01-Jun 10:30 @BreakerMorant
Harry Harbord Morant
While researching the life of Marie Curie for this project, with the assistance of the Curie Museum in Paris, I found in her personal papers the diary of a fortune fighter called Breaker Morant. Marie Curie had written inside the front cover:
“This rapscallion saved my life during the Martian invasion.”
There were also letters to Morant stored in the diary from the editor of the Australian newspaper The Bulletin. It appears from the letters that these diary notes were being kept for poems and stories to be written for the paper (Morant having received commissions for other work). No evidence exists of publications from these notes, however, Morant’s diary required little editing other than the removal of some the language he has used which reflects the unconscious racism of his time, the replacement of initials with a name when he refers to an individual, and the addition of an occasional footnote to clarify the events he is describing.
Morant emigrated to Australia from England in 1883. A year after his arrival, Morant settled in outback Queensland where he adopted the name, Harry Harbord Morant, claiming to be a member of the British nobility and the estranged son of Admiral Morant. He drifted around Queensland, South Australia, and New South Wales for 15 years, earning a reputation as a boozer, womaniser, bush poet, and expert horseman.
Morant worked various occupations, reportedly trading horses in Charters Towers, and in 1884 working for a newspaper at Hughenden, before finding work as a bookkeeper and storeman at the Esmeralda cattle station. It was here he met Arthur James Vogan, who was researching a book and helped him prepare his “Slave Map of Modern Australia”, which showed the locations of slavery and massacres of the first nation people.
Morant then worked for several years as an itinerant drover and horse-breaker. He also wrote popular bush ballads and became friendly with famed Australian bush poets Henry Lawson, Banjo Paterson, and Will H. Ogilvie.
In 1896, Morant and his droving partner George Brown enlisted with the Second Contingent of the South Australian Mounted Rifles in Adelaide. Brown was Aboriginal-Scot, and avoided the ban on Aboriginals by claiming he was Italian to explain away the colour of his skin.
Morant was invited to visit the summer residence of South Australia’s governor, Lord Tennyson. This meeting must have gone well because he was appointed lance corporal at the end of his training.
At this time, Vogal published his novel ‘Black Police’, which documented the callous slaughter of indigenous Australians by the Queensland Native Police. Pilloried for releasing this book Vogal lost his job writing for a newspaper. Morant convinced his friend to join his brick of four soldiers in Adelaide.
Military records show that both Brown and Vogan were in Morant’s brick when their regiment was selected to participate as part of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. The regiment embarked for London on 26 January 1897 and arrived in time to experience the Martian invasion.
01-Jun 10:35 @BreakerMorant
Vogan thanked me again for putting him onto this Lark.
01-Jun 20:00 @BreakerMorant
I was better received with my reading of HL’s The Grog-an’-Grumble Steeplechase than Vogan was, reading from his novel Black Police but he wasn’t tarred and feathered, which is better than he got in Australia.
02-Jun 13:15 @BreakerMorant
Under her wig, mother’s hair is now whiter than her teeth so she is not making as much from men coming to ‘night lessons’. She has taken on two students as apprentices.
02-Jun 14:00 @BreakerMorant
Mother’s girls were partial to my cocked feather.
02-Jun 16:00 @BreakerMorant
Mother introduced me to one of her clients. He is a toff, but Vogan wrangled tickets from him to a talk by Pierre and Marie Curie in Oxford. Unfortunately there’s no tickets available for their London talk.
02-Jun 16:45 @BreakerMorant
Back at our bivouac Vogan goes on and on to Brown about these things from Mars. He thinks the Curies may know what they are. I’m more interested in these things called X-rays, which can see through women’s clothing. Anyway, it should be a laugh.
03-Jun 21:20 @BreakerMorant
There was a strange light in the sky. News of the strange things at Woking has spread among the boys of the regiment like we were a mob of women.
04-Jun 14:00 @BreakerMorant
The regiment’s been recalled to base. Only way to see the Curie talk is to go AWOL.
04-Jun 14:30 @BreakerMorant
Brown volunteers to stay behind so he can cover for us again. It should be alright if we get back from Oxford before first bugle. We can’t get train tickets to Oxford, so Vogan booked the stagecoach. The return on the overnight coach will get us back in time.
05-Jun 07:45 @BreakerMorant
Newspaper headlines report that Martians have landed on Earth.
06-Jun 02:00 @BreakerMorant
The London stagecoaches have been cancelled. Plan to sneak onto a troop train coming from Edinburgh. There’s no way we can get back to the regiment before bugle call though.
Unbelievably, Vogan has taken it on himself to escort the Curies to London. I tell them they won’t be let on a troop train but Marie Curie produced a bottle of French cognac and with that we have no trouble getting them two seats.
06-Jun 12:00 @BreakerMorant
Back in London, the news is that the Weybridge Artillery did inflict some damage but not enough to stop the Martians.
06-Jun 12:45 @BreakerMorant
No trains going to Dover. We could ride there, but Curies agree it is not safe to travel.
06-Jun 13:00 @BreakerMorant
Brown was waiting for us at the club. We are to be Court-Marshalled for desertion, which in war means executed.
06-Jun 13:20 @BreakerMorant
Rumours are that 4 tripods used poisonous black smoke, which wiped out an artillery placement set to ambush them.
07-Jun 04:00 @BreakerMorant
I hate Mondays.
07-Jun 08:00 @BreakerMorant
We are at war with the Martians, but Brown and Vogan agree the threat of a court-marshal means it is unsafe for our health to re-join the regiment.
07-Jun 08:05 @BreakerMorant
We are still looking after the Curies. Trains to Dover will not be running anytime soon.
08-Jun 04:05 @BreakerMorant
Woken in the night by loud noises.
08-Jun 04:20 @BreakerMorant
Police order us to evacuate London.
08-Jun 07:00 @BreakerMorant
Brown has been talking to refugees. He says the Martians are eating us. Brown reckons this isn’t a war – it’s colonisation. Not comforting!
08-Jun 13:30 @BreakerMorant
Brown hatches a plan to go to Waterloo Station to assist the refugees in leaving. He says that if we kill Martians, they’ll send more. If we stop them from being able to survive here, they will stop coming. I tell him the only thing the Martians will understand is rule 303.
08-Jun 13:31 @BreakerMorant
The Curies hear Brown’s plan and think he’s brilliant. Vogan agrees, says that stealing sheep in Victoria was the most successful campaign against English colonisation. I tell him that:
(a) it didn’t work, and
(b) English colonialists are not fucking Martians.
08-Jun 13:32 @BreakerMorant
Mother and her girls join us. We have decided to stay in London to fight for and protect refugees.
I find a Colonel’s fusilier uniform. It fits me so well we decide I need a promotion. The promotion and the uniform make it easier to swing additional supplies, evoking a compliance to my authority that we need for our growing militia.
08-Jun 13:33 @BreakerMorant #TowerOfLondonBreached
It is suspected that the supplies Morant mentions were from the Tower of London, which at that time served as the arsenal of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. Although how he managed the feat has never been explained. However, the Fusiliers had been positioned east of London to try and hold the London defences against the Martians which would have made a raid easier.
08-Jun 14:05 @BreakerMorant #TheUndergroundRailway
Brown takes a small group to put up detour signs to funnel the refugees into the subways to get them to the other side of London without Martians trapping them on the bridges.
I recruit men to be lookouts. We can’t use bells, as the Martians turn their heat guns on them when they ring.
Seeing the heat ray weapon I realize now how useless our own weapons are in comparison.
Vogan is responsible for setting up our headquarters.
Mother and Curies start scavenging for food.
08-Jun 14:50 @BreakerMorant #TheUndergroundRailway
The flow of refugees builds, and Vogan starts recruiting able bodies to help people move faster. He dubs us the Waterloo Militia.
We must work out how to keep people safe when they run out of the tunnel.
08-Jun 14:55 @BreakerMorant
Brown finds a pigeon handler. He can now scout an escape route for those still attempting to flee London and communicate it back.
09-Jun 08:40 @BreakerMorant #TheUndergroundRailway
We have had two stampedes in the tunnel.
09-Jun 09:00 @BreakerMorant #BreakfastHandover
09-Jun 14:40 @BreakerMorant #WeWantAHeatRay
Curies have been little help. They have no idea how the Martian heat ray works.
Vogan and I begin to plan to take a tripod down to get their heat gun.
09-Jun 14:50 @BreakerMorant #Panic
When the lookout use the “U” flags to warn of an incoming tripod the refugees trying to get into the station panic, and people are killed in the crush.
The tripod doesn’t see the easy pickings as they’re still staking out the bridges. We were lucky.
09-Jun 18:00 @BreakerMorant #BlackSmoke
The Curies report that black smoke is rendered harmless with water.
They put together a system that bubbles our air through water in a wine bottle to protect us from the dust.
09-Jun 18:30 @BreakerMorant #WeWantAHeatRay
I have recruited enough men with artillery experience to re-man the artillery battery at Weybridge and bring down a tripod
10-Jun 08:00 @BreakerMorant #TheSecretRailway
Brown leaves HQ to set up the refugee network routes and safe houses. He takes several boxes of Union Jack flags.
10-Jun 09:00 @BreakerMorant #AnotherBreakfastHandover
Tunnel guides report Union Jack flags work like magic – refugees have even broken into song.
Discuss using locomotive trains converted to ovens for making bread and cooking soup at the breakfast meeting.
10-Jun 14:00 @BreakerMorant #WeWantAHeatRay
Have secured horses and a gun carriage, which we are keeping at the London Bridge station.
11-Jun 06:00 @BreakerMorant #TheUnderOverGroundSecretRailway
Brown sent us a pigeon from Chesham. He has set up a network of safe houses for refugees to a staging point 30 miles northeast of London.
11-Jun 09:00 @BreakerMorant #AnotherBreakfastHandover
At breakfast handover, we announce that refugees can get as far as Finchley Road Station using the underground. Using the semaphore flag “R” marking the escape route Brown has made. The way is marked to at least Chesham.
Setting up safehouses where refugees can rest and be fed before their group takes its turn in the tunnels is working well. Guides report that it has helped that the refugees now know people in the group they are in.
Most Martian activity seems to be focused on Didcot and further west. Our own food supplies are getting low, and refugees are still streaming in.
11-Jun 10:00 @BreakerMorant #DoMartiansOnlyEatHumans
Without my permission, the Curries obtained a horse from the stables and left it tied up on Tower Bridge. The Martians ignored it, and the Curies are now convinced that they only want humans for food.
I explained to both Currie’s that the horse was our food and not for pointless experiments on the Martians. I tell them they need to work out how to make a heat ray weapon. Marie suddenly seemed to forgot how to speak English.
12-Jun 08:05 @BreakerMorant #DoMartiansOnlyEatHumans
At breakfast handover, one of the scavengers reported seeing a Martian capture a refugee and almost immediately release them. Apparently, the individual was hammered, and could barely stand. Pierre Curie immediately demanded we find this person.
12-Jun 09:00 @BreakerMorant #DoMartiansOnlyEatSomeHumans
The Curries have disregarded my direction to make me a weapon we can use against the Martians. Instead, they have been talking to the refugees about how the Martians reject some people they’ve taken for food.
They believe it important that they rejected people who had eaten rats, cats, dogs or foxes and were showing symptoms of arsenic poisoning. I’m sure this is fascinating, but it doesn’t kill Martians.
13-Jun 09:00 @BreakerMorant #DogsCatsAndRats
On my mother’s advice, foraging parties have been directed to catch dogs, cats and rats to supplement food stocks. We hunt with bow and arrows and used the trapping techniques Brown had taught me. Not a popular move, but only the foraging party needs to know where the meat is coming from.
13-Jun 09:30 @BreakerMorant #DogsCatsRatsAndPotatoes
Found a big store of potatoes and flour down at the docks.
13-Jun 14:30 @BreakerMorant #DogsCatsRatsAndPotatoes
Foodstores at Borough Road is now looking better.
14-Jun 09:00 @BreakerMorant #ArsenicIsYourFriend
The Curies have reported that the individual rejected by Martians on the 12th was not drunk (despite his symptoms), but had been poisoned by arsenic. Marie was convinced he may have ingested it from the beer that had been his only sustenance for the past fortnight and demanded I obtain a sample for her to test as she believes the Martians may be highly susceptible to arsenic.
One of the lookouts then reported seeing a small group of captured people, who’d eaten rat stew in a safe house, being tossed from the cage of a tripod. The Curies might be on to something with this arsenic.
14-Jun 09:01 @BreakerMorant #ArsenicIsYourFriend
Before penicillin, Arsenic compounds were used to treat bacterial infections. At the end of the 19th century, a safe dose in humans was well known. In contrast, later investigations into Martian physiology showed why it would be so toxic to them. Internally, they consist of a brain, lungs, heart, liver, kidneys and blood vessels. They have no digestive tract. Mechanically transfusing blood via pipettes from other animals, notably humans, was the only way they could sustain themselves on Earth. Metabolising or excreting arsenic would have been problematic, and it would have accumulated and caused lesions in their skin, liver and kidneys, making them very sick before they died.
It was perhaps fortunate that the Curies, were French, and were already familiar with the symptoms of arsenic poisoning from a scandal involving arsenic-contaminated wine in France in 1888. Regrettably, these findings could not have been widely disseminated as this is the only record of arsenic used against the Martians.
It also unfortunate that the Curie’s findings were not published as this was first evidence of what by 1900 would result in more than 6,000 people in England being poisoned by arsenic-tainted beer, with more than 70 of the affected dying as a result. The food safety crisis was caused by arsenic entering the supply chain through impure sugar which had been made with contaminated sulphuric acid. Although being first detected in London by the Curies the illness was prevalent across the Midlands and Northwest England, with Manchester being the most heavily affected.
Subsequent, additional investigation into the outbreak found other sources of arsenic in beer, which had been unknowingly poisoning thousands in decades preceding the outbreak.
14-Jun 09:13 @BreakerMorant #ArsenicIsYourFriend
Before closing the Breakfast Handover I pointed out that we needed to test the Curie’s hypothesis and called for volunteers. The reception of this news was mixed. Some people don’t want to be used like poison bait. But if the Martian’s can’t stomach even a small portion of arsenic, we can make this place unliveable for them.
14-Jun 09:57 @BreakerMorant #DogsCatsRatsAndPotatoes
Mother has started to take food to people who can’t evacuate. She has found a hospital.
I hope they like rat stew.
15-Jun 06:00 @BreakerMorant #WeWantAHeatRay
Our operation to get a heat gun is ready. Men have been formed into two teams. Vogan is taking 5 artillery men to Weybridge to knock down a tripod.
15-Jun 07:00 @BreakerMorant #WeWantAHeatRay
No Martians were sighted. With in my team are 3 railway engineers, 2 cavalry soldiers and Pierre Curie. We all ride horses and the gun carriage to our assembly point.
15-Jun 07:30 @BreakerMorant #WeWantAHeatRay
We arrive with no incident. We go through our escape plans. All of us have taken a small amount of arsenic. Won’t protect us from the heat-ray though.
15-Jun 13:00 @BreakerMorant #WeWantAHeatRay
Vogan knocked down a tripod. As expected, the tripods went after Vogan and left us to retrieve the heat gun from the fallen tripod.
15-Jun 14:30 @BreakerMorant #WeLostOurHeatRay
There were no problems from the Martians, and we had a heat gun on the gun carriage, but when we were headed back to Waterloo, we were ambushed by a group of civilians who claimed to be from the 4th Coy. Coldstream Guards. They had a toff in charge, who said he was Lt. Kilvaney.
They took Pierre Curie, the gun carriage and our horses. Offered to write me a receipt and I told him exactly what he could do with that.
16-Jun 06:30 @BreakerMorant #WeLostOurHeatRay
Heading back to Waterloo Station. Still in the open, without fast transport, We were just lucky we didn’t encounter Martians.
16-Jun 07:00 @BreakerMorant #WeLostOurHeatRayANDPierre
We made it to Southwark Station, then underground to Waterloo.
Marie was hysterical about where her husband might be. We have no idea.
16-Jun 08:00 @BreakerMorant #WeLostOurHeatRayANDPierre
Vogan’s team arrived back, elated about their kill and escape from the searching tripods. However, they were as brassed off as I was when they heard about losing the heat gun and Pierre. Only one thing for it – we duck the morning handover and get drunk.
16-Jun 12:00 @BreakerMorant #PiccadillyParty
Eventually the pub-crawl ended up at Piccadilly Circus where we found a party just firing up.
17-Jun 02:00 @BreakerMorant #PiccadillyParty
Party is becoming too loud. Round up men and leave before Martians arrive.
17-Jun 08:50 @BreakerMorant #PiccadillyParty
Mother wakes me for breakfast handover.
I hate Thursdays.
Marie Curie appears to be over her funk, and is asking searchers to find the fireworks for the Diamond Jubilee. Says that replacing the decorative payload with arsenic might work against the Martians.
18-Jun 09:00 @BreakerMorant #ThePiccadillyMassacre
At this morning’s breakfast-handover the lookout posts report a massacre at Piccadilly Circus, where we’d been drinking the night before last. Vogan and I exchange a worried look.
The lookout also reports a reduction in tripod activity.
Marie Curie looks strained this morning, still worrying about her husband, but reports that there have been no more pods sent from Mars.
18-Jun 09:10 @BreakerMorant #BrownsPigeonReturns
Brown returned the pigeon that we got a refugee to take to him. He is in Edinburgh, apparently dropped by to see his father’s family and has established a refugee camp outside the city.
19-Jun 09:30 @BreakerMorant #PC-Deceased
One of the men from the group who took the heat-ray off us found us. He said that Pierre Curie had been trying to get the heat ray to work at a lab in Oxford when it exploded, killing him instantly.
Marie was very distressed.
19-Jun 09:45 @BreakerMorant #MC-Distressed
Marie requested an escort to Oxford but I said no. It is simply too dangerous. I have asked Mother to keep an eye on her.
20-Jun 10:15 @BreakerMorant #RedIsNotTheColourOfMyCountry
Returning to the Underground, I see the Martian’s red weed has covered the Thames.
21-Jun 04:00 @BreakerMorant #IHateMondays
Woken by the lookouts going on shift. I hate Mondays.
21-Jun 12:00 @BreakerMorant #ANewHospital
Marie Curie has discovered that a new hospital has been established at Queen Anne’s Mansions by the NUWSS, not far from St James Park Station.
21-Jun 20:00 @BreakerMorant #Fireworks
We have no heat gun, but have found some bottle rockets. Therefore, I give Marie two barrels of Gunpowder, so she can make more, but make her promise not to blow herself up.
22-Jun 08:00 @BreakerMorant #TheNewHospital
The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) hospital opened today. Mother tells me I should be polite, but the women there are a bunch of trumped-up old biddies. Still, they have wireless communication. We have arranged to admit people to the hospital and evacuate those discharged through the Charring Cross station.
22-Jun 09:00 @BreakerMorant #GodBlessTheQueen
At the breakfast handover, we announced we could start directing refugees with medical problems to the hospital.
We toast Queen Victoria for her accession to the throne in 1837. This would have been the day of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
22-Jun 14:15 @BreakerMorant #FirstSigns
Lookouts report a stationary tripod in Lambeth.
22-Jun 14:45 @BreakerMorant #TheLambethTripod
Vogan and I investigate the stationary tripod. There is no movement from the tripod except for crows that are pecking at something.
22-Jun 15:15 @BreakerMorant #TheLambethTripod
The local men are keen to bring it down, but we convince them it is safer to set a gunpowder charge off next to one of its legs tomorrow if it’s still there.
23-Jun 09:10 @BreakerMorant #TheLambethTripod
Marie, Vogan and two others are to take a barrel of gunpowder to the tripod in Lambeth
23-Jun 10:20 @BreakerMorant #TheLambethTripod
No need for Gunpowder; the tripod at Lambeth had fallen, and dogs are tearing at the Martian’s corpse.
23-Jun 10:30 @BreakerMorant #TheLambethTripod
What’s left of the body is rotting flesh. Marie thinks that the Martians are susceptible to bacterial infections. If Brown was correct, they would stop coming because they can’t survive here.
23-Jun 11:40 @BreakerMorant #TheLambethTripod
Found an abandoned ale house and celebrate. This is good, but I tell Marie I would have preferred to blast their sorry hides with a heat gun. Marie refuses to work on the weapon from the fallen tripod but says that fifty arsenic rockets are ready.
One of my lookouts was a doctor by the name of Bernard Bloom. He claimed it was Almighty God that killed the Martians. He said that in our God’s infinite wisdom He used rotting animals to create a deadly miasma to smite the profane creatures. He chastised Marie for using arsenic, which would have, he said, protected the Martians from the divine retribution of the miasma. She had chosen her own way instead of God’s way.
I don’t want to repeat Marie’s response. I was lucky my French is bad. Bloom wasn’t so fortunate. I got Bloom to leave, but it was mainly for his protection. Marie had many staunch followers, and it could have got messy.
I’ve never seen Marie so angry, and she had directed anger at me in the past. Told her that everyone with an ounce of sense would be grateful for her work to rid us of Martians.
Marie suggests Vogan and I go to the Martian base in Primrose Hill to release their prisoners and ensure there are no Martian survivors.
24-Jun 09:00 @BreakerMorant #APartingOfFriends
Breakfast handover is a party. Marie announces she is off to join the NUWSS’ hospital. Many men want to come with Vogan and I to finish off the Martians.
24-Jun 10:00 @BreakerMorant #Fireworks
Marie instructs us on the fireworks, and we set off a test rocket. I wish Mrs Curie well as she and her escort leave the Station.
24-Jun 11:00 @BreakerMorant #ADateWithPrimroseHill
Set off for Primrose Hill. [This is the last entry in Morant’s diary]
What happened to Morant and Vogan after the last entry in the Morant’s diary, or how Marie ended up with it is unclear. It is known that some people were rescued from the Primrose Hill encampment. They remember rockets being set off. But, there is no mention of Vogan of Morant being involved. It is possible they were killed setting off rockets.
However, it is possible that being were on a list of deserters, they took the opportunity to disappear. Especially as Field Marshal Wolseley had personally ordered Morant’s summary execution when he discovered he was impersonating an officer.
In contrast, I could find detailed records of what happened to others in this story. George Brown was also on the deserters’ list. Happily for him, a petition from the people of Edinburgh and the many people he had helped evacuate from London convinced Queen Victoria to pardon him. There is a statue of him overlooking the harbour. He married into the wealthy Leslie clan.
Morant’s mother settled in Manchester with her two proteges. Fortune smiled on these two women as they were reunited with their long-estranged husbands. Unfortunately, it is unknown when they were married, as many such records were destroyed in the Martian War. Still, the two couples re-established the Manchester Guardian and lived on a property used as a horse stud. In a fantastic coincidence, the husbands’ names were Harry and Arthur.