Frederick Whirlpool VC

Australia’s Hidden Victoria Cross

Who was Frederick Whirlpool VC?

For more that 150 years the man behind the false name has eluded identification, aided by a liberal scattering of red herrings across his trail. He never wanted to be identified and when his fame spread across the world, after earning his VC during the Indian Mutiny, he melded further into the background, eschewing those who would laud him.

Two acts of valour, a month apart in 1858, earned his cross but ended his army career after he suffered numerous life-threatening wounds. Leaving India before his VC could be invested, he travelled to Australia, joining a volunteer rifle regiment. When his entitlement was discovered, solicitations were made on his behalf and the VC was presented in Victoria three years later. It was the first Victoria Cross received by a man in Australian uniform.

The mystery of Frederick Whirlpool VC has been solved using a fragment of information left to tantalise researchers since his death in 1899. Supposition, guesswork and fancy are now laid bare as this man’s anguished story is revealed. The passage of his VC from 1861 to the Hall of Valour at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, is also uncovered.

This fascinating story fills huge gaps in the narrative of this ordinary man; a story of heroism, suffering and failure and the forgotten man triumphs in its telling.

Frederick Whirlpool VC can be purchased via Big Sky Publishing by clicking here.

Frederick Whirlpool Vc Cover


Alan with Susan Templeman MP

Alan With Susan Templeman Member For Macquarie
Alan with Susan Templeman MP Federal Member for Macquarie who launched his book, Frederick Whirlpool VC at Hawkesbury Museum on Sunday 7th October, 2018.


Susan Templeman's tribute to Frederick Whirlpool and the author in Federal Parliament

October, 2018.


Camden Haven Courier release - Liz Langdale

OCTOBER 18, 2018

Alan Leek launches book: Frederick Whirlpool VC Australia’s Hidden Victoria Cross

Liz Langdale

Throughout his life as a detective and an author Alan Leek has always had a passion for finding answers.

The Camden Head resident has just released his second book titled ‘Frederick Whirlpool VC - Australia’s Hidden Victoria Cross'.

The book explores the true story behind the false name of the first man in an Australian uniform to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

It was a topic which Alan came across accidentally, while he was writing another novel.

“I thought it was terrible for a Victoria Cross recipient to lie in an unmarked grave,” he said.

Alan discovered the real name of Australia’s first Victoria Cross recipient was Humphrey James.

Humphrey was born in Ireland and purposely hid his true identity when he joined the East India Company’s 3rd Bombay European Regiment.

Alan said the name mystery has puzzled historians for over 150 years and he believed the man’s true story is one which deserved to be heard.

“It is one of heroism, suffering and failure but the forgotten man triumphs in its telling,” Alan said.

Alan started his research journey with a ‘clean slate’.

Before he became an author, Alan was a former detective and superintendent of police. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy in USA, Charles Sturt and Macquarie Universities.

“Unlike other historians, I didn’t make any assumptions about the man I was researching,” he said.

“I think I have my career background to thank for that.”

The book took six years to write but during that time Alan didn’t hit any real brick walls when it came to unraveling the mystery.

“I found it absolutely compulsive,” he said.

“I never got tired of it, as I enjoyed constantly learning.”

Alan is currently working on his third book which delves into past murders of police officers.


Blue Mountains release - Liz Langdale

OCTOBER 17, 2018

New book uncovers identity of first man in Australian uniform awarded Victoria Cross

Liz Langdale

Throughout his life as a detective and an author Alan Leek has always had a passion for finding answers.

The former Winmalee resident released his second book, Frederick Whirlpool VC - Australia’s Hidden Victoria Cross, in October.

The book explores the true story behind the false name of the first man in an Australian uniform to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

It was a topic which Mr Leek came across accidentally, while he was writing another novel.

“I thought it was terrible for a Victoria Cross recipient to lie in an unmarked grave [in South Windsor],” he said.

Mr Leek discovered the real name of Australia’s first Victoria Cross recipient was Humphrey James.

James was born in Ireland and purposely hid his true identity when he joined the East India Company’s 3rd Bombay European Regiment.

Mr Leek said the name mystery has puzzled historians for over 150 years and he believed the man’s true story is one which deserved to be heard.

“It is one of heroism, suffering and failure but the forgotten man triumphs in its telling,” he said.

Mr Leek started his research journey with a ‘clean slate’ in the Blue Mountains six years ago. It was completed in Camden Haven, near Port Macquarie, where Mr Leek and his wife and Judith now live.

Before he became an author, Mr Leek was a former detective and superintendent of police. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy in USA, Charles Sturt and Macquarie Universities.

With his wife Judith, and a business partner, he also ran the highly respected Breewood Galleries for almost 30 years and is a former president of the Leura Village Association.

“Unlike other historians, I didn’t make any assumptions about the man I was researching,” he said.

“I think I have my career background to thank for that.”

The book took six years to write but during that time Mr Leek didn’t hit any real brick walls when it came to unraveling the mystery.

“I found it absolutely compulsive,” he said.

“I never got tired of it, as I enjoyed constantly learning.”

The book will be released in the United Kingdom next year. Mr Leek is currently working on his third book which delves into past murders of police officers.


Focus Magazine release - Bronwyn Davis

Manning-Great Lakes Focus

The Heartbreaking True Story of a VC bearer, Author Alan Leek

Superintendent turned author, Alan Leek talks with us about his book, “Frederick Whirlpool VC”.

You’ve had quite an interesting life before you became an author; tell us a bit about that.

I worked in the wool as a rouseabout when I dropped out of high school and learnt to swear like a shearer – a talent I still find useful at appropriate times. I went on to become a police officer for over 30 years, where I saw pain and suffering and the best of human endeavour through the prism of a close observer and active participant. I worked as a detective for over half of my career, achieving the pinnacle recognition for performance, the Peter Mitchell Award. I studied at universities and the FBI National Academy in the USA. I attainted the rank of superintendent.

For almost 30 years I was founder and co-director of an exhibiting fine art gallery, mostly concurrent with my police duties, so I don’t like to be defined by one role. I assumed that undertaking the Whirlpool story would relieve me of my former police identity, not knowing that I would discover Frederick Whirlpool VC had been a member of the NSW Police Force.

Did your life experiences influence your books in any way?

Yes, definitely. I was born a few years after the end of WWII, so was very aware of not only the conflict, but the bravery and sacrifice of the men and women who served. As I have grown older, I understand that those who serve are but a microcosm of their wider world, with fears, anxieties, doubts, bad behaviours and frailties found in the greater populace. This makes courageous action all the more laudable. Look at men who have earned the Victoria Cross or women like Edith Cavell and Noor Khan, both of whom died bravely while serving.

Your book, Frederick Whirlpool VC is based on this character. Can you elaborate and tell us a bit about him?

He was an ordinary man, born Humphrey James, in 1831 in the north of Ireland. His father, also Humphrey, was one of the first constables in Ireland, the font of policing. As many young men did, he changed his name to enlist, in his case to Frederick Whirlpool, to reflect his father’s characterisation of him as having a temper like a whirlpool. He wanted to travel to exotic places and to teach. He was well educated. He became as assistant Army teacher in India, but when the mutiny erupted, he was called to arms.

In a gruelling campaign, this ordinary man showed his mettle by his actions in twice saving wounded comrades under murderous fire and a month later in saving his officer and fighting at least twelve rebels single handedly, allowing his comrades to advance. He suffered 17 dangerous sword cuts and a fractured skull.

The horrors he experienced fed his belief that he would burn in Hell, a burden he carried for the rest of his life. Many of those horrors are explored. After failing at policing, he became a teacher in NSW – and again failed. He became a recluse for almost 30 years, until his death near Windsor, in 1899.

His subterfuge, deliberately employed to hide his past, has been unfurled in my book. His Victoria Cross was presented in Victoria in 1861, the first to a man in an Australian uniform. He never wore the cross again and once his fame spread across the world, he hid it from all but one man, who left a thread for me to follow. The VC is now in the Hall of Valour at the Australian War Memorial.

What inspired you to write about him?

I fell across him accidentally while researching something entirely unrelated. I knew his resting place, but did not know of him. I was appalled that he did not have a grave marker and that it might have been vandalised, as so many police graves have been. I began to explore and found the mystery challenging and engaging. My work has filled one of the many gaps in the lives of VC recipients across the world.

Writing a book takes enormous amount of research and discipline. How did you go about acquiring all the information?

I made no assumptions and started with a clean slate. Every revelation became a joy, like discovering that his real name was Humphrey James. Others, over more than a century, had assumed that this was an assumed name. I found his home and his family in Ireland. I engaged researchers in Ireland and England to dig out detail. It was worth the effort and saved me many days stumbling through the labyrinthine British Library.

I loved the research, and I loved the writing. It has never been a burden and I have never been pressured to do it. I hoped for publication, but never expected it. The outcome has been very satisfying.

Did you face any major challenges – writers’ block perhaps?

The only challenge is the old bogey of working class self doubt about one’s ability to write. I suppose that has been answered by not only having this book published, but having another being published in Australia next year. The Killing Chronicle is a true crime account of the murders of NSW Police and others, between 1940 and 1971. I have just learned the UK rights to Whirlpool VC have been sold, and it will be published in England next year.

So there you go; 20 years on, I can’t seem to get away from policing yet. These stories need to be told. I don’t suffer writers’ block, probably because I am not writing fiction.

What’s been the most rewarding part for you?

Revealing a mystery – solving a case. It has always been rewarding. Telling his worthy story across the world is very satisfying.

What’s next in the pipeline; are there any additional books we can look forward to reading?

The Killing Chronicle comes out in August 2019 and I am working on two new works, but no promises there. There are plenty of stories to tell.

With Christmas fast approaching, books are often a perfect gift. Where can we purchase one of your books?

That’s an interesting point. I know that many people have bought my book with the intention of giving one as a Christmas gift. Some have already left for the UK, Ireland and the USA. It is available direct from www.bigskypublishing.com.au and most online retailers, like Booktopia. Being published in the UK soon makes this Australian copy a first edition, and good bookstores are stocking it too.

You’re about to have a book launch at Taree Literary Institute. How can we find out more information?

The launch of Frederick Whirlpool VC – Australia’s Hidden Victoria Cross will be held at the Institute, 129 Victoria Street, Taree at 11am on Wednesday 5th December.Phone 6552 4361 for details. I look forward to meeting people there and discussing my work and in particular, Frederick Whirlpool. Feedback is welcome on www.alanleek.com.au

Thanks Alan.

Interview: Bronwyn Davis.


Books & Publishing Press Release

Alan Leek Books And Publishing Article 02

 

While the gist of this release is correct and an amazing opportunity to have my book picked up for global release, I have to note that Whirlpool did not end his life - he died of natural causes - in the vernacular of the time, 'of a failure of the heart to action.'  ADL


Presentation, book signing and launch at Taree Literary Institute

What a great joy is was to be amongst friends and former colleagues at the historical Taree Literary Institute, now in its 154th year, on 5 December last.  What a welcome!   The warmth in the room showed good old fashioned country hospitality in abundance.  I spoke about my book, the writing process and motivation for it, and read passages.  The audience must have been very forgiving of my dry mouthed stumbling over the passages, despite me having written them, as they readily bought copies and in some instances, numbers of them.

My thanks to president Brian Crisp and his committee and to librarian, Kylie Attard and her assistants, who all showed their great affection for literature and writing generally.  The Taree Institution supports a public library and has done so for over a century and a half.   When next in Taree it is well worth a visit - just for the ambience alone.  What a great show of community perseverance.   Alan


New Book to be released in August, 2019

'THE KILLING CHRONICLE'

 

There have been a number of references to my new book, 'The Killing Chronicle - Service and Shattered Lives - NSW Police and the crimes that took them.' Under the rather lengthy working title, planning is progressing on a suitable cover design, which I will post when it becomes available.

This book begins during wartime Sydney, when reckless criminal activity was astounding and thoughtlessly applied.  Weapons were readily available and the Tommy gun the favoured of them all.   Bashings, robberies, shootings and stabbings were rife and the victims were quite often allied servicemen, naively relaxed and on leave.  The suppression of crime had not developed scientifically, that would take another forty years, but brawn and bravery were the traditional responses, which only worked some of the time.  To add to these shortcomings, policemen were generally armed with inferior and obsolete weapons, which time and again failed when needed.  These officers fell, often without warning, but valiantly and needlessly.

Two policemen were murdered on Anzac Day, one on the 25th Anzac Day and the other in 1958.  The latter, Constable Joe Johnson, had served in Tobruk, Bardia, Ceylon, New Guinea and other theatres and had taken part in his first Anzac Day march that day.  Protecting fellow committee members and the general public at the local RSL, he was stabbed six times in an attack under the coward's cloak of darkness.

Other ex-servicemen had survived war only to join the police force to be cut down in peacetime. Some died while protecting their communities and some they shielded, died with them.  Their stories begin in 1940 and end in 1971, when sergeants Maurice McDiarmid and William Watson 'Bill' Riley, a New Guinea veteran, were cut down at Toongabbie in western Sydney.

Flashbacks are provided to show how NSW police came to be an armed force, albeit with ineffectual weaponry.  The men responsible are described and their images displayed, as they awaited execution at Darlinghurst Gaol.  An earlier incident, in  1893 is also examined and illustrated by contemporary photographs.  The full story behind the battle to have police armed is addressed in detail.

It is a sad, horrifying yet uplifting chronicle of many of those who fell in the service of their community and the shattered lives they left behind. Published by Big Sky Publishing, Sydney.


    Frederick Whirlpool dustcover - Pen & Sword Publishing UK

Frederick Whirlpool Uk Cover


Alan Leek - Author

Alan Leek 01


Frederick Whirlpool Vc Book Cover

Pen and Sword Publishing

announce UK release date

FREDERICK WHIRLPOOL VC

The Hidden Victoria Cross

Pen and Sword Publishing, UK, have announced the global release of Frederick Whirlpool VC - The Hidden Victoria Cross, will take place in April, 2019.  The slightly altered title reflects a market, wider than  the original Australian one, and the book will be produced in hardcover.

A major publisher of military and history books in the UK and USA, Pen and Sword have amassed an impressive catalogue, that can be seen at www.pen-and-sword.co.uk

We look forward to the response to revelations of Whirlpool's life, origins and actions, which have been hidden for far too long.

 


WHIRLPOOL MEMORIAL PLANNED

For 120 years Frederick Whirlpool, VC, has lain in the Presbyterian cemetery, Windsor, in an unmarked grave.  The historic cemetery was consecrated in 1833 and is now in the care of Hawkesbury City Council.

A committee has been established to facilitate the erection of a suitable memorial, marking the life and deeds of Frederick Whirlpool, who lived in the Hawkesbury for half of his 68 years, until his death at McGrath's Hill, in 1899.

His friend, local merchant, John Dick Smith, arranged Whirlpool's funeral and ensured that all dignity attended it, although he was the only mourner.

The committee includes, Susan Templeman, MP, Federal Member for Macquarie; Deborah May, historian; Mary Lyons-Bucket, Deputy Mayor; Professor Ian Jack, historian, Sydney University; Nevill Dehn, local historian and representative of the Hawkesbury Historical Society, with Ian Jack; Christine Paine, OAM, former councillor, whose family included John Dick Smith; Margaret Ginnings, facilitator of the Richmond WWII memorial, Bill Nash, Lodge Victoria Cross; and Alan Leek, chair.  With a line-up of talented people and with the practical assistance of the Hawkesbury Historical Society, which was founded in 1956, it is to be hoped that our efforts to honour Whirlpool VC, will soon bear fruit.  A memorial that is sympathetic to others in the cemetery, in the form of a plinth and obelisk, which should meet with heritage guidelines, is envisaged.  The draft inscriptions are:-

 

In this field

rests

2200 Private

Frederick Whirlpool VC

 

VC engraved

 

Born

Humphrey James

County Carlow, Ireland

17th July, 1831

Died

McGrath's Hill

24th June, 1899

soldier - constable - teacher

 

Two sides of the plinth will display the two separate citations for which the Victoria Cross was awarded.  The back panel will contain names of contributing organisations that enabled the erection of the memorial. This handsome monument will honour the memory of Frederick Whirlpool VC, educate new generations, and stand as testament to the possibilities of human endeavour.

The first citation reads:-

For gallantly volunteering

on the 3rd of April, 1858, in the attack of Jhansi,

to return and carry away several killed and wounded,

which he did twice under a very heavy fire from the wall;

 

The second:-

also, for devoted bravery at the assault of Lohari

on the 2nd of May, 1858, in rushing to the rescue

of Lieutenant Donne,

of the Regiment, who was dangerously wounded.

In this service, Private Whirlpool

received seventeen desperate wounds,

one of which nearly severed his head from his body.

The gallant example shown by this man is considered

to have greatly contributed to the success of the day.

 

More as the plan develops.    Alan

 

 


TRIBUTE AT DUNDALK GRAMMAR SCHOOL

DUNDALK, Co. LOUTH, IRELAND.

 

For some time, I have been in touch with Dr. Laurence Swan, a governor of the Dundalk Grammar School, who has been of great assistance in uncovering new information about Humphrey James, who was a student there when it was known as the Dundalk Educational Institution. The institution began as a Charter School in 1739.

Alumni of the School include, Lieutenant James Samuel Emerson VC., who was awarded the Victoria Cross for action in France in 1917; Lieutenant William David Kenny VC., who was awarded the Victoria Cross, for his action in India in 1920, and or course, Humphrey James, who was awarded the Victoria Cross as Private Frederick Whirlpool VC., for his actions in India in 1858.

These are extremely proud achievements for this distinctive school, which sit comfortably with its honourable history and tradition.

The author has been touched to receive word that the school has mounted in its permanent display memorialising its three VC recipients,  Frederick Whirlpool VC - Australia's Hidden Victoria Cross, which is made available to students, upon request, who want to further their knowledge of this enigmatic man.

Though Humphrey James was reticent about disclosing his Victoria Cross, and shunned adulation, he was proud of his school and it is to be hoped that he would be equally proud of this honour to himself, is fellow VC's and his old alma mater.

 

 

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