The officer who had command of the detachment of Carbineers assisting Captain Taylor was, as it appeared, altogether unfit to command such a body of men, and allowed his detachment to drift into a state of insubordination verging on mutiny. The men did almost as they liked, and horses and other captured stock were being divided amongst themselves, while stills on neighbouring farms were freely made use of. According to the evidence taken at the court martial (which is extracted from a summary that appeared in the "Times," 18th April, 1902), Captain Taylor on 2nd July, 1901, received intelligence that a party of six armed Boers were going into the camp to surrender. The officers in charge decided to intercept these men, and not allow them to come in; they would send out a patrol and have them ambushed and shot. After a good deal of argument, a sergeant-major paraded a patrol, headed by a sergeant. The men were told to go out and meet the waggon in which were the six Boers; they were to make the Boers fight, and on no account were these to be brought in alive; if the white flag was put up the men were to take no notice of it, just fire away until all the Boers were shot. This, I afterwards learned, was the correct interpretation of the orders not to take prisoners.
The patrol went out, met the six Boers, and opened fire on them. The Boers at once put up the white flag and made a great noise; so, thinking there might be women and children in the waggon, the patrol ceased firing and went to look, but as there were only six men, they were taken out and shot. It has been stated that these men had a large sum of money in their possession, but the money was all a myth. I never heard of any money being taken from them. The Boers invariably buried their money for safety, and I have no doubt large sums of money still remain buried in different parts of the Transvaal.
The next incident of note which occurred was the shooting of a trooper of the Fort Edward detachment, and it is here that Lieutenant Handcock first appears in connection with the troubles of the Carbineers. Handcock was an Australian, and was never the bloodthirsty desperado that (after he had been shot) he was made out to be; he was simply the chosen tool of unprincipled men, who held the power to command. He was bom and reared to bush pursuits, and was a hard worker; if he was not doctoring the back of a worn-out horse, he was at the forge shoeing. He never initiated any outrage, but he had a keen sense of duty, and could be absolutely relied upon to fulfil it. He had been seen under fire many times, and there never was a braver man. The trooper who had been shot was a Boer, and he had been allowed to become a member of the Carbineers, but there were strong suspicions that he was acting the traitor. There were a number of prisoners in the camp, and this trooper frequently absented himself, while on one occasion he was seen and heard pointing out among his comrades the men who had despatched his six unfortunate countrymen.
No officer was ever brought to trial for having this man shot, but Major Lenehan was charged with having failed to report his death, and for this he was reprimanded. A report had been sent in, which had been "edited" by the three officers immediately concerned, and it was made to appear that this trooper had been shot in a brush with the Boers. This was stated at the court-martial to have been done in the interest of the corps. About this time the officer in charge of the detachment requested to be recommended for the Distinguished Service Order in recognition of his services.
Later on an allegation was made by a lady against an officer in the Spelonken district, and, upon inquiries being made by the authorities at Pietersburg, he was recalled, and was given the option of standing his trial at a court-martial or resigning his commission. He sent in his resignation, and left the corps.
Captain Taylor was afterwards tried by court-martial for having ordered the shooting of the six Boers. Captain Robertson elected to turn King's evidence. Taylor was promptly acquitted, as he was also on the charge of shooting a native. A late brother officer informed me that after Morant and Handcock had been shot, and I had become "the guest of the nation" for an indefinite period, Captain Taylor was promoted to another important position in the Transvaal.