Heroes come in many forms.
They can be sporting heroes like Pat Rafter and Tony Lockett. They can be heroes in the field of medicine, like larrikin eye specialist Professor Fred Hollows or heart surgeon Dr Victor Chang.
There are also heroes in the political arena like Nelson Mandela and John F. Kennedy.
But the true heroes of a nation are the ones that sacrifice their lives for the sake of peace ... those brave men and women who have been killed in war are the ultimate heroes.
And 115 of these heroes _ two from Ballarat _ have been remembered in a book, aptly titled The Ultimate Heroes.
Authors Jim Main and David Allen have spent years researching the lives of the 115 VFL (now AFL) footballers killed in war.
Two were killed in the Boer War and a total of 113 in the two world wars.
Jim Main is a journalist with more than 30 years' experience who worked on the London Daily Express and The Australian and has covered Commonwealth and Olympic Games. A Walkley Award winner, he is a football historian who, with Russell Holmesby, produced The Encyclopedia of AFL Footballers, which will go into its fourth edition this year.
David Allen is a university graduate and former teacher who has a passion for sports research and works at the Melbourne Cricket Club library.
The Ultimate Heroes is available from bookstores for $54.95.
The following is an edited version of the chapter on JACK TURNBULL:
NAME: JACK TURNBULL.
BORN: December 30, 1885.
DIED: May 2, 1917.
PLAYED: South Melbourne, 1908, 12 games, 0 goals.
RANK: Private, 39th Battalion, 1st AIF.
It is possible to imagine Private Jack Turnbull, sheet of paper and pencil in hand, crouched in a rear trench ``somewhere in France'', writing yet again to his beloved family.
Turnbull was a rarity among his mates in the AIF's 39th Battalion as he not only was married, but was the father of five children _ Edith, Alma, Lylia, Jean and John. His thoughts always were of them, especially of baby John, whom he had never seen.
Apart from letters to wife Mary Ellen, Turnbull sent postcards to his children and they never varied _ either photos of happy family groups or of curly-haired little girls. The simple messages, from the heart, read: ``To Lylia, from your dear Daddy, xxxxxxxxx'' or ``To Edith, I hope you are doing well at school, Edith, and be a good girl till Dad comes home. Goodbye, xxxxxxxxx.''
Early in 1917 Turnbull sent yet another letter to his ``dearest Mary'' and, after describing some of the atrocious conditions he endured in the mud and slush of the French killing fields, he added that he wished he could get a slight knock so he could be invalided home.
Soon after Mary Turnbull read this message, her husband took a very nasty knock indeed and, three days later, died of his wounds. He was 31 years of age and, tragically, had enlisted only because he was unemployed and saw army service as a way of providing for his family.
John (Jack) Charles McNicol Turnbull was born in the Victorian Wimmera town of Horsham in 1885 and, after a rudimentary education, trained as a bricklayer.
He also was a member of the local fire brigade and excelled in most sports, but particularly as a footballer and played with the Wangaratta club in 1906.
In fact, he was invited to train with VFL club South Melbourne and went on to play 12 games in the red and white in 1908.
A winger, Turnbull played without fear and his record of 12 games from the club's 18 that season would suggest he could have achieved a much greater match tally.
However, the young man from the wheat fields drifted back to his home town and played with Horsham in the North Wimmera Competition, achieving premiership success in a league played on Wednesdays because most footballers had to work on Saturdays.
No one will ever know why he spurned a VFL career but, with work difficult to come by in that era, it would be a reasonable assumption Turnbull saw employment as more important than football.
Regardless, Turnbull met Ballarat girl Mary Ellen Adams in Horsham and, in 1911, married.
Turnbull enlisted in Horsham to help his family ``make do'', shifted with his family to Ballarat and was assigned to the 39th (Ballarat) Battalion of the 10th AIF Brigade.
The citizens of Ballarat wanted to farewell their soldiers in style and, on the evening of May 11, 1916, held a ``complimentary farewell'' at the Coliseum Theatre.
From all reports, Turnbull was an exemplary soldier who never once faced disciplinary action.
He was delighted to hear news of the birth of son John on January 11, 1917, and dreamed of the day he would hold his boy and kiss his ruddy cheeks.
That day never came, as a shell bearing Turnbull's name exploded near him on April 30, 1917.
Turnbull's platoon sergeant, D.B. Cowan, explained in a letter to Mrs Turnbull some of the circumstances surrounding her husband's death.
He wrote: ``Long before this letter reaches its destination you will have been officially informed that your husband died on May 2 from wounds (to the chest and leg) received on April 30 last. I will not re-open your grief afresh by referring to the manner of his death, suffice to say that he died a gallant death _ every inch a soldier.
``I was near him when he was hit and assisted to bandage him and cheer him up till the ambulance arrived.
``However, it proved that his wounds were more serious that we had thought and in common with yourself and family, we are left to mourn the loss of a dear comrade.
``In England I was constantly with him in his spare time, and on both his leave trips to London _ four days in July and four in October _ he and I stayed together all the time.
``He was continually telling me of his wife and children and was particularly keen to get back to Australia to see the little child who was born after his departure, and only two days before we came into the trenches (on April 26, I think it was) he showed me the postcard of yourself and all the children which you had sent him and he had recently received.''
Private Turnbull's platoon officer, Lieutenant Stanley Le Fevre (later to be awarded a Military Cross before being killed in action on August 30, 1918) wrote to Mrs Turnbull:
``Your husband had an absolutely clean record all the time he was with us, always cheerful, ready for any work that was to be done, and always to be relied upon, and was marked down for early promotion.''
John Turnbull, who never saw his father, never heard him laugh, never felt the warmth of his paternal caress, was 84 years of age at the time of writing this book and is enormously proud of the very mention of Private Jack Turnbull.
He also cherishes the memory of Mary Ellen, the wife and sweetheart of so many letters from her husband ``somewhere in France''.
Appropriately, Mary's name also is engraved on Jack Turnbull's granite headstone at the Trois Arbres Cemetery, near the village of Steenwerck, France. They are together for eternity.
The following is an edited version of the chapter on MAX WHEELER:
NAME: Max Wheeler.
BORN: May 31, 1912.
DIED: June 17, 1941.
PLAYED: Hawthorn 1937, 1 game, 0 goals.
RANK: Private, 2/2 Pnr. Battalion 2nd AIF.
The death of Private Max Wheeler in action in the Middle East on May 31, 1941, would have been an exceptionally bitter blow to his father, Herbert John Wheeler, a Ballarat Shire councillor.
After all, Cr Wheeler had served with the 1st AIF and had survived, only to learn that his beloved son had died in the second great world conflict.
Geoffrey Maxwell Wheeler was born at Coleraine in 1912 and was raised in the Gippsland town of Warragul, where he attended the local high school and won a reputation as an outstanding young sportsman.
The Wheeler family then moved to Ballarat and Max quickly made a name for himself as one of the most brilliant players in the Ballarat Football League.
Representing the Ballarat club, he topped the BFL goalkicking with 108 goals in 1936 and The Courier of September 28, reported:
``In recognition of his goalkicking achievements for the season (he has more than 100 goals to his credit), M. Wheeler, of the Ballarat Football Club, was presented by the club and supporters with a gold watch.''
Wheeler, naturally, found himself the attention of VFL recruiting scouts because of his strong marking and accurate kicking. Hawthorn won Wheeler's services, but he played just one game in the brown and gold, against Melbourne at the Glenferrie Oval on the King's Birthday in Round 8, 1937.
Wheeler, who wore the Maybloom's number 15 guernsey, was named in a forward pocket but, despite his enormous reputation as a country goalkicker, failed to trouble the scorers in Hawthorn's 23-point defeat.
The young country star played with North Ballarat the following season (the Ballarat club dropped out of the competition in 1938) and kicked a season's total of 93 goals before returning to the Ballarat club in 1939 for another 93 goals.
Wheeler also played in the forward pocket in Ballarat's 1939 grand final side against Golden Point. He kicked five of his side's nine goals, only for Golden Point to triumph by 54 points.