The Price of Valour, by John Hamilton

price valourThe latest book in my Gallipoli quest is Price of Valour, a biography about Hugo Throssell VC.

Throssell, had survived some of the worst parts of the Gallipoli campaign. He was one of the few to live through the suicidal attack at the Nek, where wave after wave of charging Australian troops were cut to pieces by machine gun fire. Appeals to senior officers to stop the attack were rejected and the waves of troops sent to certain death continued. Only a few, Throssell included, managed to find cover and eventually edge their way back to safety.

Soon afterwards he became part of a move to take and hold “Hill 60”, where a partial trench was taken from the Turks who were kept apart from Australian troops only by a barrier of sandbags. The opposing sides attacked each other by throwing bombs into the trench occupied by their opponents. Survival meant catching the bomb before its short fuse burnt through and throwing it back to its source. Several men lost hands and arms during the several hours that this went on. Throssell was one of the few survivors, who despite being shot through the neck and his back peppered with bomb fragments, returned to the battle after being evacuated for medical attention. It was this involvement that earned him the Victoria Cross.

After the Gallipoli campaign he received a lengthy break for medical attention. During this time an attempt to correct a problem with his nose caused a penetration of his brain cavity from which fluid leaked and led to serious infection that caused problems throughout the rest of his life.

His final military experience was in Palestine where he was wounded again, but more tragically it was here that his brother Ric was killed. Later in the year he was part of the final assault on Jerusalem and was chosen to be part of the guard of honour when the victorious General Allenby entered the city.

Exalted to the status of hero after being award a Victoria Cross for actions at Gallipoli, after his return home he was soon pushed off the pedestal upon which he’d been placed, when he spoke out against war, saying that peace would never be achieved while some people could make substantial profits from war. This didn’t go down well in his conservative community, particularly after his marriage to writer Katherine Susannah Prichard, a committed socialist writer who became one of the earliest members of the Communist Party in Australia.

The effects of his war experience, the wounds he received, the legacy of a bungled wartime operation that gave him mild brain damage, the suspicions of his community, followed by the Great Depression when he fell into serious financial trouble – all led to his eventual suicide.

The book’s title is very appropriate and shows a different perspective of the glorious Anzac myth.


7 thoughts on “The Price of Valour, by John Hamilton

  1. I’ve read this over on various days. It really makes one think, and, me, remember a number of subjects I’ve read or learned about over the years. One thing I heard very recently was something that sounded very paranoid to me; a leader in Turkey (in current news) said to his people that everyone wants to get rid of them/Turkey like they always have.

  2. I wondered, like, Who ever thought of THAT? But then I had to ponder. What is going on with that? Is it totally made up manipulation or is it based in something?

    And that’s not all. Then there is the profound sense that veterans often don’t get adequate medical care after they’ve done what they’ve been told. And that’s not all either.

    1. I recently heard that if the suicide factor was taken into account, the number of war dead would increase significantly.

      And as with Throssell, it could take a decade or two before that path was taken. A recent TV documentary series I saw featured ‘Pompey’ Elliot, a well known Australian General from WW1 who also ended his own life more than a decade after his war service after suffering a “definite form of nervous disorder” which today would be labelled PTSD.

    1. I worked with an Armenian man for several years and that massacre of Armenians by the Turks near the beginning of the 20th century remained a very present issue within his community.

  3. From the last link, above,
    *The 100th anniversary will be commemorated on April 24, the date the Ottomans rounded up a group of Armenian notables in Istanbul in 1915 as the first step in what historians now agree was a wider plan of annihilation. Armenians from Turkey and the diaspora are preparing to gather in Istanbul’s central Taksim Square to honor the dead. They will also hold a concert featuring Armenian and Turkish musicians.*

    From Wikipedia, as of today,
    *In Turkey the name “ANZAC Cove” was officially recognised by the Turkish government on Anzac Day [April 25] in 1985. In 1934, Kemal Atatürk delivered the following words to the first Australians, New Zealanders and British to visit the Gallipoli battlefields. This was later inscribed on a monolith at Ari Burnu Cemetery (ANZAC Beach) which was unveiled in 1985. The words also appear on the Kemal Atatürk Memorial, Canberra, and the Atatürk Memorial in Wellington:[54]

    “Those heroes that shed their blood
    And lost their lives.
    You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
    Therefore rest in peace.
    There is no difference between the Johnnies
    And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
    Here in this country of ours.
    You, the mothers,
    Who sent their sons from far away countries
    Wipe away your tears,
    Your sons are now lying in our bosom
    And are in peace
    After having lost their lives on this land they have
    Become our sons as well.”

    In 1990, to mark the 75th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing, Government officials from Australia and New Zealand (including Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke[56][57] and New Zealand Governor-General Paul Reeves[58]) as well as most of the last surviving Gallipoli veterans, and many Australian and New Zealand tourists travelled to Turkey for a special Dawn Service at Gallipoli. The Gallipoli Dawn Service was held at the Ari Burnu War Cemetery at Anzac Cove, but the growing numbers of people attending resulted in the construction of a more spacious site on North Beach, known as the “Anzac Commemorative Site” in time for the year 2000 service.*

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