Albany man’s incredible 39m-long Victoria Cross tribute honours all 123 Australian and New Zealand recipients
Only 123 Australian and New Zealand soldiers have earned the military’s highest honour — the Victoria Cross — and Albany’s Tony Banner knows the stories of the man behind each medal.
Since Queen Victoria awarded the first medal in 1856, 1364 crosses have been bestowed for the “most conspicuous gallantry, or daring or pre-eminent acts of valour or self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy”.
That figure includes five recipients of the Victoria Cross for Australia and one recipient of the Victoria Cross for New Zealand.
A sixth-generation army veteran, Mr Banner has spent three years crafting the Anzac Victoria Cross Story, a 39m-long mobile exhibition mapping the history of every Australian and New Zealand recipient.
Now, he is gearing up to take his project of passion on a three-year tour across Australia.
“I plan to get a vehicle, hit the road, see as many people and tell as many stories as I can,” he said.
The exhibition is a realisation of Mr Banner’s infectious passion for military history.
A keen collector and professional military framer, Mr Banner has worked every day for the past 18 months to research the recipients’ stories and build his display.
“I have always been passionate about collecting but when I started putting this together it started taking over my life,” Mr Banner said.
Each Australian and New Zealand Victoria Cross recipient has a panel featuring a biography, photographs and replica medals.
The 123 panels fit together in a 39m “Wall of Valour”.
Mr Banner has used social media to connect with relatives of medallists across the country who have helped write the biographies.
This included Douglas Baird, the patron of the Victoria Cross Trust and father of Cameron Baird, who received the Victoria Cross after he was killed in Afghanistan in 2013.
Mr Baird saw the Wall of Valour in person when he travelled to Albany last year to give the formal address at the city’s Remembrance Day service.
The stories behind the medals chart triumph and tragedy, mapping the lives of gallant soldiers before and after their years of service.
After returning from battle some went on to be politicians or governors, while the trauma of the time on the battlefield proved too much for others, who faced a life plagued by post-traumatic stress.
Many were killed in action and granted the honour posthumously.
“I thought it was really important to outline that they weren’t just being brave, they were literally putting their lives on the line for other people,” Mr Banner said. “They put honour, valour and caring for others ahead of their own life. I truly believe those values are something that has been lost.”
By presenting his free exhibition at schools, Returned Servicemen League sub-branches and town halls, Mr Banner hopes to inspire people young and old to embody the spirit of the Anzacs.
“If I can change one person in the next three years while I am travelling around Australia I will have achieved everything that I wanted to,” he said.
Mr Banner will take the exhibition across the South West next year before heading north and finally across the Nullarbor to the Eastern States in 2022.
Entirely self-funded, he is encouraging people to support the project by joining Club 123, Friends of the Anzac Victoria Cross Story, to help cover travel costs for the exhibition.
For details, visit The Anzac Victoria Cross Story on Facebook.
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