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The official website of Paul Franklin: a father, veteran, activist, motivational speaker, and proud Canadian.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The new recipients of the Victoria Cross

Canada has yet to issue a Victoria Cross for its current operations but there have been a few Stars of Military Valour (which is one below a VC).  
Hopefully all the troops that deserve the recognition the deserve get it.
Canadian VC
The soldiers that I showcase below are recipients of the British Empires highest award and their stories should be read and shared by all.  Each Victoria Cross  for each country is slightly different.
Australian VC
New Zealand VC
British VC

"Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith Australian commando who stormed two Taliban machine gun positions and killed their gunners has been awarded the Victoria Cross.

It was the thought of his comrades’ families that spurred him to hurl himself into a hail of bullets and draw fire away from his platoon, before single-handedly flattening two enemy machine gun squads.

The same humility and dedication to duty was on show as the 32-year-old Australian was awarded the Victoria Cross at his Special Air Service regiment's home base, Campbell Barracks, in Perth yesterday.

Brushing off praise for his gallantry as he accepted the highest military decoration for valour in the face of the enemy, he insisted that the real heroes are those who have lost their lives in combat and dedicated his award to his regiment, with whom he said he was “so proud” to serve."

Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith VC

This is his citation:
"For the most conspicuous gallantry in action in circumstances of extreme peril as Patrol Second-in-Command, Special Operations Task Group on Operation SLIPPER.

Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith enlisted in the Australian Regular Army in 1996. After completing the requisite courses, he was posted the 3rd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment where he saw active service in East Timor. In January 2003, he successfully completed the Australian Special Air Service Regiment Selection Course.

During his tenure with the Regiment, he deployed on Operation VALIANT, SLATE, SLIPPER, CATALYST and SLIPPER II. Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith was awarded the Medal for Gallantry for his actions in Afghanistan in 2006.

On the 11th June 2010, a troop of the Special Operations Task Group conducted a helicopter assault into Tizak, Kandahar Province, in order to capture or kill a senior Taliban commander.

Immediately upon the helicopter insertion, the troop was engaged by machine gun and rocket propelled grenade fire from multiple, dominating positions. Two soldiers were wounded in action and the troop was pinned down by fire from three machine guns in an elevated fortified position to the south of the village. Under the cover of close air support, suppressive small arms and machine gun fire, Corporal Roberts-Smith and his patrol manoeuvred to within 70 metres of the enemy position in order to neutralise the enemy machine gun positions and regain the initiative.

Upon commencement of the assault, the patrol drew very heavy, intense, effective and sustained fire from the enemy position. Corporal Roberts-Smith and his patrol members fought towards the enemy position until, at a range of 40 metres, the weight of fire prevented further movement forward. At this point, he identified the opportunity to exploit some cover provided by a small structure.

As he approached the structure, Corporal Roberts-Smith identified an insurgent grenadier in the throes of engaging his patrol. Corporal Roberts-Smith instinctively engaged the insurgent at point-blank range resulting in the death of the insurgent. With the members of his patrol still pinned down by the three enemy machine gun positions, he exposed his own position in order to draw fire away from his patrol, which enabled them to bring fire to bear against the enemy. His actions enabled his Patrol Commander to throw a grenade and silence one of the machine guns. Seizing the advantage, and demonstrating extreme devotion to duty and the most conspicuous gallantry, Corporal Roberts-Smith, with a total disregard for his own safety, stormed the enemy position killing the two remaining machine gunners. 

His act of valour enabled his patrol to break-in to the enemy position and to lift the weight of fire from the remainder of the troop who had been pinned down by the machine gun fire. On seizing the fortified gun position, Corporal Roberts-Smith then took the initiative again and continued to assault enemy positions in depth during which he and another patrol member engaged and killed further enemy. His acts of selfless valour directly enabled his troop to go on and clear the village of Tizak of Taliban. This decisive engagement subsequently caused the remainder of the Taliban in Shah Wali Kot District to retreat from the area.

Corporal Roberts-Smith’s most conspicuous gallantry in a circumstance of extreme peril was instrumental to the seizure of the initiative and the success of the troop against a numerically superior enemy force. His valour was an inspiration to the soldiers with whom he fought alongside and is in keeping with the finest traditions of the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force."

Trooper Mark Donaldson VC with Corporal Benjamin Roberts Smith VC with Mr Keith Payne VC 

"The First Australian VC was awarded to SAS Trooper Mark Donaldson in 2009, the Australian VC has only been awarded twice since its inception in 1991.
An Australian SAS Trooper who deliberately drew enemy fire and then carried a wounded colleague to safety through a hail of bullets has been awarded the Victoria Cross.  The medal, inscribed with the words "For Valour", was pinned to the chest of 29-year-old Trooper Mark Donaldson this morning in Canberra by the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce.

Trooper Donaldson VC was recognised for exceptional gallantry in a firefight in Afghanistan last year. He is credited with saving the life of an interpreter.  Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the courage of his actions “leapt off the page” and would go down as Australian legend. 

"Trooper Donaldson, the nation salutes you."

Trooper Donaldson said it was a great honour, but: "Every single one of our soldiers that are there serving for the nation are heroes."  The married father of one said: "I'm still Mark Donaldson, and we'll keep going from day to day and we'll see how we go. 

"I don't see myself as a hero, honestly. I still see myself as a soldier first and foremost."  Trooper Donaldson said he had not really thought about the danger when he went to rescue the stricken interpreter.  "I'm a soldier ... I'm trained to fight, that's what we do, it's instinct and it's natural and you don't really think about it at the time," he said.   "I just saw him there, I went over there and got him, that was it." 

Details of the SAS soldier's bravery first emerged last year.

At the time the chief of Australia's special operations, Major-General Tim McOwan, said in late 2007 Australian troops had encountered significant numbers of Taliban prepared to attack them in large groups.   An Australian, US and Afghan convoy was ambushed by a superior and well-prepared Taliban force while returning to base. 

The clash resulted in nine Australian soldiers being wounded, the largest casualty toll of any single action since Vietnam. The previous day, the Australian soldiers killed 13 Taliban.  As the convoy withdrew, the Taliban opened fire. Major General McOwan said soldiers reacted without concern for their own safety. 

One, identified only as Trooper F at the time, but now known to be Trooper Donaldson, deliberately exposed himself to enemy fire on several occasions to draw attention away from the wounded.   He then saw that a severely wounded Afghan interpreter had fallen from a vehicle and was lying on open ground raked by machine gun fire. 

"Without prompting, and without regard to his own safety, Trooper F ran back to recover the wounded Afghan," the major general said. 

"He ran across about 80 metres of fire-swept and exposed ground, drawing intense and accurate machine-gun fire from the entrenched enemy positions."  Still under fire, he lifted the wounded man onto his shoulders and carried him back to the convoy's vehicles. He administered first aid and then returned to the fight."
Corporal Willie Apiata VC in his going out look
"Willie Apiata was born on 28 June 1972 in Mangakino in the Waikato. His birth certificate carries the first name “Bill” but he is known as Willie.
His father is Maori and his mother Pakeha. His parents are separated and he is close to his mother but has not had contact with his father for several years. Willie has three sisters and is the third youngest in the family.
He spent the early years of his life in Northland before moving to Te Kaha in the eastern Bay of Plenty. At Te Kaha he attended the Whanau-a-Apanui Area School which he left on the day of his fifteenth birthday.
When he was 16, his mother sent him to live with relatives in Auckland; he is close to this family.
Willie has a four year old son with his partner of seven years. Though separated from his partner Willie is a devoted father who spends every weekend he can with his son.
Willie affiliates to the Nga Puhi iwi (tribe) through his father, but as he has spent so much time in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, he feels very strong affiliation to Whanau-a-Apanui, which is also the iwi of his partner. Willie’s home marae is Tukaki Marae in Te Kaha.
Willie enlisted into the New Zealand Army on 6 October 1989 as a Territorial Force (TF), or part time, soldier in the Tauranga based Hauraki Regiment of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment. He was encouraged to join by friends already in the TF.
Willie first became aware of the New Zealand Special Air Service (NZSAS) when, as a TF soldier, he acted as a member of the enemy party for a NZSAS training exercise. In 1996 while still in the TF he attempted NZSAS selection but was not successful.
From July 2000 – April 2001 he served in East Timor as a member of New Zealand’s 3rd Battalion Group as part of the United Nations operations there. When he returned to New Zealand in April 2001, he became a full time soldier, transferring to the regular force of the New Zealand Army.
In November 2001 he attempted and passed NZSAS selection and attended the NZSAS training cycle in early 2002. On completion of the training cycle he was made a member of the NZSAS.
The NZSAS can now lay claim to having two of the most highly decorated New Zealand soldiers ever, in their ranks. In 1974, Sergeant Murray Ken Hudson was posthumously awarded the George Cross, (the equivalent of the VC for acts not involving an enemy action), for bravery during a grenade training incident in Waiouru. Sergeant Hudson was a former member of the NZSAS and had served operationally with the unit in Borneo in 1966."

Corporal Willie Apiata VC and Trooper Mark Donaldson VC
"Defence Minister Phil Goff today accepted on behalf of New Zealand the Victoria Cross medal awarded last year to Corporal Willie Apiata of the SAS.   The Victoria Cross for New Zealand is the supreme military award for valour. Corporal Apiata was awarded the VC for his actions in Afghanistan in 2004 in saving the life of a comrade while under heavy fire from opposing forces.
"Willie Apiata earned the Victoria Cross for his courage and selflessness in putting his own life at severe risk to save the life of his comrade," Phil Goff said.  "Today, in a further remarkable example of selfless behaviour, he has donated his VC to be held by the NZSAS Trust on behalf of the nation.
"His actions reflect the commitment members of the SAS have to each other and the importance the Unit attaches to humility as one of its core values.  "Willia Apiata says he wears the VC on behalf of the New Zealand SAS, the NZ Defence Force and all New Zealanders. Like others before him, such as Charles Upham, he credits the winning of the medal to the shared efforts of the wider group of which he is a part.
"His decision to donate his medal and not seek material reward from it is hugely generous. It ensures that his VC is protected for the future generations of New Zealanders. It can never be sold.  "The medal will reside in the SAS compound in Papakura and will be on public display whenever Corporal Apiata wears it for public ceremonial purposes.
"In the future, the medal could go on public display at special events or ceremonies. This decision will be made by the NZSAS Trust, a charitable organisation dedicated to the welfare of SAS members and their families, in consultation with Corporal Apiata.  "New Zealanders can be proud of the extraordinary heroism and outstanding performance of duty by Corporal Apiata and gratified by his generous decision to gift it to New Zealand," Phil Goff said.   
"This medal is the first Victoria Cross for New Zealand to be awarded since it was instituted in 1999. It is the 14th VC awarded since the end of WWII and the first awarded to a member of the New Zealand military since 1946," Phil Goff said."
In the UK the Victoria Cross has been given to a living soldier and one who recieved it posthumously during the current conflicts:
Private Johnson Gideon Beharry VC
First to Private Johnson Gideon Beharry and his citation reads in full:

"Private Beharry carried out two individual acts of great heroism by which he saved the lives of his comrades. Both were in direct face of the enemy, under intense fire, at great personal risk to himself (one leading to him sustaining very serious injuries). His valour is worthy of the highest recognition.
"In the early hours of the 1st May 2004 Beharry’s company was ordered to replenish an isolated Coalition Forces outpost located in the centre of the troubled city of Al Amarah. He was the driver of a platoon commander’s Warrior armoured fighting vehicle. His platoon was the company’s reserve force and was placed on immediate notice to move. As the main elements of his company were moving into the city to carry out the replenishment, they were re-tasked to fight through a series of enemy ambushes in order to extract a foot patrol that had become pinned down under sustained small arms and heavy machine gun fire and improvised explosive device and rocket-propelled grenade attack.
"Beharry’s platoon was tasked over the radio to come to the assistance of the remainder of the company, who were attempting to extract the isolated foot patrol. As his platoon passed a roundabout, en route to the pinned-down patrol, they became aware that the road to the front was empty of all civilians and traffic – an indicator of a potential ambush ahead. The platoon commander ordered the vehicle to halt, so that he could assess the situation. The vehicle was then immediately hit by multiple rocket-propelled grenades. Eyewitnesses report that the vehicle was engulfed in a number of violent explosions, which physically rocked the 30-tonne Warrior.
"As a result of this ferocious initial volley of fire, both the platoon commander and the vehicle’s gunner were incapacitated by concussion and other wounds, and a number of the soldiers in the rear of the vehicle were also wounded. Due to damage sustained in the blast to the vehicle’s radio systems, Beharry had no means of communication with either his turret crew or any of the other Warrior vehicles deployed around him. He did not know if his commander or crewmen were still alive, or how serious their injuries may be. In this confusing and dangerous situation, on his own initiative, he closed his driver’s hatch and moved forward through the ambush position to try to establish some form of communications, halting just short of a barricade placed across the road.
"The vehicle was hit again by sustained rocket-propelled grenade attack from insurgent fighters in the alleyways and on rooftops around his vehicle. Further damage to the Warrior from these explosions caused it to catch fire and fill rapidly with thick, noxious smoke. Beharry opened up his armoured hatch cover to clear his view and orientate himself to the situation. He still had no radio communications and was now acting on his own initiative, as the lead vehicle of a six Warrior convoy in an enemy-controlled area of the city at night. He assessed that his best course of action to save the lives of his crew was to push through, out of the ambush. He drove his Warrior directly through the barricade, not knowing if there were mines or improvised explosive devices placed there to destroy his vehicle. By doing this he was able to lead the remaining five Warriors behind him towards safety.
"As the smoke in his driver’s tunnel cleared, he was just able to make out the shape of another rocket- propelled grenade in flight heading directly towards him. He pulled the heavy armoured hatch down with one hand, whilst still controlling his vehicle with the other. However, the overpressure from the explosion of the rocket wrenched the hatch out of his grip, and the flames and force of the blast passed directly over him, down the driver’s tunnel, further wounding the semi-conscious gunner in the turret. The impact of this rocket destroyed Beharry’s armoured periscope, so he was forced to drive the vehicle through the remainder of the ambushed route, some 1500 metres long, with his hatch opened up and his head exposed to enemy fire, all the time with no communications with any other vehicle. During this long surge through the ambushes the vehicle was again struck by rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire. While his head remained out of the hatch, to enable him to see the route ahead, he was directly exposed to much of this fire, and was himself hit by a 7.62mm bullet, which penetrated his helmet and remained lodged on its inner surface.
"Despite this harrowing weight of incoming fire Beharry continued to push through the extended ambush, still leading his platoon until he broke clean. He then visually identified another Warrior from his company and followed it through the streets of Al Amarah to the outside of the Cimic House outpost, which was receiving small arms fire from the surrounding area. Once he had brought his vehicle to a halt outside, without thought for his own personal safety, he climbed onto the turret of the still-burning vehicle and, seemingly oblivious to the incoming enemy small arms fire, manhandled his wounded platoon commander out of the turret, off the vehicle and to the safety of a nearby Warrior. He then returned once again to his vehicle and again mounted the exposed turret to lift out the vehicle’s gunner and move him to a position of safety. Exposing himself yet again to enemy fire he returned to the rear of the burning vehicle to lead the disorientated and shocked dismounts and casualties to safety. Remounting his burning vehicle for the third time, he drove it through a complex chicane and into the security of the defended perimeter of the outpost, thus denying it to the enemy. Only at this stage did Beharry pull the fire extinguisher handles, immobilising the engine of the vehicle, dismounted and then moved himself into the relative safety of the back of another Warrior. Once inside Beharry collapsed from the sheer physical and mental exhaustion of his efforts and was subsequently himself evacuated.
"Having returned to duty following medical treatment, on the 11th June 2004 Beharry’s Warrior was part of a quick reaction force tasked to attempt to cut off a mortar team that had attacked a Coalition Force base in Al Amarah. As the lead vehicle of the platoon he was moving rapidly through the dark city streets towards the suspected firing point, when his vehicle was ambushed by the enemy from a series of rooftop positions. During this initial heavy weight of enemy fire, a rocket-propelled grenade detonated on the vehicle’s frontal armour, just six inches from Beharry’s head, resulting in a serious head injury. Other rockets struck the turret and sides of the vehicle, incapacitating his commander and injuring several of the crew.
"With the blood from his head injury obscuring his vision, Beharry managed to continue to control his vehicle, and forcefully reversed the Warrior out of the ambush area. The vehicle continued to move until it struck the wall of a nearby building and came to rest. Beharry then lost consciousness as a result of his wounds. By moving the vehicle out of the enemy’s chosen killing area he enabled other Warrior crews to be able to extract his crew from his vehicle, with a greatly reduced risk from incoming fire. Despite receiving a serious head injury, which later saw him being listed as very seriously injured and in a coma for some time, his level-headed actions in the face of heavy and accurate enemy fire at short range again almost certainly saved the lives of his crew and provided the conditions for their safe evacuation to medical treatment.
"Beharry displayed repeated extreme gallantry and unquestioned valour, despite intense direct attacks, personal injury and damage to his vehicle in the face of relentless enemy action."
Corporal Bryan Budd VC
"Corporal Bryan Budd, 29, of Ripon, North Yorkshire, was killed when he single-handedly stormed a Taleban position in Afghanistan, in August.  It is the first posthumous VC to be awarded since the Falklands war.
He had a daughter aged two and his wife gave birth to their second child a month after he was killed in action.
A member of the 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment and originally from Scunthorpe, he was the 20th UK serviceman to die in Afghanistan since the start of operations in November, 2001.  He had been in the Army for 10 years, serving in Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, Macedonia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
He was about to be promoted to platoon sergeant.  His commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Tootal, said at the time of his death he was a natural leader.  "Bryan died doing the job he loved, leading his men from the front - where he always was," he said.
The Victoria Cross was created in 1856 to honour soldiers of the British Empire during the Crimean War who showed gallantry in the face of enemy attack.  Cpl Budd's wife Lorena, 23, a clerk with the Royal Artillery, said after the announcement: "Bryan will always be remembered by me as a loving husband and father to our two beautiful daughters, Isabelle and Imogen.
"The exceptional act of valour and the subsequent award of the Victoria Cross is representative of the sort of man Bryan was.
"He was a proud and passionate Parachute Regiment soldier and he was someone who was prepared to make the very highest sacrifice to save the lives of others."

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