Black tribes, because he was infamous for killing Black civilians and stealing cattle)

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Rodian

You clearly know a lot more detail than I!

I've done a tiny bit more reading, including a quick skimm through parts of "Scapegoats of the Empire" by George Witton[have I got that name right?], the 3rd man convicted. Its pretty clear that Kitchener's orders were to 'take no prisoners', not unlike the order apparently issued before D-Day, but Morant and the others were charged after capturing Boers, disarming them and THEN shooting them. Plus shooting the Reverend, of course. In fact, one incident which occurred early one had the Carbineers send out a patrol, under the Sergeant Major, to shoot 6 Boer who were coming in to surrender. they fired on the wagon with its white flag but stopped for fear that there might be women and kids inside, took it, confirmed that there were only the 5 commandos and then shot them.

It's also clear that Taylor was a bat hat - played in the film by a scar-faced man - who got off when he was at leastr as guilty as Morant and Hancock. So, two guiity men who got railroaded. Not an impressive chapter in any nation's story!

Peter

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They took a lot of prisoners, actually. There were POW camps in Portugal, St. Helena, Ceylon, India and Simons Town near Cape Town in South Africa.

Kitchener's order was specifically against enemy combatants wearing British uniform.

Deneys Reitz mentions in his book that at first the Boers didn't know why prisoners were being shot. Deneys at one point wore a full lancer uniform that belonged to Lord Vivian...he even jokingly referred to himself and his comrades as the "Englishkilling fusiliers".

Being isolated from the rest of the world they only got news through captured British soldiers and newspapers left behind in vacated camp sites. After they realised that wearing enemy clothing could get them shot they either discarded the British uniforms or they tried to make it seem as un-uniform as possible...usually removing all insignia, epaulets and replacing the buttons or mixing it with civilian clothing.

They mostly wore captured clothing out of necessity, since they had no other means of re-supply and in fact usually preferred not to wear British uniforms since the British soldiers were infamous for their lice. (In fact they introduced a species of lice much larger than the ones native to SA, so the Boers nicknamed them "Khaki lice") They usually would boil the uniforms if they had the chance to do so to try to get rid of the lice, but doing so would also make the clothing less durable.

Edouard

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Just one other small thing. A commando was a whole unit. Size depended on how many people lived in the district the commando was from. The people in a commando are usually just referred to as burghers (citizens). ;)

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Yes, I did know that many many POWs were taken. The killings seem to have been relatively few in number, though a number of units did them, not just the BV Carbineers.

Didn't know about 'Khaki Lice' either, but not surprised. British troops, mostly townsmen, would have had little knowledge of how to live on the veldt without becoming pigs and were probably too arrogant in most cases to watch the locals and learn. I think I mentioned that the Boer wearing khaki was mostly out of necessity but, again, it hadn't really occurred to me how isolated they were nor that they wouldn't have known the rule on enemy uniforms. As you point out, they were citizens, not professional soldiers. [i knew 'commando' wasn't right, but was in a hurry. Sorry!]

Thanks again for the information.

Peter

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I whilst a long term subscriber to the GMIC am normally unable to contribute due to both work commitments and two major personal projects.

A correspondent knowing of my interest in this subject informed me of this thread.

The late Kit Denton and I were long time friends up to his 1997 death, and we collaborated on a number of projects of mutual interest. At his death I had delivered to him some 1,900 pages of photocopied documents relating to the court martial of the members of the Bushveld Carbineers, collected from the Cape Colonial Archives in Cape Town. With other information acquired by him we intended to write a comprehensive history of the Carbineers, and covering other corps of the SA Mounted Irregular Force.

These and a vast amount of other documents and his library were destroyed by his son before Kit was even buried, and I cannot comment upon the reasons why.

This link :

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/australia/9256726/Boer-War-soldier-Breaker-Morant-pardon-plea-rejected.html

is to a thread in London's Daily Telegraph in May 2012 following a article on the Australian Labor Government refusing to be involved in the attempt to have the war criminals pardoned. There is a message threat following it, reading bottom to top. You will see a pathetic whine by me in the final messages re my health, I was at the time being treated for a fungating bladder cancer.

Below is the entry for a well advanced book project on the Carbineers, the bulk of the actual entry is removed, but, the relevant notes remain. Also a entry for Bleddy's Scouts, the adjoining unit to the Carbineers whose CO was the investigating officer of the atrocities committed. With a reference to a medal pair of a man who Morant had stated he would murder, he fleeing for his life to Bleddy's Scouts, his well documentated record of events quite sickening reading.

The proponents for the war criminals casually disregard the actions of the those soldiers of the Carbineers who opposed and subsequently reported those who belonged to the Morant clique.

I have very strong feelings in regard to the activities of war criminals, be it today or one hundred years ago, with close involvement (including physical recovery of remains) with both the criminals and those who they murdered, in West Africa and The Former Yugoslavia.

Yours,

Mackinlay New South Wales

No (was 81) BUSHVELD CARBINEERS (BVC), entitled Bushveld Rifles on raising, later retitled No Pietersburg Light Horse, 1st December, 1901. Raised as a irregular corps of No South African Mounted Irregular Force in Pretoria, February-March, 1901, by a Mr Levi, an hotelkeeper at Pienaar's River, Northern Transvaal, and served with Plumer's Column. Also served in the Eastern OFS......................................................................................................................................................

A prime example of how a badly led, ill disciplined and inadequately trained unit can easily get out control and commit atrocities ( )...................................................................................................................................................................................

NOTES :

1. Medals to the Bushveld Carbineers and Pietersburg Light Horse. With the change in unit name, some confusion arose as to how the medals should be named. QSA Medals can be found named to both units. As many of the Busheld Carbineers and Pietersburg Light Horse had served in other units, medals to these two units are rare. Only 57 QSA Medals were issued named to the “Bush Veldt. Carbs.” (sic), “B.V. Carbs.” or “Pietersburg L.H.”. A total of 660 names appear on the BVC/PLH Nominal Roll between the dates of February 1901-June 1902.The writer sold in 1982, a medal and documentation of a man in the BVC who had made a formal statement re the torture and murder of a Boer by Morant and his clique, for which they not charged. QSA Medal clasps CC, OFS, Tr, SA01, SA02, (325 Tpr J Kleinschmidt, Piet'bg L.H.), last seen sold Spinks Auctions, London, October, 1999, £3,000.

2. Pietersburg renamed Polokwane 2001.

3. ‘Bushveld’ originates from the Afrikaans ‘bosveld’; ‘bos’ meaning ‘bush’, and ‘veld’ ‘field’. It pronounced “bushfelt”, commonly spelt as Bushveld.. Today a generic term meaning the wild, open and unpopulated spaces of Sub-Saharan Africa. Its shortened form just ‘bush’, and which is a common term describing such areas in Australia, Canada and NZ.

4. In the 1980's the US Army in its officer and SNCO training of law in the field of battle, gave the Bushveld Carbineers case as one of the examples used in dealing with how such units lose control. A further case study, being their own My Lai Massacre in South Viet Nam 1968.

5. The writers paternal grandfather, a sergeant in The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders had acted as one of the courts orderlies, during the court-martial, he recovering from wounds received whilst on column. A very bright, intelligent and competent man who after the Great War, retiring as a lieutenant colonel having been a Provost Marshal and involved in the investigation by The Army of the Black Sea into war crimes committed upon British Commonwealth servicemen by the Turks; he was Chief Constable of a number of very minor police forces in the North West of Scotland in the interwar years, and set up the UKs Transport Police for the private rail companies system throughout Scotland during the 1939-45 War (he also sat on the Provost's Bench), he had extremely vivid memories of the court martial, and had at the time had recorded his impressions and the evidence given during it. He considered that the trial was conducted correctly in accordance to the Regulations of the time, and that all the accused were given equally correct legal service. With his personal opinion being that the correct decision was given by the court, and that the correct sentence was given. There was no need to detail men for the firing party, many volunteered. The only problem that he had, was why had not the numerous other offences (for which there strong evidence) not been given as charges for the court-martial, a number of which were also capital offences. He had asked the Judge Advocate General as to why. The response being that charges laid and their evidence were strong, in time of war the need to charge every offence in court would take too many for far too long from their military duties, and would have caused further problems with the Boer.

6. This grave site was desecrated in the 1980's, and all human remains within removed. The South African Police carried out a comprehensive investigation, and their result being that the bones of these executed men had been taken for use in Muti, as they even more potent than the bones of men killed by violence (see Note 3 to No Albany Mounted Sharpshooters). In the 1990's the Australian Commonwealth Government paid for the site to have grave markers and covering, even though it known the site was empty.

TEXTS :

BLESZYNSKI Nick. Shoot Straight You Bastards! The truth behind the killing of 'Breaker Morant'. Random House, Sydney, Australia, 2002. Illustrated card cover, xliii, 386p., photos, maps, index. A spirited defence of Morant, with its author having used all secondary sources for the defence with no attempt to research primary sources.

CARNEGIE Margaret and SHIELDS Frank. In Search of Breaker Morant, Balladist and Bushveldt Carbineer. Published by authors, Armidale, Australia, 1979. Hard cover with dustjacket,, 227p., photos, map, index. The story seen through “rose tinted” glasses.

DAVEY Arthur, Editor. Breaker Morant and the Bushveld Carbineers. Van Reibeeck Society, Second Series No 18, Cape Town, 1987. Hard cover with dustjacket, lxv, 238pp., photos, maps, index. A authoritative, well researched text, that lays the whole story out in a non-biased manner, showing the guild of the accused, the correct manner that court martial held in accordance with the Court Martial Manual.

DENTON Kit. The Breaker. Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1973. Hard cover, dustjacket, 268p. A historical novel based on the events, reprinted a number of times as “The Breaker”, and “Breaker Morant”. The 1982 film 'Breaker Morant' is “not” based on this novel, but on the 1978 Australian play “Breaker Morant: A Play in Two Acts”, written by Kenneth G. Ross who admitted he had used the novel as inspiration, the films director Bruce Beresford co-wrote the screenplay with him, he in subsequent years stated that was ashamed to have depicted war criminals as heroes. DENTON Kit. Closed File. The true story behind the execution of Breaker Morant and Peter Handcock. Rigby, Adelaide, Australia, 1983. Hard cover, dustjacket, 160p., photos, maps, index. An attempt to clear up the confusion given in his The Breaker, for which he had employed a British woman as a researcher for the affair using The Public Records Office in London. She found little, but, informed that there a “closed file” held by the former War Office (retitled Ministry of Defence (Army)). In fact, this file, which was not closed, gave reference to the complete records on the Court Martial, and events and investigations relating to it which held in the Cape Archives in Cape Town, as the Carbineers a Cape Colony corps the officers holders of the Cape Governors SAMIF Commission. It also linked to other War Officer files, pertaining to the court martial, but, not its content.

LEACH Charles. The Legend of Breaker Morant is DEAD and Buried. A South African version of the Bushveld Carbineers in the Zoutpansberg May 1901-April 1902. Author, Louis Trichart, SA, 2012. Illustrated card cover, xxv, 220pp., photographs, maps, drawings, index. A competent, well researched and illustrated text, he using certain documents from the Cape Archives file. And, for a Afrikaaner in a none judgemental manner.

MEREDITH John, Editor. Breaker's Mate : Will Ogilvie in Australia. Kangaroo Press, Sydney, 1996. Illustrated card cover, 276p., photos, index. Deals with a Scot, he a close friend of Morant in the colony of South Australia. Gives a good idea of the depravity and viciousness of the man, and makes a very strong case for his involvement in murder and homosexual rape in South West Queensland in the immediate period before his departure for South Africa. Ogilvie's very comprehensive papers, which relate to his experience of Morant in South Australia, and Bourke in New South Wales, are held in Edinburgh, Scotland.

SCHOEMAN Chris. Brothers in Arms. Hollanders in the Anglo-Boer War. Zebra Press, Cape Town, 2011. Hard cover, dustjacket, xiii, 243pp., photographs, index. In part deals in a factual and cool manner with the murder and torture of citizens of the Kingdom of the Netherlands by Morant and his cohorts.

WITTON George Ramsdale. Scapegoats of the Empire. D. W. Paterson Pty Ltd, Melbourne, 1907. Reprinted Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1982. it is claimed by the supporters of Morant that only seven copies of the book survived in various Australian state libraries and in the possession of Witton's family. Although unsubstantiated, it has long been claimed that the book was suppressed by the Australian Commonwealth Government at the request of the Colonial Office in London and most copies were destroyed; another explanation given why so few, is that most of the copies were destroyed by an accidental fire at the publisher's warehouse. This writer had pre-1982 over the years purchased three copies of the original print, and physically seen a further 11 in private possession, and that a further 23 copies were known held in public access outside of Australia, so at least 44 were extant pre-1982! This reprinting was inspired by the success of Bruce Beresford's film.

WILCOX Craig. Australia's Boer War : The War in South Africa 1899-1902. Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 2002. Hard cover, xviii, 541p., photos, drawings, maps, index. In it the author gives a good description of the whole sorry business. This is further amplified by him in his article “Breaker Morant : The Murderer as Martyr” pp.29-49, in STOCKINGS Craig A.J., editor. Zombie Myths of Australian History : The Ten Myths that will not Die. University of New South Wales Press, Sydney, 2010.

WOOLMORE William. The Bushveldt Carbineers and the Pietersburg Light Horse. Slouch Hat Publications, McCrae, Melbourne, Australia, 2002. Hard cover with dustjacket, 320p., photos, drawings, maps, index. A nicely produced text with good photographs, unfortunately it follows the Morant was unjustly executed line, and that those with him were misunderstood, having believed illegal orders given!

o (was 42) BEDDY'S SCOUTS, mispelt in a number of records as "Beddies", and on QSA Medals named " Beddies. Scts.". A small corps (with a number of surrendered Burghers) raised by Captain W.Beddy at Haenertsburg, North Transvaal, for patrol service in the extreme north of the Transvaal, the same wild district in which No Bushveld Carbineers (1) had worked until disbanded (which it did far more effectively, and excited no similar controversies). They made a number of captures of small parties of Boers between January-April, 1902. At Spelonkin on 23rd March 1902 their post was attacked by a very large Boer force, but held out; Captain Beddy and several men were wounded. On 16th April they had fighting at Haenertsburg, and suffered some losses. On 23 red April, 1902, serving with Lieutenant Colonel H.C.Denny's Column (2), it was ambushed near Vliegenpan farm by Commandant Beyer's Commando, Beddy was killed. Captain Beddy received a Mention, in Lord Kitchener's final despatch, under the heading, "Intelligence Department".

NOTES :

1. A number of the Carbineers fled to Beddy for protection from Morant and his cohorts, with Beddy's commissioned to investigate and deliver a report on the criminal activities of the Corps and with collected statements of witnesses, the copy then held in The Cape Archives, seen and examined in 1997.

2. Denny had been the President of the Bushveld Carbineers court-martial, the column consisted of some 200 British mounted infantry, a mounted infantry company of his 2nd Battalion, The Northamptonshire Regiment, one of the 2nd Battalion, The Wiltshire Regiment; Beddy's Scouts 120; Pietersburg Light Horse 100; Steinaecker's Horse 115; 30 men of the National Scouts, in total some 600 with two guns.

Yours,

Mackinlay New South Wales

No MAFEKING RAILWAY VOLUNTEERS........................................................................................................................

NOTE : The writer had in his possession until sold in the early 1980's, a medal pair to Alfred Henry Royal, QSA Medal five clasps DoM, OFS, Tvl, SA01, SA02 named “Mafeking Town Gd” , and British War Medal named “Railway Regt”. Recorded as Engine Driver on the Railway Volunteer's QSA Roll, and also on the Mafeking Town Guard Roll and the QSA recorded as issued off that Roll. Subsequently enlisted Bushveld Carbineers, Cape Town, 6th April, 1901, No. 233, Squadron Quarter Master Sergeant, with former service in Railway Volunteers. He one of those who had fled for his life, and his comprehensive report of atrocities committed by the corps recorded in Captain Beddy's report (see No ). He subsequently served to the war's end as a well respected No.32773 Quarter Master Sergeant, Pietersburg Light Horse. Railway Regiment Great War service in the Union and South West Africa only.

No (was 11) ALBANY MOUNTED SHARPSHOOTERS, Albany Sharpshooters, Albany Local Volunteers also used. ...........................................

NOTES :

3. ALBANY LOCAL VOLUNTEERS............................................................................................................................... In 1945, the great grandson of Edward Driver, W.I.S.Driver, Magistrate at Elliotdale, re-discovered Major White's lost for nearly 100 years grave. Being taken by natives to a ford over the Bashee River and shown a grave on the east bank, which native tradition declared to be made at the time of Chief Hintza's death, which owing to native superstition, had been left undisturbed. Most unusual, as the majority of graves of Europeans killed violently in the bush, were dug by tribal sorcerers to obtain their bones for use in Muti ceremonies

v

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Very nice, James.  I recall the excitement a number of years ago now - probably not long after the movie came out - when a US dealer [?] offered a set to the Bushveld Carbineers for sale.  No idea how common those were, but I suspect not very and I believe I recall chatter at the time to the effect that some members of the unit had their medals named or re-named to other units after the trial and executions.

Thansk for sharing those.  Any information on Trooper Condon's service with the unit? 

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