Frederick Whirlpool VC – Australia’s Hidden Victoria Cross – Book Review

In his foreword to this book, the Director of the Australian War Memorial, Dr Brendan Nelson, describes this volume as ‘a detailed look at an intriguing man’. Whirlpool was certainly that. His Victoria Cross was won for two actions in the Indian Mutiny in 1858. His wounds led to his discharge from the British Army and he emigrated to Australia and enlisted in the Hawthorn and Kew Volunteer Rifle Regiment. His medal was presented to him in Melbourne, the first VC to be received by a man in Australian uniform. The Cross is displayed at the Australian War Memorial as part of its extensive collection.

Alan Leek has constructed an extensive account of Whirlpool’s life and times, rescuing him from his prior relative obscurity. His research had many obstacles to overcome. Whirlpool was a man who did not relish the reputation of a VC winner and changed his name several times. Added to this, Australian records in the 1860s were far from well kept.

The author has unravelled the life of this soldier and the lives of those around him in great detail with extensive references to source documents. The result is sometimes unnecessarily complex. Nevertheless, this is a valuable addition to the stories of those awarded ‘For Valour’.

We are once again most grateful to the publishers for this review copy.

Reviewed for RUSIV by Mike O’Brien, February 2019

Alan Leek
Big Sky Publishing 2018
Paperback 265pp RRP: $29.99

Contact Royal United Services Institute about this article.

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