Today, in English, we got our marked creative writing pieces handed back to us. The writing piece prompt had been “Justice and fairness are concepts which cannot be applied in a war setting.” and we were instructed to use the film “Breaker Morant” as a text reference.
(Brief explanation on Breaker Morant: Set during the Boer War there are 3 Australian soldiers serving in the British army who are being trialled for the murder of war prisoners and a German missionary by their own officers. These soldiers are Harry “Breaker” Morant, George Witton, and Peter Hancock. The whole point is that the soldiers were only acting under orders but because they killed the German missionary, the German’s are demanding the soldier’s heads or otherwise they will join the war too. The Brit’s desperately don’t want this so put the soldiers on trial which is rigged and biased so that the soldiers will be executed. The film covers the story behind the deaths of the prisoners, the missionary, the soldiers and the court trial.)
I was surprisingly keen for this because I had a sudden inspiration of using a scene from the film and showing it from a different character’s POV. A drabble of sorts. So I decided I was going to write the “Final Appeal” scene from the thoughts of one, Lt George Witton, an 18 year old Australian soldier.
It was one if those ideas that you just HAD to write about. The mindset was so fascinating. If you were pinning your whole hope of surviving on an attorney who had never had a court case before, how would you react? What would you be thinking, knowing that your life was in his hands? And not only that, but what would happen if the appeal failed and death was suddenly your reality? How would you come to terms with that? Was it even possible to come to terms with that? Especially when you’re only 18… Everything would be thrown under scrutiny and it would be so difficult to keep a grasp of ones own self and sanity in such a situation. Fair to say I was pretty excited about it. (if you couldn’t tell already tehe)
Anyway, I ended up writing a 1200 word narrative, feeling that my writing was stunted since I was only meant to do a maximum word count of 1000, yet still satisfied with what I had achieved. As you could probably tell from my “brief” explanation if Breaker Morant it’s difficult for me to restrain my writing.
When I handed the story in I was nervous that my excessive word count would affect my mark. And today I finally got to see if my suspicions would be confirmed. I looked down at the mark sheet and I saw the letter circled in red pen.
I had to double check, just to be sure.
Yep, it was really there.
HUZZAH!!! (insert fist pump here)
You know that scene in “The Princess and The Frog” where Tania’s on the balcony clutching her Dad’s drawing to her chest? Imagine that but with a grin stretching from ear to ear and you have my reaction. I just couldn’t believe it!!! I still can’t believe it!
The short story is below, I decided to put it on here after all because I remember how proud I was of it. I know no one would be interested in it, but meh.
Okay, so this is my English creative writing piece. Our Text study was the Australian film “Breaker Morant” and our prompt was:
“Justice and fairness are concepts which cannot be applied within a war setting.”
Pretty much it’s a fanfiction/drabble of sorts.
The scene it is set in is the Final Appeal delivered by Major Thomas during the court marshal.
POV: George Witton
"Only The Good Die Young"
Major Thomas stood, feet planted apart and head high, in front of the small selection of individuals which the British army officials had labelled the “jury”.
His back was turned to his clients, the three accused Australian soldiers: Lt George Witton, Lt Harry “Breaker” Morant and Lt Peter Hancock.
His stance was that of a man preparing to duel against an archrival, which was not unlike the actual situation he had been thrust into. Only Major Thomas knew this could not end well. Not for all the soldiers. He had arrived virtually unarmed to this battle of wits and manipulation. But he’d be damned if he didn’t go down without a fight. Not if it meant he could spare the life of at least one of the men.
George Witton watched with a slight sense of awe as Major Thomas commenced his final appeal. The hall echoed slightly with his clear and steady voice.
“The main fact of this case, that Boer prisoners had been executed, has never been denied by the defence.” Thomas instigated, “However, I feel that there is no evidence at all for bringing charges against Lt Witton—” Thomas glanced towards him, drawing the eyes of the jury in his direction. George cast his eyes down, not sure how to react to the unbidden attention. “—A junior officer who had no reason to question his superiors. And whose only crime was that he shot a Boer in self-defence.”
Thomas was correct. There had, for the majority of his service, been no reason to question orders from the Breaker or Hunt. The only time where he had in fact had concerns about the morality behind orders had been when the Breaker had ordered the Bushveldt Carbineers to execute Visser, the unarmed Boer prisoner.
George had always had a strong sense of what was right or wrong. He had known shooting an unarmed prisoner was dishonourable or unfair if nothing else. After all, wasn’t Visser a young man like himself, acting on what he thought was right? They shared the same motivating factor, just were on opposing sides. If the shoe were on the other foot, George would have been pleading for his life too.
Suddenly, the unfairness of war struck George like a train. None of it made sense.
He shook himself out of that train of thought, back to the court marshal in front of him.
“—Let’s not reprimand on the one hand them for hampering the colony with prisoners and at another time and another place, haul them up as murderers for obeying orders.”
Not only that, but what an unorthodox way in which to summon them. The court marshal was a debacle and even George could tell the English were playing with a double-sided penny. Poor Thomas had been allocated to them without a single court case to his name, not to mention the fact that he’d only been given the case details the day prior to the trial itself. No experience, no preparation time. No fairness in what was supposedly the ultimate justice system.
It was only recently that Witton had realised that all the British thought about was how to orchestrate their power over their subjugates. Shipping the Commonwealth’s army down to South Africa for a supposedly normal cause. The Brits said it was to quell the uprising occurring in South Africa as the Afrikaans attempted to gain independence from the Crown.
“For Queen and Country, lads!” They had shouted, “See the world and bring honour to your family! Join the British Army’s Boer War battalion!”
Nothing but lies. Their ulterior motive? Diamonds. Gold. Bounteous resources to float the Brits lavish lifestyle. So long as the Great British Empire stayed satisfied, who cared if others should suffer. Even if said people were their allies…
How was it even remotely fair being thrust into a war you had been grossly misinformed about?
“—the tragedy of war is that these horrors are committed by normal people in abnormal situations. Situations in which the ebb and flow of everyday life have been departed and have been replaced by a constant round of fear and anger, blood and death—”
Thomas’ most recent statement rang through George’s mind as he reminisced about life back home through his, now less naive, viewpoint.
Millions upon millions of people, wandering through life with no thought of what lay ahead beyond. As if their errands were of the utmost importance and there was nothing outside of their comfortable little bubble.
The baker, whose bread was yet to rise fully when his bakery was supposed to be open half an hour ago, the accountant who had miscounted a single digit accidentally, the journalist who was desperate to get the latest scoop to advance his career. All would think their task the most important. Oh, what George would give to be so blissfully ignorant once more. Sharing that sheltered bubble with his family and friends, not having to deal with the knowledge that hundreds of men died each day for a not-so-noble cause.
The truth of the matter was, George no longer felt sure of what to believe in. In whom to believe in. Having been raised a believer, he had assumed God would answer his prayers and help him through this madness. Now all he felt was loneliness too incomprehensible to explain. Facing down death like this brought on thoughts which had never even fathomed before.
Was there a life after this one, a he’d been taught to believe? What was waiting? Pearly gates, fiery pits, reincarnation? How would one know when the dead cannot tell?
His thoughts were growing more frantic the more he pondered.
Who can say if it’s just the end? A black abyss filled with nothing. Blank, empty, vacant. Would it be cold? Would he be able to feel if it were cold?
A shiver ran up George’s spine. He had not yet come to terms with death. He was eighteen for goodness’ sake! How was one expected to walk silent and peacefully toward the unknown? And with such little time spent in the world of knowing, thinking, dreaming, feeling!
By now George was breathing shallowly and quivering. Severely. He needed to stop himself before he became hysterical. Shoving the tormenting thoughts away, he focussed all his energy on listening to Major Thomas’ appeal.
The appeal was coming to a close. George could sense it in the tone of finality of Thomas’ voice.
“—we cannot hope to judge such matters unless we ourselves have been submitted to the same pressures, the same provocations, as these men whose actions are on trial.”
Tense, bitter silence.
The urge to break the silence with applause would have overwhelmed George if it had not been for the discipline drilled into him.
Instead, his gaze travelled toward the board of officers — the jury. And a wave of calm washed over him as he knew what would happen.
The jury would cast their vote. Read out the inevitable verdict. “Justice” would be served.
It would not be fair. There really was no such thing as “justice” or “fairness” when it came to war. They were hypothetical constructs which simply were not feasible in such a scenario.
And George knew this now.
So he stayed seated. Head high. Waiting silently and peacefully for the words which would end his life.