Glory and Dishonour : Victoria Cross Heroes Whose Lives Ended in Tragedy or Disgrace by Brian Izzard
There have been many books on Victoria Cross heroes but this is the first one to explore the lives of those for whom the greatest accolade did not bring contentment, happiness or lasting fame. Men like the Cheltenham-born Duncan Boyes. The seventeen-year-old Midshipman Boyes won the VC in 1864, carrying the Queen's Colour through withering Japanese fire.
Four years later, he would commit suicide by jumping out of a hotel window in Dunedin, New Zealand. How such tragedies unfold - and why - is the essence of this book. How do we judge the actions of Martin Doyle VC MM, for example? At the Battle of the Somme in 1916, under heavy fire, he carried a wounded officer to safety.
Later he went to the aid of men in a blazing tank. When a machine gun opened up at close range, preventing the rescue of the wounded, he charged and silenced it, taking three prisoners. He also carried another wounded soldier to safety despite intense fire.
Soon, he would be an IRA intelligence officer arranging the deaths of British soldiers. Heroism captivates most people. This book has the added dimension of linking it with personal tragedy.
For Victoria Cross holders there is an observation that it is sometimes easier to win the medal than to wear it. 'Glory and Dishonour' shows how true that can be.