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Unrewarded Courage (Hardback)

Acts of Valour that Were Denied the Victoria Cross

Frontline Books Victoria Crosses Military

By Brian Best
Frontline Books
Pages: 192
Illustrations: 16 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526772466
Published: 14th September 2020

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The Victoria Cross is the most exclusive and prestigious of all gallantry awards. In order to retain this exclusivity, the standard of courage, endeavour or sacrifice required for a recommendation to be accepted for the award of the VC must be of the highest possible order. This has meant that many extremely courageous acts have failed to be rewarded with the VC, even though they appear to be just as remarkable in the level of danger and daring as some of those which were accepted for the medal.

The reason for this, is that the awarding of the VC, indeed even the acknowledgement from a commanding officer that an individual’s action merits submission to the selection board, is entirely subjective. What one general might consider to be of exceptional valour might be regarded by another senior officer as merely a soldier carrying out his duty.

When Trooper Clement Roberts rode into the thick of battle in South Africa to rescue a young war reporter who had been thrown from his horse, little did he know that he was saving the life of Britain’s future wartime Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill. Recommended for the VC, Roberts was eventually awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Similarly, following the airborne operation at Arnhem in the Second World War, Captain Michael Dauncey was recommended by three other officers for the award of the Victoria Cross. These appeals, however, were rejected. The reasons behind the failure to award Lieutenant Colonel Paddy Mayne, a member of 1st SAS Regiment, the VC, despite repeated calls for his actions to be recognised in such a manner, was the subject of an Early Day Motion put before the House of Commons as recently as June 2005. Following the airborne operation at Arnhem in the Second World War, Captain Michael Dauncey was recommended by three other officers for the award of the Victoria Cross. These appeals, however, were rejected. The reasons behind the failure to award Lieutenant Colonel Paddy Mayne, a member of 1st SAS Regiment, the VC, despite repeated calls for his actions to be recognised in such a manner, was the subject of an Early Day Motion put before the House of Commons as recently as June 2005.

In this revealing and unique analysis of actions that did not result in the award of the VC, despite recommendations to this effect, Brian Best has highlighted the uneven decisions made throughout the decades and in campaigns around the globe, that led to some men becoming national heroes and others, equally courageous, being merely footnotes in history.

There have been plenty of books about the Victoria Cross and the men who were awarded them, but this is the first, I thnk, about acts of bravery and valour that apparently did not merit the award. Absolutely brilliant.

Books Monthly

This is not a big book, but it is huge in interesting information about the award of the VC, including abuses of the system by some officers. This is an enthralling book which I recommend very highly whether you agree with the author or not; if nothing else it brings good insight in to the wars of the 19th and 20th Centuries leading in to this current 21st Century.

5/5

Read the full review here

Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

It truly beggars belief that petty politics and outdated tradition prevented the outstanding persons mentioned in this wonderful book from receiving the honour and award they were due, hopefully this mindset no longer holds sway in the upper echelons that make these decisions, read this book it is superb.

NetGalley, Paul Sparks

As a battlefield guide, I have long avoided focussing on the winners of the VC, believing that many more were worthy but not similarly rewarded. This book captures some of the examples of courage that did not result in the award of a VC. The reasons are many; bureaucratic objections, the ‘rules’ or their interpretations changing, social status, political opportunism and in my view worst of all, occasions when the character of a nominee rendered him somehow unworthy. Whilst accepting that decisions must be made, the book discusses occasions when the process was clearly flawed, as well as deserving men simply ‘not catching the umpire’s eye’. Recommended.

Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy
 Brian Best

About Brian Best

BRIAN BEST has an honours degree in South African History and is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He was the founder of the Victoria Cross Society and edited its Journal for many years. Brian also lectures about the Victoria Cross and War Art. He is married and lives in Rutland.

Perfect Partner

The Victoria Cross Wars Battles, Campaigns and Conflicts of All the VC Heroes (Hardback)

The British Empire at its height stretched around the globe. From Asia to the Americas, scores of countries were conquered or assimilated into the greatest commonwealth of nations in history. Many of these countries were won, and held, at the point of the bayonet, and British soldiers and sailors fought long and hard campaigns in deserts, mountains and jungles to maintain and expand the Empire. Fighting, though, means bloodshed; it also means bravery. Victoria Crosses were awarded in operations against Persia, Abyssinia and China, in New Zealand, Burma and Sudan, in the Perak War, the Andaman…

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