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Army February 3, 2011
Recognised for heroism
By Sgt Andrew Hetherington
"MY HEAD'S still spinning. It feels
extremely humbling and makes me
feel extremely proud to be a part of
the unit, but more so the squadron
for what we achieved on the day and
being a part of something where we
took the fight to the Taliban and we
won. The boys did some amazing
This was the reaction from Cpl
Benjamin Roberts-Smith after he was
awarded the second Victoria Cross for
Australia and became Australia's most
decorated serving soldier.
He said he was speechless after
being informed a week before
Christmas that he would receive the
"I told my family and wife Emma
-- what do you do? We talked about it
and were blown away.
"After the initial shock wore off,
Emma told me not to do it again, but
she was over the moon."
He said he never thought he would
be awarded a VC.
"You read all the other winners'
stories and think that's awesome," he
"It's still surreal. I was just like
everyone else in Afghanistan; I was
doing my job -- I know it's a cliché
but it's true. You always go over there
and fight as hard you can and never go
over there half-hearted."
Governor-General Quentin Bryce
presented him with his award in front
of more than 500 guests at his unit's
home at Campbell Barracks in Perth
on January 23.
One of Cpl Roberts-Smith's mates
who shared a beer with him at the
after-ceremony function was fellow
VC recipient Cpl Mark Donaldson.
"I was in the same troop as 'RS'
when I joined the regiment and I
used to play rugby with him," Cpl
"For me to be told there was
another VC, then to be told it was for
someone from the regiment and it was
someone you're actually good mates
with, what more could I ask for? It's
Cpl Donaldson said his mate was a
naturally talented soldier.
"He does everything well across
the board. He is naturally gifted at
being able to shoot," Cpl Donaldson
said. "To do his job properly as a
trooper, then to step up to a corporal's
position, take command and inspire
leadership, came to him naturally."
He said his mate now had a lot to
look forward to after becoming one
of only three surviving Australian VC
"He'll get to shake a lot of hands
and sign a lot of signatures and I think
he'll enjoy it."
Sgt P -- who was Cpl Roberts-
Smith's patrol commander during
the action on June 11 last year and
who received a Star of Gallantry on
Australia Day for his role in the battle
-- was also there to congratulate him.
"Whatever job he takes on he does
it to the best of his ability," Sgt P said.
"He's good at it, he's an out
and out good soldier and obviously
Cpl Roberts-Smith said he knew
his life would change after receiving
"Having been mates with Mark for
Hard earned: Australia's three living VC recipients at the medal presentation ceremony at Campbell Barracks in
Perth. Cpl Benjamin Roberts-Smith is flanked by Cpl Mark Donaldson and Keith Payne.
Photo by Cpl Chris Moore
quite some time, I've had a bit of an
insight into what it would be like and I
think I knew what I was getting into,"
"The bottom line is life's going to
change drastically, particularly with
"The reality of it is the world will
turn and I'll come back to work and
there will be things I'll have to do on
the side, but my main focus, as always
will be to come back to work and run
my patrol and get prepared to go back
Full account of the action -- Pages 18-19
History of valour
THE Victoria Cross was created
by Queen Victoria in 1856 and
made retrospective to 1854 to
cover the Crimean War.
Until the Victoria Cross for
Australia was created in 1991,
Australians were eligible for the
Victoria Cross and other awards
under the Imperial system of
The Imperial Victoria Cross
has been awarded to 96
Ninety-one received the
Victoria Cross while serving
with Australian forces and five
Australians received the award
while serving with South African
and British units.
Australians received the
Imperial Victoria Cross in the fol-
6 in the Boer War, 1899-1902
64 in World War I, 1914-1918
2 in North Russia, 1919
20 in World War II, 1939-1945
4 in Vietnam, 1962-1972
The two recipients of the
Victoria Cross for Australia -- Cpls
Donaldson and Roberts-Smith,
both SASR -- received the award
for their actions in Afghanistan.
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