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
Spouse(s)Bridget Alice Mary Martin (1888–1902; his death)

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.


Peter Joseph Handcock was born at Peel, near Bathurst, New South Wales to William Handcock (1830–1874), and Bridget Handcock, née Martin (1830–1881) 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 his 17-year-old cousin 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
image icon Photo of the grave of Morant and Handcock.
Source:Genealogical Society of South Africa


Handcock and Morant were convicted, court-martialled, 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 South African missionary, Reverend Daniel Heese.[2] However In 1929, it was revealed by George Witton in a letter to James Francis Thomas that Handcock had confessed to Witton of murdering Heese just after he was acquitted.[4]

Petitions for review of convictions and sentences[edit]

In 2010, petitions were submitted for the review of the convictions of Handcock and his colleagues.[5]

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. ^ Williams, Richard. "Witton's Letter to Thomas 21 October 1929". Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  5. ^ 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


External links[edit]