David Harvey

Devoted historian of the Victoria Cross
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The Independent Online

David Harvey, police officer and historian: born East Ham, Essex 1946; married Ruth Ward (one son, two daughters; marriage dissolved 1979); died 4 March 2004.

David Harvey devoted much of his life to researching the lives of men who had been awarded the ultimate military honour, the Victoria Cross. He made it his main concern to find the final resting place of all the holders. His research took him to 50 countries and culminated in his classic work Monuments to Courage (1999). It was a gigantic task, but as a result of his work so many heroes who lay in unmarked or paupers' graves are now being properly remembered. Without Harvey's devotion, many would have disappeared beyond trace.

In 1992, on his 40th trip to the Somme, he was struck by a drunken driver in an accident which left him paraplegic and never again without pain. Yet, he carried on his research from his wheelchair and remained totally dedicated to his work.

David Harvey was born, in 1946, and brought up in East Ham, east London, but his family later moved to Molesey in Surrey and at the age of 23 he joined the Metropolitan Mounted Police. In 1980 he moved to the United States, spending the next 10 years designing cross-country jumping courses and instructing in the art of jumping, culminating in teaching the US junior Olympic team. At a Colorado ranch he coached, among many actors, Robert Redford.

While in the States he worked closely with the Confederate Research Center in Hillsboro, Texas, where today the "Harvey Collection" in the Museum of Texas shows the graves of 1,500 Civil War generals. He also assisted the Congressional Medal of Honor Historical Society in locating many of the graves of its 3,500 holders, travelling to every state of the Union. There his Victoria Cross research was not neglected, as eight holders of the VC are interred in the United States and nearly 60 in Canada.

On his return to London he rejoined the police force, but the accident cut short his career, leaving him virtually housebound. This was a cruel blow, but he bore his circumstances with great courage. He was particularly proud of his book, Monuments to Courage, the royalties of which he donated to the Royal Star and Garter Home.

Max Arthur