Frederick Whirlpool VC – Australia’s Hidden Victoria Cross

Book Launch on 7 October 2018

Frederick Whirlpool’s Victoria Cross is displayed near the entrance to the Hall of Valour at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. It was the first VC pinned to an Australian uniform, and yet almost nothing was known about the enigmatic recipient.

Frederick Whirlpool VC – Australia’s Hidden Victoria CrossTwo acts of valour during the Indian Mutiny, won Frederick Whirlpool the Victoria Cross, but 17 severe sword wounds ended his career.

Arriving in Victoria in 1859, he became a volunteer rifleman and school teacher. His VC was presented in Melbourne in 1861. He applied to join the Victorian Police, but corruption and unsolicited political interference prevented it.

Repulsed by fame, he fled and hid his cross from the world. Fragments of his story were known, but since 1895, they have been tainted by error, guesswork and in one recent British work, pure fantasy. This work solves an old mystery. It reveals his true identity and early life in Ireland before joining the East India Company Army. Rich sources reveal his anguished story.

According to Museum Director Kath von Witt, it is an honour to launch a book about Frederick Whirlpool, who has been of great interest to Hawkesbury historians for many years.

“Apparently he lived in McGraths Hill for many years, and he is reportedly buried at the Presbyterian Cemetery on the South side of Windsor train station,” Kath said.

“It is really apt that well-renown Hawkesbury personality, and ex-Detective in the NSW police force, Alan Leek, is the one to have discovered the truth behind the mystery of Frederick Whirlpool.

“We’re delighted to host the official launch at the Museum with guest Federal MP Susan Templeman and author Alan Leek, on Sunday, 7 October.”


“…an admirable contribution to Australian military history.”

‘…a timely examination of Whirlpool himself and his relationship to the medal that would become his burden”.

– The Honourable Dr Brendan Nelson AO

Alan Leek left school at 15 and became a wool store rouseabout. He joined the NSW Police Cadet Corps two years later and is a 34 year veteran of the police. He served as a detective, before taking up command positions, including the tough Cabramatta patrol, then the centre of heroin trafficking in Australia and the site of Australia’s first political assassination.

As the co-founder and director of Breewood Gallery in Richmond from 1983 to 2012, his interest in art, art history and history generally was enlivened.

Book launch details

Sunday, 7 October 2018
1pm to 3:30pm

Bookings essential at

The museum is located at 8 Baker Street, Windsor

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