VC For Aussie Corporal Who Took On Taliban

10:15am UK, Sunday January 23, 2011

Ian Woods, Australia correspondent

An Australian SAS soldier has emerged from the cloak of anonymity to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith was given the country's highest military honour for his bravery in single-handedly attacking Taliban positions in Afghanistan.

He has become Australia's most decorated soldier, having already won the Medal of Gallantry during a previous operation in the country.

The specialist sniper rushed into machine-gun fire in Shah Wali Kot in northern Kandahar on June 11 last year.

The citation for bravery said he acted with total disregard for his own safety in initiating an assault against three enemy machine gun positions, despite facing superior numbers of heavily-armed insurgents.


VC For Aussie Corporal Who Took On Taliban

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10:15am UK, Sunday January 23, 2011

Ian Woods, Australia correspondent
An Australian SAS soldier has emerged from the cloak of anonymity to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith was given the country's highest military honour for his bravery in single-handedly attacking Taliban positions in Afghanistan.

He has become Australia's most decorated soldier, having already won the Medal of Gallantry during a previous operation in the country.

The specialist sniper rushed into machine-gun fire in Shah Wali Kot in northern Kandahar on June 11 last year.

The citation for bravery said he acted with total disregard for his own safety in initiating an assault against three enemy machine gun positions, despite facing superior numbers of heavily-armed insurgents.

I am so very proud to have taken part in the action with my mates. This award also belongs to them and to the regiment.

Corporal Roberts-Smith

At a presentation ceremony in the western city of Perth, Prime Minister Julia Gillard told the soldier it was "an award unsought, but completely deserved".

"Corporal Roberts-Smith, you went to Afghanistan a soldier and came back a hero. Our nation is enriched by you being among our number," she said.

The soldier, who is 6ft 7in tall, was presented with the medal by Australia's Governor General Quentin Bryce.

The Australian defence ministry introduced its own version of the Victoria Cross 20 years ago, which was sanctioned by the Queen and is identical to the original.

Corporal Roberts-Smith was part of a team of two dozen SAS men who were dropped off by helicopter after reports indicated Taliban fighters were about to launch an assault on a combined unit of Australian and Afghan army forces.

They immediately came under heavy fire, but the corporal's actions impressed his colleagues.

He was described as a "warrior" who "just tore into the enemy".

They said it was the most extreme example of conspicuous gallantry since Albert Jacka was awarded a VC after jumping into a trench full of Turkish soldiers at Gallipoli in 1915, killing seven of them.

The 32-year-old corporal said he was honoured and humbled.

"I am so very proud to have taken part in the action with my mates. This award also belongs to them and to the regiment," he said.

Corporal Roberts-Smith becomes the second Australian to be given a VC for bravery in Afghanistan, where 21 of his countrymen have been killed in battle.

Trooper Mark Donaldson received the top award in 2008 for protecting wounded soldiers under heavy enemy fire and rescuing a wounded Afghan interpreter.

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