By Flying Officer Claire Burnet
Anzac Day 2020 was a chance for Toowoomba-born Leading Aircraftwoman Tahnee Alexander to stand quietly on her driveway at dawn and reflect on the service and sacrifice of the more than 102,000 Australians who have died in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.
The Air Force Personnel Capability Specialist said she would be thinking about her great-grandfather, who served in World War I.
“When I graduated from Air Force recruit training four years ago I was presented with the Airmanship Award for excellence, but 100 years ago my great-grandfather was presented with the Victoria Cross (VC) for valour in the presence of the enemy,” Leading Aircraftwoman Alexander said.
“His name was Arthur Percy Sullivan and he was born in Adelaide and raised in Crystal Brook, South Australia. He was a bank officer when he enlisted in April 1918 and although he was too late for active service in France he was determined to see action, so volunteered for the British North Russia Relief Force.”
On August 10, 1919, while in action against the Bolsheviks, Corporal Sullivan’s unit was the rearguard of a column with-drawing across the Sheika River. As his platoon crossed the river on a crude one-plank bridge, it came under intense fire and an officer and three men fell into the river. Sullivan immediately jumped in and rescued them all, one by one, and was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions.
“His citation described the action as ‘a splendid example of heroism, as all ranks were on the point of exhaustion and the enemy less than 100 yards distant’.”
Corporal Sullivan was dubbed the ‘shy VC’ by the King because rather than waiting to be presented with his award, he returned to his family and banking job in Australia and it wasn’t until the Prince of Wales toured in April 1920 that he was presented with his VC medal.
“My family still have the photo of the Prince pinning the VC on my great-grandfather’s uniform and we are all very proud of his achievements.”
Other serving members of Leading Aircraftwoman Alexander’s family are her older brother and partner, who are in the Army.
Ms Tina Turner
Regional Manager Public Affairs
Brisbane Qld 4001