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Frederick Whirlpool VC

Australia's Hidden Victoria Cross

(9 customer reviews)
Authors: Alan Leek
Military History,
C Format

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‘. an admirable contribution to Australian military history.’

‘ . a timely examination of Whirlpool himself and his relationship to the medal that would become his burden.’

The Honourable Dr Brendan Nelson AO

Frederick Whirlpool’s Victoria Cross is displayed near the entrance to the Hall of Valour at the Australian War Memorial,
Canberra. It was the first VC pinned to an Australian uniform, yet almost nothing was known about its enigmatic recipient. Two acts of valour during the Indian Mutiny, won him the Victoria Cross, but 17 severe sword wounds ended his career.
Arriving in Victoria in 1859, he became a volunteer rifleman and school teacher. His VC was presented in Melbourne in 1861. He applied to join the Victorian Police, but corruption and unsolicited political interference prevented it. Repulsed by fame, he fled and hid his cross from the world. Fragments of his story were known, but since 1895, they have been tainted by error, guesswork and in one recent British work, pure fantasy. This work solves an old mystery. It reveals his true identity and early life in Ireland before joining the East India Company Army. Rich sources reveal his anguished story.
The passage of his Victoria Cross, after his death was unknown before it appeared on the market in 1927. Its movements and those of his Indian Mutiny medal with its Central India clasp, are now revealed. This fascinating story fills huge gaps in the narrative of this ordinary man, whose life is deserving of factual interpretation. It is a story of heroism, suffering and failure, but the forgotten man will triumph in its telling: the true story of this sad and purposefully enigmatic hero.

Alan Leek

Alan Leek

Alan Leek is a 34 year veteran of the NSW Police, having served as a detective in Sydney,  its suburbs, and the surrounding Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains areas before becoming  officer-in-charge of Blacktown-Mt.Druitt detectives.  Promoted to commissioned rank, he held the position of staff officer-intelligence in the Blacktown District before taking up command of the […]

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9 reviews for Frederick Whirlpool VC

  1. (verified owner)

    FREDERICK WHIRLPOOL VC: An obscure life revealed

  2. (verified owner)

    Leek does a good job of unravelling the complexities of the Indian mutiny in the period 1857-58, which some latter-day Indian historians have described as ‘India’s first war of independence’. He uses various sources to throw light on the actions that saw the badly wounded Whirlpool singled out by his commanding officer for the highest military honour.

  3. (verified owner)

    Leek has done a good job of detective work in piecing it all together and throwing light on a life that was little known, beyond his acts of valour. The VC now resides in the Australian War Memorial’s Hall of Valour.

    Read Full Review here

  4. great reading

  5. Leek’s sympathetic biography of Frederick Whirlpool is a well-written and engaging narrative. This is not your standard happy-ending tale of heroism and gallantry, but a sobering and nuanced study of how moments of immense courage can lead to a lifetime of pain and sadness rather than riches and glory. For our purposes, Leek describes in some detail the fighting during the often overlooked Indian Mutiny that deserves more attention when considering actions to replicate on the table-top. To that end, Frederick Whirlpool VC acts as a useful gateway book for further reading into the history of a fascinating but brutal conflict.

  6. Frederick Whirlpool welcomed his obscurity in late 19th Century Australia, indeed he worked at it and even assumed a false name to guarantee his anonymity. His success might have been assured except for two things; he won Australia’s first Victoria Cross, and long after his death he found a determined and diligent biographer in former detective Alan Leek. The result is a fascinating account of a man who when called upon stood his ground in the most courageous way possible but probably saw too much in war to cope. link to full review here

  7. I have had an interest in Frederick Whirlpool since a friend asked me to pick up Whirlpool’s Indian Mutiny medal from Customs many years ago. I must compliment the author on writing a most readable and instructive book on a little-known Victoria Cross winner. Quite apart from giving us the best possible biography of Whirlpool, the book also contains a very good general history of the Indian Mutiny which is well worth reading in itself.
    I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the Indian Mutiny and the Victoria Cross, but also to those interested in the life of a man whose life was altered by his military experiences.
    Royal United Service Institute for Defence and Security Studies NSW

  8. “The VC was awarded to Private Whirlpool in Victoria on 20th June, 1861, before a crowd of 14,000 people. It was the first VC pinned to a man in an Australian uniform. Whirlpool wore it that day, but never again. The public adulation unsettled him and he disappeared into frontier Tasmania, before coming to New South Wales, where he lived the latter half of his life in the Hawkesbury. He died in 1899 and was buried at the Presbyterian cemetery, Windsor on a cold, wet winter morning, John Dick Smith was the only mourner present. No headstone was ever placed to mark his grave.”

  9. ‘. an admirable contribution to Australian military history.’

    ‘ . a timely examination of Whirlpool himself and his relationship to the medal that would become his burden.’

    – The Honourable Dr Brendan Nelson AO

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