This lavishly produced book is both an illustrated account of Australia’s Victoria Cross winners and a fund-raising vehicle for that worthy cause, the TPIS (Totally and Permanently Incapacitated Ex-Servicemen & Women’s Association).
There have been a good number of books on the same subject. Is there a good reason for this one? Without doubt, this volume has the best illustrations. Like many of the others, it echoes the citations and provides the context of the battles in which the award was earned. The illustrations, in particular, go much further. There are photos of all the recipients, their graves, many of the actual medals, honour rolls, relatives, panoramas and battlefield flowers – but no maps. The product is an authoritative volume but the author has been perhaps over generous with his illustrations.
All of Australia’s VC winners have a section devoted to them. Sir Nevill Smyth VC, KCB, commander of an Australian division in the First World War, is noted as exclusion in the author’s introduction – though subsequently an Australian resident, his was a British award. Perhaps a case can be made for some mention in this volume of three other individuals. The first might be Frederick Whirlpool, VC (Indian Mutiny, died in Australia 1899). Another candidate is the sad tale of the almost-twice-VC-awarded Private Thomas Grady VC, DCM (Crimean War, died destitute in Australia). Also worthy of mention is the just-below-VC award of the Queen’s Scarf (knitted by Her Majesty, Queen Victoria) to Private Dufrayer, New South Wales Mounted Infantry (Boer War).
This is a well-researched book and I welcome its contribution to the cause it supports. The publisher, who donated this review copy, did the book at cost – a generous gesture!
Reviewed for RUSI by Mike O’Brien
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