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Book details the rise and fall of Barton-born Tony Dell – the only Vietnam War veteran who played test cricket

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THE fascinating life of a Barton-born man who played test cricket and fought in the Vietnam War has been laid bare in a new book.

The biography entitled And Bring the Darkness Home details the mental scars of war that ripped apart the family and professional life of Tony Dell until a recent diagnosis of PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder – set him on a life-changing mission.

Tony’s local origins included living in Highcliffe before moving to Australia at the age of 14. After leaving school he served in the Vietnam War as a national serviceman in the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.

Tony was a radio operator in Vietnam (48647947)
Tony was a radio operator in Vietnam (48647947)

When he returned to Australia, the talented and tall left-arm fast-medium seam bowler made his debut for the national side in the famous final test of the 1970/71 Ashes cricket contest, which England won to take the series 2-0.

Despite the result Tony fared well, opening the bowling with the legendary Dennis Lillee and taking 2-32 in the first innings and 3-65 in the second. He was also present at the crease when the Ashes were lost.

But he played only one more test – against New Zealand in 1973/74 – partly because Australia had an embarrassment of fast-bowling riches, and he quit the game early and returned to his day job in the advertising industry.

While successful professionally, in his private life his marriage broke up and he became estranged from his children.

Broke and living in his mother’s garage in 2007, he was invited to a cricket challenge organised for defence force personnel from various countries, and was persuaded to go to his local Vietnam veterans drop-in centre to track down his war medals.

He sought help after fellow veterans recognised the symptoms of PTSD which led to an official diagnosis and he was given a pension. Spurred on to do something positive, in 2010 he set up the Stand Tall For PTS organisation.

Tony honing his bowling skills in the nets; he played in one Ashes test
Tony honing his bowling skills in the nets; he played in one Ashes test

In 2015 it was endorsed by then Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and was the official partner in the PM XI’s tour game against England that year.

The book has been authored by Sky News foreign correspondent Greg Milam, a cricket fan who himself grew up in Hampshire and has spent 30 years reporting and witnessing conflicts around the world.

“I was really intrigued by the story of how a young boy from the New Forest grew up to be playing cricket and going to war in the colours of Australia,” he said.

“I also really wanted to know what happened to him and why his career seemed to fade away. It turned out to be a remarkable story and one that I wanted to tell.

Tony spent his younger years living in Highcliffe
Tony spent his younger years living in Highcliffe

“I think so many people are living with the mental health challenges of trauma, whether military veterans, emergency service workers or civilians, and Tony’s efforts to help them are really heartening.

“He and his family and friends were very honest to me about the difficult times and how he is still dealing with them. He says talking about experiences has been his therapy and he encourages other sufferers of PTS to do the same.”

The 224-page book is available online and in stores.

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