"Shoot straight, you bastards! Don’t make a mess of it."
Description: Final words spoken by Lt. Harry "Breaker" Morant (Edward Woodward) in the military drama Breaker Morant (1979).
Lt. Harry Morant, an Englishman living in Australia, and his fellow soldiers Lt. Peter Handcock (Bryan Brown) and Lt. George Ramsdale Witton (Lewis Fitz-Gerald) are veterans of the Boer War. Toward the end of the war Lt. Morant was given an order by Captain Simon Hurst (Terence Donovan) to kill all prisoners. “No prisoners. The gentlemen’s war is over.”
Unfortunately, one of the prisoners was the missionary son of a politically influential man who pressed the British Empire to conduct a trumped-up court martial. Subsequently, Lt. Morant, Lt. Handcock. and Lt. Witton are accused of war crimes and offered up as scapegoats to deflect attention away from other superior officers equally as guilty.
|Lt. Col. Denny:||[regarding orders to shoot any Boers taken prisoner] Do you really believe that Lord Kitchener, a man venerated throughout the world, would be capable of issuing an order of such barbarity?|
|Major Thomas:||I don't know, sir. But I do know that orders that one would consider barbarous have already been issued in this war. Before I was asked to defend these soldiers, I spent some months destroying Boer farmhouses, burning their crops, herding their women and children into stinking refugee camps where thousands of them have already died from disease. Now these orders WERE issued, sir! And soldiers like myself and these men here have had to carry them out however damned reluctantly!|
Upon hearing that Handcock admits to killing a missionary, Lt. Morant explains the realities of a new age of warfare to fellow soldier Lt. George Witton:
"It's a new kind of war, George. A new war for a new century. I suppose this is the first time the enemy hasn't been in uniform. They're farmers. They come from small villages, and they shoot at from behind walls and from farmhouses. Some of them are women, some of them are children, and some of them... are missionaries, George."
During the trial, Lt. Morant, in an effort to prove his innocence of the charges against him, informs the court he was acting under direct orders:
“We were out in the veldt fighting the Boer the way he fought us. I’ll tell you what rule we applied, sir. We applied rule 303. We caught them and we shot them under rule 303.”
At the conclusion of the trial, two of the three soldiers, Lt. Harry Morant, and Lt. Peter Handcock are found guilty of war atrocities and sentenced to death.
As Lt. Handcock and Lt. Morant sit in chairs in the middle of field awaiting the sunrise, Morant shouts to the firing squad about to kill him, “Shoot straight, you bastards. Don’t make a mess of it.” A moment later, a volley of bullets riddle both soldier's chest, forcing their chairs to fall backward to the ground.
Before Morant dies, he requests a biblical epitaph: Mathew 10:36 ("And a man's foes shall be they of his own household."). Then as he awaits his execution, we hear Morant in a voice-over reciting one of his poems:
"It really ain't the place nor time to reel off rhyming diction but yet we'll write a final rhyme while waiting crucifixion. For we bequeath a parting tip of sound advice for such men who come in transport ships to polish off the Dutchman. If you encounter any Boers, you really must not loot 'em, and if you wish to leave these shores, for pity's sake, don't shoot 'em. Let's toss a bumper down our throat before we pass to Heaven, and toast a trim-set petticoat we leave behind in Devon."