Corporal A P Sullivan VC

Born on 27th Nov 1896 at Crystal Brook, South Australia, Sullivan volunteered for service with the First Australian Imperial Force (AIF) during the First World War. The war was effectively over by the time he arrived in Europe. After being discharged from the AIF in 1919, he joined the 45th Battalion Royal Fusiliers so that he could serve with the North Russia Relief Force as part of the Allied Intervention in the Russian Civil War. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions in rescuing some of his fellow soldiers from a swamp while under enemy fire. Demobilised from the army after completing his service, he resumed his civilian career as a banker. The London Gazette of 29th Dec 1919 published the citation:

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.

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 married Dorothy Frances Veale at an Anglican church in Fairfield, Victoria, on 5 December 1928, and in 1929 he transferred to the bank's head office in Sydney where he and Dorothy lived for five years. During this time they had three children, two of whom were twins.

He was part of a contingent from Australia to attend the Coronation of King George VI in 1937. Tragically he slipped and fell on the pavement in Birdcage Walk, London on 9th April 1937. His head injury was severe and he died soon afterwards. A plaque marks the spot where he fell, outside Wellington Barracks. His wife died in 1980 and left his VC medal to the Australian War Memorial Hall of Valour in Canberra.

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by Stephen Luscombe