Top critical review
5 people found this helpful
Misses the intended target by a very wide margin.
on 31 December 2013
I enjoy military history and, like so many similar-minded people, enjoy reading about heroism in all its forms. The Victoria Cross is possibly the most famous of all medals for valour and takes precedence over all other British honours and awards to the extent that the post-nominal letters ‘VC’ would appear before even the highest orders of Knighthood. Formally established in January 1856, the first medal was actually awarded for an action in 1854. The most recent award (to date) being in 2013. Altogether, 1,354 people have been awarded the VC with three having earned the medal twice. Eight recipients, however, later forfeited their medal after being convicted of various crimes. Nevertheless, each of those 1,357 instances of individual heroism has all the ingredients for an engrossing story in its own right.
This is a work of collusion between the author and the Imperial War Museum (IWM) which seeks to create a different emphasis from anything which may have gone before. This is achieved by reproducing the personal accounts of a select number of VC recipients - as penned at the time or shortly thereafter, instead of repeating their actual citation and adding whatever additional information may now be available. There is no set format for these accounts which are restricted to actions from WW1, Russia 1919, WW2 and Korea only.
These personal accounts, however, do not do justice to each man’s specific deed of bravery. When required to write reports about their own behaviour after the event, people are usually far too modest and will not, therefore, provide a blow-by-blow account of what truly happened. In effect, therefore, we have a book on a subject which should fire the imagination of every reader but instead lacks the qualities of zest, gravitas and even imagination - all of which are central to the subject. Qualities which, were doubtless held in great abundance by each person who had that famous medal pinned to his chest.
Of course, any account of such exceptionally brave deeds are always worth reading but in this instance the reader will soon become disappointed at the way in which they are presented – almost glossed over. Add to that the further disappointment because of those which are conspicuous by their absence.
This work misses the target at which it was aimed by a very wide margin and, given the subject matter, that is fairly hard to achieve!
British army major (retired)