Book Launch: Ready, Aim, Fire – the story of the man who defended ‘Breaker’ Morant

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MAJGEN Jim Molan (ret’d) will launch ‘Ready, Aim, Fire’ by James Unkles, a book seeking justice for Major James Francis Thomas, the fourth victim in the execution of Lieutenant Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant, on Monday 30 September 2019 in Sydney.

High praise for the book from Geoffrey Robertson, QC –

“It is an awesome responsibility for a defence lawyer to try to save the life of a client – as I know from my own death row practice. This fascinating book tells the story of a country solicitor called upon at the last moment to defend three Australian soldiers facing a British military establishment determined to execute them and to cover up its own failings. The trial was outrageously unfair by today’s standards, and even by rules of the time, but Major James Thomas did his best – which is all you can do. A worthy contribution to literature on miscarriage of justice.”


Date: Monday 30 September 2019
Time: 5.00pm – 7.00pm
Venue: Law Society of NSW, Level 2, 170 Phillip Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Price:  Complimentary


In 1902, three Australian volunteers who served with the British Army during the Anglo Boer War were tried and sentenced for executing Boer combatants.

Lieutenants Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant and Peter Handcock were subsequently executed and George Witton sentenced to life imprisonment.

The way these men were treated remains controversial to this day. Many believe they were scapegoats for the war crimes of their British superiors.

Ready, Aim, Fire explores the life of Major James Francis Thomas whose part in the whole sorry saga was relegated to history, without any real understanding of who he was and the part he played in defending the trio.

Unkles tells the story of Thomas’ Boer War service and his valiant attempt to represent the three men on trial, a task for which his previous work as a solicitor had hardly prepared him. Sadly, he ended his days dying alone from malnutrition, having clearly suffered greatly from the stress of representing Morant, Handcock and Witton as their trial lawyer years earlier.



Major  James Francis Thomas
the Fourth Victim In The Execution of Lieutenant Harry “Breaker” Morant

By James Unkles

Published in Australia by Sid Harta Publishers Pty Ltd
ISBN: 978-1-925230-50-5
RRP $21.25 in paperback
Buy on Booktopia at this link.


James Unkles has been a lawyer for over 35 years, practising in criminal, administrative law and dispute resolution. He works as a lawyer and dispute resolution practitioner for a statutory authority in Melbourne. He was a former Police and Commonwealth Prosecutor. He is also a serving Officer in the Royal Australian Navy Reserve.

His web site – – contains a history of his work to secure posthumous pardons for Lieutenants Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant, Peter Handcock and George Witton.


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