Book Review – Courage Under Fire, by Daniel Keighran VC

Reading Time: 2 minutes

It’s challenging offering a ‘unique’ review of Dan Keighran VC’s autobiography Courage Under Fire. Written with Tony Park, the book has already received a swathe of positive reviews and been touted as essential reading in military circles alike.

Given my avid interest in military history and reading, I’ve always been interested in understanding ‘how’ and ‘why’ people are able to undertake incredibly courageous acts in the midst of battle – like Keighran’s in the Battle of Derapet in 2010.

Keighran’s book highlights how the choice to display ‘courage under fire’ is far from a split-second decision. Rather, it is the culmination of a lifetime of experiences and lessons that have shaped a man into that rare breed of soldier – one that is selfless, tough and compassionate.  

One such experience was fishing with his grandfather, a WWII-veteran, where he learnt the value of patience and the importance hard work. 

He learned bravery and the importance of caring for the vulnerable through protecting his mother and standing up to his abusive father. Keighran’s resilience was hardened by spending much of his teen years living in a makeshift caravan-turned-tin shed – sleeping on a dirt floor with no running water or electricity. 

The hardships of his childhood and teen years make later sections of the book even more stark, thrilling, and entertaining. These include Keighran’s account of a decade of service in the Royal Australian Regiment – including several deployments to East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan – which culminate in his being the first recipient of the Victoria Cross from the Royal Australian Regiment in almost 40 years (Corporals Mark Donaldson VC, Ben Roberts-Smith VC and Corporal Cameron Stewart Baird VC were all members of the special forces).

Courage under Fire ends with an honest and open take on the challenges he has faced as a veteran transitioning into civilian life – from the immediate disconnect from his mates to his initial struggles in finding employment. It’s worrying to know that even a VC recipient is not immune to the well-known challenges that our veterans sometimes face when leaving Defence and transition to civilian life.  

Courage Under Fire is an honest, detailed reflection of the life of an Australia hero – providing a unique insight into Daniel Keighran VC’s many hardships, challenges, and successes. A ‘must read’ for all.

About the Author: Lieutenant Brody Hannan is the Adjutant of the 4th/3rd Battalion, the Royal New South Wales Regiment. Views expressed are his own.