Since the 1850s the Victoria Cross has been the highest award for gallantry in the British armed forces. It bears the simple legend `For Valour', but behind it lie legends of a different kind: humbling tales of almost unimaginable bravery.
Supreme Courage tells some of those stories, bringing the history of the medal alive with blowby-blow accounts of courage in action. Recreating battle-scenes from across the globe, from the Crimean War to the Second World War, peppering his narrative with letters and first-hand reports, Sir Peter de la Billiere looks deep into the hearts and minds of a number of exceedingly brave men. Soldiers like Captain Noel Chavasse, the doctor who spent three years in the trenches during the First World War, rescuing and treating the wounded under relentless enemy attack - a man who exemplified the astounding modesty and dedication to duty of the VC holder. Chavasse died at Passchendaele in 1917, and in so doing became one of only three men to receive the VC twice. The award was made - tragically, as for so many VC winners - posthumously.
With accounts of Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians, Gurkhas and Indians, and backed by his own experience of war in many theatres, the author does more than accompany the men into battle. He reveals their backgrounds and characters, and shows how high the price of fame can be. Some winners have been unable to handle the renown that the award brought them, several have committed suicide, and others have ended their lives in paupers' graves neglected by the nation they served.
Thrilling and often intensely moving, Supreme Courage is an important addition to the literature of war, and a magnificent monument to heroism.