Peter Joseph Handcock (1868–1902) was a Veterinary Lieutenant in the Bushveldt Carbineers in the Boer War in South Africa. Handcock and Harry "Breaker" Morant were court martialed, convicted, and executed in Pretoria by firing squad from the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders on 27 February 1902 on murder charges for shooting nine Boer prisoners. Although the defendants were found guilty of executing these enemy combatants, they were acquitted of murdering a German missionary, Jacob Hesse. A third defendant, George Witton, who had initially also been sentenced to death by the court-martial, was reprieved after three years.
Handcock was born near Bathurst, New South Wales, and was apprenticed to a blacksmith at age 12. He worked as a blacksmith with the Railways Department. Married at 21, he had three children. He served in South Africa with the 1st New South Wales Mounted Rifles, and was promoted to Farrier-Sergeant. When the NSWMR returned home he obtained a commission in the Bushveldt Carbineers as Veterinary and Transport Officer, and was subsequently court-martialled for shooting Boer prisoners. The court-martial and sentence has subsequently been controversial in Australia.
Petitions for Review of Convictions and Sentences - Lieutenants Morant, Handcock and Witton
- Main article: Pardon for Morant, Handcock and Witton
Jim Unkles has submitted two petitions, one to Queen Elizabeth II, and the other to the House of Representatives Petitions Committee. The petitions have been referred to the British Crown by the Australian Attorney General. The British Government is considering the petition on behalf of the Queen and is yet to announce a review, (expected to be made after the UK election). The second petition was considered by the Petitions committee on 15 March 2010. Unkles appeared before the committee, along with others including, historian Craig Wilcox. Committee member, Alex Hawke, MP stated, 'There is in my view serious and compelling evidence that some form of redress should be given all these years later to those men executed by the British'.(Hansard Transcript House of Representatives Grievance Debate 15 March 2010).
| Photo of the grave of Handcock and Morant.
Source:Genealogical Society of South Africa
- The transcript of the committee's hearing is at Public hearings and roundtable discussions Parliament of Australia - House of Representatives
The Bushveldt Carbineers and the Pietersburg Light Horse by William (Bill) Woolmore (2002, Slouch Hat Publications Australia) ISBN 0-9579752-0-1