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Corporal Arthur Percy Sullivan

Friday 13 September, 2019

Corporal Arthur Percy Sullivan

45th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, British Army

10 August 1919, Sheika River, Russia


Arthur Percy Sullivan was born in November 1896, grew up in Crystal Brook, South Australia.  Arthur attended the local public school and Gladstone High, becoming school captain in his final year. 

After completing his schooling he worked in the local branch of the National Bank, before being transferred to Broken Hill and then Maitland.

On 27 April 1918, Sullivan, aged 21, attended a gala parade at Port Pirie to raise funds for the Returned Soldiers’ Appeal.  He enlisted on the spot and shortly after sailed for England with the General Reinforcements.  On 5th October 1918, he was transferred to the Artillery, however the war had ended before he was allotted to a unit in France.  Promoted to Acting Corporal on 23rd of May 1919, five days later he joined the British North Russia Relief Force.  Officially discharged from the Australian Imperial Force on 12th June 1919, Sullivan became part of the 45th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. 

On the 10th of August, the British fought on the Dvina Front to disorganise the Bolsheviks so that they could easily evacuate North Russia. Sullivan’s unit was cut off so they had to fight their way back to their lines. They had to cross a deep swamp on the Sheika River by walking on a narrow plank. Whilst in the process, an officer and three other men fell from the plank into the swamp. While they were under intense fire, Sullivan jumped into the swamp without hesitation, determined to rescue them. Sullivan retrieved all four men from the swamp individually.

Sullivan was presented with his Victoria Cross in Adelaide by the Prince of Wales in 1920.  While presenting the award, the Prince asked why he had not received it from the King in London. “Well, to tell the truth, when I came back from Russia I got on the first boat and hopped off for home,” was Sullivan’s reply.

Arthur married Dorothy Frances Veale on the 5th of December 1928 at Fairfield, Melbourne. They had three children, including twins. He re-joined the National Bank, eventually moving to Sydney in 1929 where he was appointed manager of the Casino branch in July 1934.

Arthur attended the coronation of King George VI in London as a member of the Australian contingent. On the 9th of April 1937, he accidentally slipped on the kerb and hit his head on the pavement, resulting in a fractured skull. Arthur, aged 40, died later that day, survived by his wife and three children.


His citation reads:

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on the 10th August, 1919, at the Sheika River, North Russia.  The platoon to which he belonged, after fighting a rear-guard covering action, had to cross the river by means of a narrow plank, and during the passage an officer and three men fell into a deep swamp.  Without hesitation, under intense fire, Corporal Sullivan jumped into the river and rescued all four, bringing them out singly.  But for this gallant action his comrades would undoubtedly have been drowned.  It was a splendid example of heroism as all ranks were on the point of exhaustion and the enemy less than 100 yards distant.

The London Gazette

29 September 1919

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