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Second Australian VC In Afghanistan

  • January 21st, 2011
  • Posted by EUEditor

victoria_cross_medal_ribbon__bar.jpgA second Australian is being awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry in the war in Afghanistan.

The soldier from the Special Air Service (SAS) is to receive the medal from the Governor General, Quentin  Bryce, at the unit’s Perth headquarters on the weekend.


The identity of SAS members is  commonly not made public and the recipient this time is being named as “Corporal Ben”, a man already decorated with the Medal for Gallantry, for outstanding bravery in Afghanistan in 2006.

vc-family.jpgTrooper Mark Donaldson (picture, with family) from the SAS was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration, for conspicuous bravery, in 2009 – also arising from an action in Afghanistan against Taliban insurgents. See EUaustralia Online, “Mark Donaldson VC”, 9.2.09.

The new award arises from fighting last year in which the soldier is reported to have attacked enemy positions after realising other troops were in danger, single-handedly destroying three Taliban machine gun posts.

The story is redolent of many acts of courage by Australian VCs, especially this time, that of Corporal Jack French from Crows Nest in Queensland, killed at Milne Bay, New Guinea, on 12.1.43.

french-jack-vc.JPGHis posthumous award was for an action in which he sought to protect others, while individually assaulting, and destroying three enemy machine gun positions.

The citation read in part:

“The advance of the section, of which Corporal French was in command, was held up by fire from three enemy machine-gun posts, whereupon Corporal French, ordering his section to take cover, advanced and silenced one of the posts with grenades. He returned to his section for more grenades and again advanced and silenced the second post. Armed with a Thompson sub-machine gun, he then attacked the third post, firing from the hip as he went forward.

“He was seen to be badly wounded by fire from this post, but he continued to advance. Enemy guns then ceased fire and his section pushed on to find that all the members of the three enemy gun crews had been killed, and that Corporal French had died in front of the third gun pit.

“By his cool courage and disregard of his own personal safety, this non-commissioned officer saved members of his section from heavy casualties and was responsible for the successful conclusion of the attack … “  See London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35862, p. 319, 12 January 1943. Retrieved 2009-10-14, at, (21.1.11).

The medal announced this week is a Victoria Cross for Australia, the new name given to it after 1991; before that the Victoria Cross, categorised with the British decoration originating in the Crimean War, had been won by 96 Australians.

Pictures   Defence Australia, Wikipedia