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Stokes hands over last Gallipoli VC

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BerichtGeplaatst: 31 Aug 2006 19:42    Onderwerp: Stokes hands over last Gallipoli VC Reageer met quote

Stokes hands over last Gallipoli VC
Diana Streak
Saturday, 26 August 2006

Tourists to the Australian War Memorial looked on in amazement yesterday as a media pack jostled to record the handover of the last of nine Victoria Crosses awarded to Australians who fought at Gallipoli.

In front of a diorama of the action at Lone Pine, where Captain Alfred Shout was fatally wounded, media tycoon Kerry Stokes officially presented the VC to director Steve Gower, bringing the memorial's collection of VCs to 60.

Mr Stokes, who owns Channel Seven, paid $1.2 million at auction for Captain Shout's VC and other medals and said he was a "lucky guy", able to do what any other Australian would have.

"There isn't an Australian who I have met or who has written to me, who wouldn't have done the same thing. I got more out of it than I have given."

Mr Stokes said he was also pleased to have been instrumental in bringing many of the Shout family together yesterday.

"Generations of the proud Australian who won this medal are here for the first time together, able to share their stories, their family's history, and that is part of what this memorial stands for," he said.

"It's not just a recognition of bravery, it's recognition of the families of all of those who fought in these campaigns, and this action today is creating more of an understanding, and if we played some little part in that it makes me extremely proud and grateful to be able to have done it."

Captain Shout won a Military Cross for his "conspicuous courage and ability" during the Gallipoli landing.

In the attack on the Turkish trenches at Lone Pine on August 9, using crude grenades, Captain Shout bombed the Turks out of several positions and captured trenches under heavy fire. When he lit the fuses of three bombs simultaneously, one exploded in his hand, blowing away part of his face. He died two days later.

This is not the first time Mr Stokes has facilitated bringing medals to the memorial. He previously chipped in to help the RSL buy Vietnam War hero Kevin "Dasher" Wheatley's VC for a then-record $150,000 in 1993.

"I participated with the RSL to buy Wheatley's VC 13 years ago, which was the first VC in Vietnam. We acquired that for the memorial and I think that was actually the beginning of the acceptance of the veterans from Vietnam, so it was a great process and story.

"And like with the Shout family, it was very moving with the Wheatley family. A widow who brings up four kids on a widow's pension with nothing to help her and they all turned out as good tradesmen, good Australians and the medals end up here, that's a good outcome."

Mr Stokes, who is an honorary lifetime member of the RSL, said the league had not been able to raise enough money for the Wheatley medal, even though every Australian soldier had given a dollar and the public contribution was about 25 per cent.

"So I got the rest to acquire the medal and I enjoyed that, we had a good experience together. I found the RSL to be a very caring body and one I enjoyed working with."

He did not think that his involvement in buying the Shout VC would create an expectation of high prices in medal sales.

"For example, I bought Gosse's George Cross for $160,000 which is half what was paid for the last George Cross, which I think is in Brisbane, so there will always be variations at auctions on the day.

"It's not for me to get all the glory all the time, there are other people who want to do this, and I would be very happy to share it with anybody."

Captain Shout's grandson Graham Thomas said, "This is the perfect outcome - not only that the family has benefited but also that the medals are now safe forever with the war memorial.

"It's better than being in the garage in a box. I was sad to see them go, but they are in the best place, we are very happy and couldn't ask for more."
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