War Heroes

War heroes have been outstanding on a number of military occasions. Two Tasmanians won the Victoria Cross in South Africa during the South African (Boer) War (18991902). Guy George Wylly and John Hutton Bisdee won their award on the same day, 1 September 1900. Wylly went on to serve in the First World War, being awarded the Distinguished Service Order. Bisdee also served in that war, and was awarded an Order of the British Empire in 1919. War heroes include nurses, the first of whom served in South Africa at their own expense. One, Elizabeth Orr, participated in both the South African War and the First World War.

During the First World War, ten Tasmanians were awarded the VC, or eleven if you count James Newland, who though born in Victoria served with Tasmanian forces. One VC winner was Major Henry William Murray from Evandale, who was the most decorated soldier in the British Empire. He served with the Tasmanians at Gallipoli. Then there was Major Burford Sampson (later Senator Sampson), the last man to leave Gallipoli.

While no Tasmanian was awarded a VC during the Second World War, Tasmanians served in all theatres of war, including the Pacific, North Africa, Europe, Middle East and eastern Europe (Greece and Crete), as well as with the Occupation forces in Japan. Over 500 Tasmanians served in Korea, some losing their lives, and some Tasmanians died while serving in Vietnam. One, Ron Betts, was the only RAAF casualty to die in combat during that war.

Lt Guy Wylly

Further reading: R Watson, Heroes all, Blackmans Bay, 1994; L Wigmore, They dared mightily, Canberra, 1963.

Reg Watson