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Roden Cutler’s list of honours is long and impressive, but it is his sole decoration, the Victoria Cross, that marks him as a hero. Over 800,000 men and women served in the Australian armed forces during the Second World War, but only twenty were awarded the V.C.
Colleen McCullough vividly shows us the life and times of the young soldier with the dashing good looks, the laconic humour and dislike of pretension who came back from the war determined to continue to support his mother, but, having lost a leg, with no idea how to do so. Yet by the age of 29 he was eth Australian High Commissioner to New Zealand. His diplomatic career was to include stints to Ceylon, Egypt during the Suez crisis of 1956, Pakistan and New York. In 1966 he was appointed Governor of New South Wales; during his fifteen years in that office he shared with Captain Arthur Phillip and Lachlan Macquarie, he earned his own niche among them as “the people’s governor”. Much loved, still remembered as a man equally at home in the company of royalty or trade unionists.
His story is embedded in Australian history, and part of it. But it is also the story of a man who pulled himself up by his bootstraps to serve his country with courage and dignity in the face of all obstacles. In an age accustomed to public idols with feet of clay, Roden Cutler is the exception: a man whose integrity is as formidable as his humility is astonishing.