War letters may help win 100yo pardon
A TREASURE trove of letters from a Queensland infantry officer serving in the Boer War may help gain a pardon for Lieutenant Harry "Breaker" Morant - more than 100 years after he was executed by a British firing squad for shooting Boer prisoners.
The letters are held by Bundaberg farmer David Flewell-Smith, who hopes to donate them for safekeeping to the Australian War Memorial.
They were written by his great-grandfather, Frank Flewell-Smith, to his wife and family while he served for about 15 months in South Africa during the Boer War.
But before they can go to the war memorial, the letters, which make up 283 typed pages, have come to the attention of an experienced lawyer and naval officer who is trying to clear Morant's name.
Commander James Unkles has petitioned the Queen for a pardon for Morant on the grounds he was acting on verbal orders to take no prisoners.
He is hopeful the letters Mr Flewell-Smith has in his possession will help bolster his case.
Mr Flewell-Smith said his great-grandfather, who served as a colonel in the Sixth Queensland Bushmen, was a prolific letter writer who gave excellent descriptions of the country he and his men were fighting over and some of the action they went through.
"They were under instructions not to bring in Boer prisoners, but to shoot on sight," he said.
In one passage, Col Flewell-Smith describes how two Boer combatants pretended to surrender then shot one of his men.
His grandson said it was lucky the letters had survived.
"My father wanted to destroy them, but my mother saved them," he said.
"I've just got to take the originals to the war memorial."
Mr Flewell-Smith said his great-grandfather obviously preferred life in the military to existence on his farm at Lowood, because he stayed on in South Africa for some time after the war.
"He went back to the farm and later tried to enlist in the First World War, but the only job he could get was helping escort soldiers to England," he said.