Peter Handcock

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Peter Handcock
Peter Joseph Handcock (Studio photograph, c.1900).jpeg
Peter Joseph Handcock (1900)
Birth namePeter Joseph Handcock
Born17 February 1868
near Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia
Died27 February 1902(1902-02-27) (aged 34)
Pretoria, South African Republic
AllegianceBritish Empire
Years of service1899 – 1902
Unit1st New South Wales Mounted Rifles
Bushveldt Carbineers
Battles/warsSecond Boer War

Peter Joseph Handcock (17 February 1868 – 27 February 1902) was an Australian-born Veterinary Lieutenant who served in the Bushveldt Carbineers during the Boer War in South Africa.

After a court martial, Handcock (along with Harry "Breaker" Morant) was convicted and executed for the murder of several Boer prisoners-of-war.[1]

His execution, "which had been carried out without the knowledge and consent of the Australian government",[2] was and remains a controversial issue in Australia.


The son of William Handcock, and Bridget Handcock, née Martin, Peter Joseph Handcock was born at Peel, near Bathurst, New South Wales on 17 February 1868.[3]

He was apprenticed to a blacksmith at age 12, and later worked as a blacksmith with the Railways Department.[3]

He married Bridget Alice Mary Martin on 15 July 1888, and they had two sons and a daughter.[3]

Military service[edit]

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.[2]

Major Thomas standing over the joint grave of Morant and Handcock (1902).
External image
Photo of the grave of Morant and Handcock.
Source:Genealogical Society of South Africa


Handcock and Morant were convicted, court martialed, found guilty, and executed in Pretoria by a firing squad drawn 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 killing these enemy combatants, they were acquitted of murdering a German missionary, Reverend Daniel Heese.[2]

Petitions for review of convictions and sentences[edit]

In 2010, petitions were submitted for the review of the convictions of Handcock and his colleagues.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The murders are often prochronistically denoted "war crimes"; a concept that did not exist at the time.
  2. ^ a b c Wallace (1983).
  3. ^ a b c Australian Boer War Memorial.
  4. ^ The transcript of the committee's hearing is at Public hearings and roundtable discussions Archived 2010-05-05 at the Wayback Machine Parliament of Australia - House of Representatives


  • Probate Jurisdiction, The Sydney Morning Herald, (Thursday, 23 June 1904), p.8.
  • The Bushveldt Carbineers and the Pietersburg Light Horse by William (Bill) Woolmore (2002, Slouch Hat Publications Australia) ISBN 0-9579752-0-1
  • Unkles, James, Ready, Aim, Fire : Major James Francis Thomas, the Fourth Victim in the Execution of Lieutenant Harry "Breaker" Morant, Sid Harta Publishers, (Glen Waverley), 2018. ISBN 978-1-9252-3050-5
  • The Australian Boer War Memorial: Lieutenant Peter Handcock.
  • Wallace, R.L., "Handcock, Peter Joseph (1868–1902)", pp.185-185 in B. Nairn, G. Serle, and C. Cunneen (eds), Australian Dictionary of Biography: Volume 9: 1891-1939, Gil-Las, Melbourne University Press, (Carlton), 1983.

External links[edit]