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The Bravest Man in the British Army (ePub)

The Extraordinary Life and Death of Lieutenant Colonel John Sherwood Kelly VC

Military > Biographies Military > Victoria Crosses P&S History > British History WWI

By Philip Bujak
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
File Size: 2.6 MB (.epub)
Pages: 199
Illustrations: 20
ISBN: 9781473895782
Published: 16th May 2018


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'Today a new major joined us, a Herculean giant of South African origin with a quite remarkable disregard for danger.' The Regimental Diary of The Kings Own Scottish Borderers, July 1915

'Brave as a lion, stubborn as a mule and as quick tempered as his Irish forebears, Kelly VC spoke out about Churchill's support of the White Russians in 1919. This is a well researched and lively read and brings to our attention an early Churchill folly.' Keith Simpson

John (Jack) Sherwood Kelly, VC CMG DSO (1880-1931) was a formidable soldier. He fought in British colonial campaigns in the early 1900s, distinguished himself during the First World War at Gallipoli, the Somme and Cambrai, and, after the war, was involved in the British campaign in northern Russia in support of the White Russians. During his military career he achieved fame and notoriety for his mixture of heroic exploits and explosive temperament. In this meticulously researched and vivid biography Philip Bujak tells Sherwood Kelly's story and gives a fascinating insight into one of the most remarkable and controversial military men of the period. Kelly had a combat record going back to the 1896 Matabele Revolt. He was awarded the DSO for his exploits in Gallipoli in 1916. During 1917 he commanded 1st Battalion, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and was instrumental in the early success achieved during the Battle of Cambrai for which he was awarded the VC. His later service during the British intervention against the Bolsheviks in 1919 ended in court martial and a highly publicized clash with Winston Churchill.

The book also uniquely explores how women coped in romantic relationships with men more comfortable in war than in peace and how the men themselves coped with the pressures that emotional relationships brought with them.

As featured on History of War

History of War

Bujak draws the reader into Kelly’s life; he is such a fascinating character that you want to know more about him, and you cannot help but judge him for good and bad.

Read the full review here

Beating Tsundoku

As featured by

Sussex Local, March 2019

I first encountered the case of John “Jack” Sherwood Kelly when researching machine gun units involved in the intervention in North Russia in 1918-1919. A man who had a ferocious fighting reputation, and a Victoria Cross for command at a critical juncture at the Battle of Cambrai, would return home in disgrace and face a court martial. How could fortunes change so much? Philip Bujak’s sympathetic biography seeks to find answers.

This is certainly the most rounded out account of a very interesting figure.

Friends of the National Army Museum

A valuable record of a most distinguished officer.

Medal News, December 2018/January 2019 - reviewed by Allan Stanistreet

An amazing biography. 10/10

The Great War magazine, September 2018 – reviewed by Mark Marsay

John Kelly’s life and military career were deeply intertwined, pretty much one and the same. This history book pulls back the curtain on the lives of English soldiers just after the dawn of the 20th century. I cannot let the outstanding photography and graphic design of the front and rear covers go unacknowledged, either.

Read the complete review online here.

Stuff I Like Blog, John Koenig

About Philip Bujak

Philip Kay-Bujak is a former GSA Headmaster and Associate of The Royal Historical Society. He taught English & European History for over twenty years and was a public school headmaster. He was and is a Koestler Literary Award winner. Other publications include numerous articles on education and British history and books on local history, Scottish art and the Great War.

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