Dell channels Vietnam trauma into PTSD charity

Former Australian fast bowler is helping to support military veterans, first responders and other victims of PTSD through his non-profit charity ‘Stand Tall for PTS’; his story is detailed in a new book published this week called ‘And Bring the Darkness Home’

Last Updated: 18/06/21 5:47pm

Left-arm seamer Dell played two Tests for Australia despite being born in Lymington, Hampshire
Left-arm seamer Dell played two Tests for Australia despite being born in Lymington, Hampshire

When England and Australia renew their Ashes rivalry this winter, it should bring memories flooding back for one former Test fast-bowler.

Tony Dell’s debut for Australia against England in the final Test in Sydney in February 1971 was remarkable for all sorts of reasons.

He had played just a handful of first-class matches and taken barely any wickets before being called up. He was also officially still a ‘Pom’, born and raised in England.

The Test itself was one of the most controversial in Ashes history, captain Ray Illingworth taking his players off the field in a row over intimidatory bowling.

Dell bowling to Illingworth on the first day of the 1971 Ashes Test at the SCG
Dell bowling to Illingworth on the first day of the 1971 Ashes Test at the SCG

But Tony Dell can tell you little about that debut today. His memory has fallen victim to experiences that mark his life story out as extraordinary beyond the cricket field, a life that touches on sport, war and mental health.

Dell was the only Test cricketer to fight in the Vietnam War. He is also the only surviving Test cricketer to have seen action in any major theatre of war.

When he returned from Vietnam, he had picked up where he left off as a promising left-arm swing bowler. His Test debut, in a new-look, young Australian side, was the moment he felt he had arrived.

But the years that followed saw his cricket career, business and family life fall apart. He ended up estranged from his wife and children, living in his mother’s garage.

Dell has revealed to me the full, harrowing story of that dramatic decline in a new book, And Bring the Darkness Home, published this week.

It was a fluke meeting 40 years after he returned from Vietnam, and well into his 60s, that he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Private Dell on his tour of Vietnam - an experience that would lead to his life falling apart
Private Dell on his tour of Vietnam – an experience that would lead to his life falling apart

Suddenly all the pain and suffering, the anxiety and dysfunction, started to make sense. He realised he had never confronted the horrors he had witnessed on the battlefield and, like so many before and since, had lived in silence with the awful consequences.

His resolve to do something for those who suffered like him led him on a journey. His non-profit ‘Stand Tall for PTS’ has become a movement for greater awareness and support for military veterans, first responders and other victims.

Proceeds from sales of the book will support the charity’s work. Dell is hopeful of one day seeing a Test match designated as an event to raising awareness of mental health and PTSD.

He has high-profile support from his former captain Greg Chappell. The Aussie legend played alongside Dell for years and had no idea he served in Vietnam.

Chappell believes Dell was robbed of a glittering career in the great Aussie team of the 70s.

But Dell himself hopes for a very different legacy.

He said: “The more I talk about it, the more that people see it is not just them going through it, the more it can encourage them to talk, then I have done something worthwhile. It is my therapy. Let’s see what we can do to help others.”

Proceeds from the sales of And Bring the Darkness Home will go to Tony’s charity.

Source : Sky Sports