The lives of 100 Australians who have been awarded the Victoria Cross is celebrated in a new book.
The Victoria Cross is awarded for acts of bravery in the face of the enemy, and is the highest military honour in the Commonwealth. Since the Boer War, 100 have been awarded to Australians.
For Valour, a new publication showcasing the lives of the recipients was launched on November 30 at the Australian War Memorial.
Written by the Memorial’s military heraldry and technology curator Craig Blanch (one of the organisation’s foremost authorities on the Victoria Cross) and senior historian Dr Aaron Pegram, Lambert Western Front Fellow and the War Memorial’s World War I centenary historian, For valour provides an account of the lives of these Australians.
From Neville Howse of the New South Wales Medical Corps to Cameron Baird of the 2nd Commando Regiment, tales of heroic actions from the Boer War appear alongside those from the World War I and II, North Russia, Vietnam, and Afghanistan.
Among the guests at the launch was 98-year-old war widow Daphne Dunne whose special relationship with Prince Harry has made headlines around the world.
Mrs Dunne is the widow of Victoria Cross recipient Albert Chowne. Born in Sydney, Lieutenant Chowne was killed in action in New Guinea at the end of World War II, aged 24.
At the time, in 1945, she told the Sydney Morning Herald: “I would rather he had remained just ordinary and was alive. He was a wonderful man and a grand husband.”
Australian War Memorial director Dr Brendan Nelson said that within the pages of the publication an important element of our national story had been documented.
“Within the galleries of the Australian War Memorial are the stories of 100 Australians whose extraordinary acts of bravery in the face of the enemy during wartime earned them the esteemed award of the Victoria Cross.
“Few of us possess the qualities that stand behind these medals, but the stories of courage, fortitude, and dedication behind each one continue to inspire us in our everyday lives.
“It is impossible for us to fully comprehend the danger these men faced and the terror they fought through to defeat their battlefield adversaries.”
Dr Pegram said that the Victoria Cross is the highest form of recognition that can be bestowed on a soldier of the Commonwealth.
“All ranks of the services are eligible for this award, which upholds the human virtues of courage, devotion, sacrifice, and compassion. There is no greater single honour, award, or accolade available,” Dr Pegram said.
Mr Blanch said that the expanding digitisation of historical records and their increased availability opened up a range of fresh archival material.
It is impossible for us to fully comprehend the danger these men faced and the terror they fought through to defeat their battlefield adversaries.
“This has allowed us to illustrate a balanced, honest study of the lives of Australia’s VC recipients, which, as we found, do not always accord with the Anzac legend.
“The Victoria Cross remains a popular aspect of Australia’s military history. We hope to advance understanding of the award and its place in Australian military history,” Mr Blanch said.
The book includes a foreword by Daniel Keighran VC and illustrated with photographs and works of art from the Memorial’s collection.
- For Valour, $79.99 from Australian War Memorial shop, online, and at selected bookstores nationally.
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