Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 1 2009 Contents shooting an 84mm, so I was trying to get that in the
right spot. I honestly didn’t think that ‘shit, there’s a
lot of fire coming down’. It was more that we just had
to fight back.
Regaining the initiative
It was really just the volume of fire that went back
down. They [Americans] had the Humvees with a 40mm
and the 50-cals [50-calibre machine guns] and they
also had 60mm mortars that they cracked out of one
of the vehicles. One of the blokes helped load them up
and shoot them off while giving target indications. The
vehicles were moving around for a bit too – shoot for a
bit and then move – keep shooting and moving. I guess
that’s what really gave us that time to start moving out
Rescue of Afghan interpreter
There was an RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] air
burst above his vehicle and he was in the back of that,
`cause the humvees have an open back on them. And
he just got blown out of it by the air burst. Obviously
the car was driving at the time and it just kept driving.
It didn’t know that someone got blown off the back.
We saw it from behind and that’s when I ran out there
and grabbed him.
I just saw him lying there so I just went over to get
him. I got him moving and just got him out of there. You
know, it was...yeah...it was pretty intense.
I started dragging him first and then we got him to
his feet and I put my arm around him and got him back
to the vehicle. There was a lot of fire coming down. You
could see it kicking up everywhere in the dust around
us. It was pretty intense there as well.
From what I remember seeing, everyone was still
fighting. Of course, your mates are always going to
fight by your side and they’re going to be there to fight
for you, especially if they see you in trouble, or if you
look across and you see them fighting, it just makes you
want to fight hard as well.
Eventually myself and one of the other blokes got
into the back of the vehicles and we started moving.
We got moving a bit better from there. They were still
shooting at us, into the back of the vehicle, as we were
driving out of there.
It’s definitely the most intense fire fight I’ve been in.
Back on base
When we got back there [to base], we had the
triage set up and the medic was doing an awesome job
of getting everyone sorted out and everyone getting
first-aid given to them. You’d look down and there was
12 stretchers laid out with all these guys lying there,
bandages all over them and getting patched up and
people just trying to give them first aid.
You’re watching your mates and you’re just
going, ‘mate, I’m just gonna have to come back to you
because Johno or whoever over here needs help first’.
That was the last time for a while that we saw a few
So after that, we got back and just sat down and
had a bit of a chat about it and went over things like
blokes do, you know, they talk to each other and just
talk about what they saw.
The first time someone actually spoke to me directly
about it was probably the day after I received it [the VC]
and it was one of the guys that was there and he just
said, ‘you know, myself and one other bloke were talking
about it and we were just amazed that I didn’t get hit’.
They couldn’t believe it and they just said I definitely
deserve it, so...yeah.
Train hard, fight easy
Training is what really kept us alive. It’s just the
training that we do. We train pretty hard and we
rehearse a lot of things. Train hard and fight easy I
guess is that old adage. It’s not always an easy fight,
but hopefully you’ve trained a lot harder than when
the fight comes up.
It was about two weeks before the ceremony
when I first found out. The CO rang me up and said he
wanted to have a chat with myself and my wife and
the Chief of Army. And we just made a booking and
sat down and he just gave me the bit of paper.
I never knew at all that people were going to
put me up for an award. I was stunned, overwhelmed
and what do you say. You’ve just been told you’re
being awarded the highest honour you can get in the
Australian honours and awards system. I don’t know
how anyone reacts to that to be honest.
Yesterday [18 January] it started sinking in
when we had five minutes to sit down and just be
yourselves again and you know, you sit there and
just go ‘wow, I’ve just received this. This isn’t all
caught up in a whirlwind anymore; it’s starting to be
a bit of reality’.
In the short term, there’s a lot of things I have
to do with being a recipient of the VC and I want to
honour those commitments. In the long term, hopefully
I’ll just go back to being a soldier, because that’s what I
joined up to be.
I just want to keep my Army career going. We’ll
see what happens really. We’ll start with tomorrow and
then we’ll see where it goes from there.
For Most Conspicuous Acts of Gallantry
The Victoria Cross (VC) remains the most
honoured and most coveted award of all the
orders and decorations open to members of the
ADF. It stands for supreme courage, a disregard
for danger and complete devotion to duty.
Created by Queen Victoria in 1856, and
made retrospective to 1854 to recongnise
the individual deeds during the Crimean War,
the Imperial VC has been awarded to 96
Australians. The Australian VC, created in 1991,
has been awarded to only one Australian –
Trooper Mark Donaldson.
Senior Curator at the Australian War
Memorial, Nick Fletcher, believes that a look
back on previous VC recipients provides a unique
insight into the changing attitudes of war.
“If you look back at the earliest examples
of VCs to Australians, such as in the Boer
War, they tend overwhelmingly to be acts
of courage, of going out under heavy fire to
save a wounded comrade. It’s all about saving
lives,” Mr Fletcher said.
“But when we get into very serious conflicts
in which the nation itself is threatened, such as
the WWI and WWII, they tend to be much more
for killing large numbers of the enemy.
“But Trooper Donaldson’s VC is a life-saving
VC. He was certainly very active in attacking the
enemy, and probably inflicted heavy casualties
on them, but much of the focus has been on
how he saved the interpreter.
“I think that reflects our attitude to war a
bit more in that we have a great regard to those
who try to save lives. We may have seen the
wheel turn full circle there.”
The VC is suspended from a bar by a red
ribbon, and designed in the form of the Maltese
Cross. In the centre of the medal is a lion
guardant standing upon the Royal Crown. The
words “For valour” are inscribed below. On
the reverse of the cross the date of the act of
bravery is inscribed, along with the name, rank,
and unit of the recipient.
The Australian award is still hand-
fashioned by the original fabricators, Hancocks
Jewellers of London, and is still produced from
the captured Sebastopol guns.
When worn, the VC takes precedence over
all other awards, and is positioned to the far left
of any medal group.
By Jack Foster
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