THE Bathurst RSL Sub Branch says it does not support a veteran's name being removed from the Boer War memorial in Kings Parade, arguing that history should not be deleted or rewritten.
Lieutenant Peter Handcock's spot on the memorial was called into question on Anzac Day in a piece published by the Sydney Morning Herald's Peter FitzSimons.
Mr FitzSimons, whose latest book is Breaker Morant, called Mr Handcock a "convicted war criminal, who, among other atrocities, shot a fellow soldier thought to be a potential whistleblower and gunned down unarmed prisoners, a pastor and at least two Boer children".
The Herald columnist said Mr Handcock was "the most dishonourable Australian soldier to disgrace Australia that we know of" and said his actions were calculated and cold-blooded and couldn't be explained away by the heat of battle.
Lawyer and author James Unkles, however, strongly urged Bathurst authorities to reject the call to remove Mr Handcock's name.
Mr Unkles, who wrote Ready Aim Fire. Major James Francis Thomas: The Fourth Victim in the Execution of Lieutenant Harry "Breaker" Morant, said the name should remain "in recognition of his loyal service to the Crown while doubt remains that Handcock was arrested, tried and sentenced in strict compliance with the law".
"While FitzSimons is entitled to express a version of history about the Boer War and these men, his conclusion that Morant and Handcock got what they deserved overlooks a fatal injustice at the hands of their British superiors," Mr Unkles said.
"It is an injustice that has drawn support for an independent inquiry from leading senior judicial figures, politicians and respected community leaders."
The Bathurst RSL Sub Branch has since made its position clear in a letter to Bathurst Regional Council.
"Our history is not, of course, an unbroken string of successes," the sub branch writes. "But our failures are recognisable only as exceptions, and the proper way to think about resolving them is by drawing on our past, not by abandoning it."
The sub branch says war memorials "honour those who have paid the supreme sacrifice, commemorate the service and sacrifice of all servicemen and women as well as acknowledging the contribution of others during times of war".
"Service is not always of a positive nature, however we need to note all service and learn from our history, not ignore, delete or, worse still, rewrite it," the letter says.
The sub branch says it is not in the business of rewriting history, so at its general meeting last month it passed a unanimous motion that it "does not support the removal of names from the Boer War Memorial, or any other memorial, in the Bathurst Regional Council area".
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