Thursday, November 29, 2012

Amor victor est ( Love is victorious )

Arthur Percy Sullivan was my grandmother's cousin, making him my first cousin twice removed. He was also a gallant recipient of the Victoria Cross. Like my grandmother and myself, he was born a Sagittarian. Today I have turned 54 - crikey mate, you don't look a minute over 14! - so I am  talking to and about those who matter to me.
Arthur and my grandmother were close friends. I hope that I can honour them.

Enlisting as soon as he legally could, he was too young to fight in WW1, so transferred to the British Army, and joined the Russia Relief Force.
For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on the 10th August 1919, at the Sheika River, North Russia. The platoon to which he belonged, after fighting a rearguard covering action, had to cross the river by means of a narrow plank and during the passage an officer and three men fell into a deep swamp. Without hesitation, under intense fire, Corporal Sullivan jumped into the river and rescued all four, bringing them out singly. But for this gallant action his comrades would undoubtedly have been drowned. It was a splendid example of heroism, as all ranks were on the point of exhaustion, and the enemy less than 100 yards distant.
—The London Gazette, 29 September 1919 
The above quote comes from the Australian War Memorial, and is re-recorded on Wikipedia. And following, now, a little history of his life, this relative I'm proud of, who put love and protectiveness first.
Arthur Sullivan was a very popular man, and was known as the "Shy VC". Upon his return to Australia, he resumed his former employment with the National Bank of Australasia.
He was married to Dorothy Frances Veale at an Anglican church in Fairfield, Victoria, on 5 December 1928, and in 1929 he transferred to the head office of the National Bank of Australasia in Sydney where he and Dorothy were to live happily for five years. During this time they had three children, two of whom were twins.
In 1934, Sullivan was made the manager of the Casino branch of the National Bank of Australasia. As a Victoria Cross recipient, Sullivan was selected to join the Australian contingent to attend the coronation of King George VI and to return the remains of British soldier Sergeant Arthur Evans, VC, who had died in Australia. The "Australian Coronation Contingent" comprised 100 soldiers, 25 sailors and 25 airmen. Half the soldiers were serving troops and half were returned members of the AIF. Sullivan was the only VC winner in the group [5]
On 9 April 1937, eleven days after ceremonially handing over Evans's ashes and thirty-four days before King George VI's coronation, Arthur Sullivan died when he was returning to his accommodation and accidentally slipped in Birdcage Walk, Westminster, near the Wellington Barracks, and struck his head against the kerb. He was taken immediately to hospital, but died soon after from the severity of the head injuries he had sustained.
Arthur Sullivan was afforded a full military funeral in London where the Australian contingent's salute volley was respectfully returned by the Foot Guards. General Birdwood and a dozen British VC winners attended the funeral. His body was cremated in London and his ashes were returned to Sydney and interred at the Northern Suburbs Crematorium. A month after the funeral, a gap was deliberately left in the ranks of the Australian contingent as they marched in the coronation parade.[6]
In 1939 a plaque was placed upon the iron railings of Wellington Barracks in his honour. It features the second version of the Australian Army's Rising Sun badge, four decorative Victoria Crosses in each corner, a twisted vine of leaves, and reads: "To The Glory Of God And In Ever Living Memory Of Gnr. Arthur P. Sullivan. V.C. Who was accidentally killed on April 9th 1937 whilst serving as a representative of his country at the coronation of H.M.King George VI. Thus tablet was erected by his comrades of the Australian Coronation Contingent 1939."
His wife Dorothy died in 1980 and left his Victoria Cross to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, where it is displayed in the Hall of Valour.
Thanks to Wikipedia.
Arthur died an accidental death, having shown unusual bravery. However grotesque it may seem that he died in what seems a random way, I cannot help but feel that a man of courage, as he was, could have been allowed to die normally.
Victory ultimately remains with those who have loved, who love, who are willing to stand up for their love.


  1. Dear Faisal,

    Happy Birthday my friend - 54? And here I am girding my loins for the approach of the big 5 0!

    I enjoyed reading this post. Enjoyed is probably not the best of words to use but I am sure you know what I mean. I do think that you have honoured this man's memory.

    A brave man and yes you are possibly right that death in such circumstances is a blessing although I feel that it must have been particularly tragic for his wife and children who having seen him depart on a glorious, peaceful mission were left to mourn him, having had him die far away from their loving presence, nor even having the chance to say 'goodbye' to him prior to his cremation.

    Being a lover of information, this story caused me to read up about Arthur Sullivan in the digitised newspapers that can be found on the National Library of Australia website. They prove very interesting reading, from the results of the inquest, even down to his death causing a government debate on whether the family of a war hero, who died in peacetime, while on 'active service', in an accident, should be granted a pension.


    1. Hello Kirk. Thankyou. Getting older is better than it is imagined. Yes, you let go of the energy of youth, but you get, in exchange, a little wisdom, even if no-one knows you've got it!
      I've had a big interest in the First World War. No-one then, I believe, had any idea how awful it would be.
      There was an incredible innocence. I would hate to have to be conscripted into such a maelstrom.
      I admire the innocence of my cousin, his readiness and loyalty, his strength and confidence, qualities common then among our ancestors.
      I'll read the NLA article, now you've drawn me to it.
      Cheers my friend.

  2. First and most importantly.... Happy Birthday! I hope you had a remarkable day and continue to celebrate through the weekend.

    You wrote a wonderful post to honor your cousin. Being the daughter of a career military officer I find it touching when those who risk everything to protect their country and the world are recognized. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Bonnie; I really appreciate that, and all your kind words.
      It was 38 degrees Celsius, so the day felt a bit strung out, but, of course, it didn't really matter.
      I had a wonderful day.
      Generations of men have fallen for good causes. I only wish we didn't have to lose any more in this way.

  3. dear dear Faisal, happy birthday. It's good to hear you also feel life gets better as you get older. I definitely feel that too. I think you get to know what's important to you, and have less need to please other people. By the way, I'm a Sagittarian too. The story about your cousin is very poignant, ironic. But on second thoughts, heroes can clearly have mundane deaths too. Very interesting post.

    1. You always say the right thing, gorgeous Catmint. Thankyou.
      Yes, it was ironic A P Sullivan died the way he did. To me it was like he was TOO good, and paid for it. Perhaps that's a romantic interpretation?
      The thing is, I like to know there are those who've gone before me who are as brave as they can be. It gives you inspiration, doesn't it?

  4. Hi Faisal, my birthday wishes to you by e-mail must be lost in space or in your spam folder!! We share the same birthday!!

    1. Amazing little coincidence, Joanne. I hope you have a wonderful year ahead!

  5. wish you a very happy birthday. Food for thought on your post, as usual.