Heart of a Dragon, 1854-1902


Heart of a Dragon, the VCs of Wales and the Welsh Regiments, 1854–1902
W. Alister Williams

ISBN: 978-1-84494-027-1

Some sample pages from Heart of the Dragon can be seen here

Heart of a Dragon, the VCs of Wales and the Welsh Regiments is an in-depth examination of the details of a number of individual VC actions and other significant events in the lives of the men concerned. The thirty-nine men who appear in this volume (covering the period 1854–1902) are not all Welshmen, but they were either born in Wales, died in Wales, had Welsh parents or gained the Victoria Cross for an action whilst serving with a regiment that is today associated with Wales. Each entry contains full biographical details of the recipient and an analysis of his VC action. In addition, biographical details of a further nine men who have a more tenuous link with the principality are included in the appendices.

Amongst the men included here are the earliest award to a soldier (O’Connor), the first man to be decorated with the Victoria Cross (Raby), possibly the first man to be nominated twice for the award (Rowlands), the famed defenders of Rorke’s Drift, the controversial awards for an action in the Andaman Islands and the last man to be decorated by Queen Victoria (Ward).

The VC and medals of T B Hackett

This volume is illustrated with over 400 photographs, prints, drawings and documents, showing as many facets of each man’s life as possible. Many of these illustrations have never previously been published. Heart of a Dragon is possibly the most comprehensive study of a group of Victoria Cross recipients ever published.

229pp, 215 x 270mm, case bound (sewn), full-colour jacket.

Some sample pages from Heart of the Dragon can be seen here

Author Profile
W. Alister Williams was born in Gwynedd, brought up in London and educated at the University College of North Wales, Bangor. He was head of the history department at a large comprehensive school before embarking on a new career in publishing. He has a passionate interest in Welsh history, military history and genealogy, coupled with a fascination for old photographs; all of which come together in this volume. He is the author/compiler of twelve books: the series Old Wrexham — a collection of pictures; Old Pwllheli — a collection of pictures; the VCs of Wales and the Welsh Regiments (1984); Against the Odds — the life and career of Group Captain L.W.B. Rees, VC; Commandant of the Transvaal — the life and career of General Sir Hugh Rowlands, VC; St David’s School; and the Encyclopaedia of Wrexham. He lives in north Wales.

The author, W Alister Williams


The author has been researching the Victoria Crosses (VCs) of Wales for over three decades and the quality and depth of the research shows on every page. This extraordinary volume describes the lives and actions of 39 VC recipients who had a Welsh connection: either born in Wales or died there, or had Welsh parents, or who were serving with a Welsh regiment when they were awarded the VC. Each recipient has a ‘fact-file’ including the location of the VC, and the full London Gazette citation with date and details of their investitures. There then follows a biographical narrative in which the circumstances of the award of the VC are described in detail. The shortest entry is one page, but some are as long as ten pages. Each entry has excellent photographs, many published for the first time, including several images of VC groups. The photographs are reproduced well on good quality paper.

The VC and South Africa Medal of Robert Jones

The first entry begins with Luke O’Connor who enlisted as a private soldier in 1849 and ended his career as a Major-General. He was awarded the VC and was commissioned in the field during the Crimean War.
The last entry is Llewelyn Price-Davies who was awarded the VC with the KRRC in the Boer War in 1901. An Appendix provides short entries for a further nine VCs with a Welsh connection but who did not qualify, by the criteria defined by the author, for inclusion in the main body of the book. These include Chard, Reynolds, Dalton and Scheiss of the Rorke’s Drift action.
Of particular interest to medal collectors is a listing of the full entitlement of orders, decorations and medals with clasps to each recipient and a listing of all memorials. It is particularly pleasing to see Mutiny VCs included, as this theatre is the least written about in relation to VC recipients. The biographies are sensitively written, and it is sad to see the demise of some VCs in later life including more than one suicide.
The work overall is of a high standard in terms of research, content, images, presentation and layout. Many VC books these days simply churn previously published material. The author not only avoids this but brings to light new facts on each VC and actually corrects replicated errors in other volumes. For this he deserves much praise because of the time and effort original research emands. The book is a valuable contribution to VC literature and the author is warmly commended for researching, writing and publishing a VC work which will most definitely stand the test of time. We look forward to the next volume which will cover the period from 1903 to the present.

John Mulholland
Journal of the Orders and Medals Research Society, March 2007.

This is the first of a proposed two-volume history of VCs associated with Wales and Welsh regiments.
This handsomely-produced book is the work of an author who has written many books including the biographies of Lionel Rees VC and Sir Hugh Rowlands VC. This latest offering is very well researched and lavishly illustrated with many previously unpublished photographs. Starting with that extraordinary soldier, Luke O’Connor, who rose from private in 1849 to retire as a major-general in 1887, through the famous Zulu War VCs, and concluding with Alexander Cobbe, the 1902 Somaliland VC.
An excellent and beautifully produced book - a worthy addition to the expanding bibliography on the Victoria Cross. In fact this year has been a vintage year for VC books and this is certainly one of the best.
Brian Best, The Victoria Cross Society

This stunning new publication.
Royal Regiment of Wales Museum, Brecon

What a splendid publication.
Royal Welch Fusiliers Museum, Caernarfon

Heart of a Dragon is not just another study of the Victoria Cross, for this must be the ultimate in research detail albeit in a narrow field. Information is plentiful … There is an abundance of photographs both military and domestic … A poignant comment throughout this fine book lies in the pictures of cemeteries and many memorials are included and it is a fitting tribute. It is recommended without reserve and we await Vol 2 later on.
Dennis Pillinger, Bulletin of the Military Historical Society

Some sample pages from Heart of the Dragon can be seen here

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