On 21 February 2011, the Hall of Valour was opened by Her Excellency The Governor General Ms Quentin Bryce. The hall commemorates all those who have received the highest award for valour that can be bestowed, namely the Victoria Cross. It may be awarded to a person of any rank in any service, or civilians under military command. The first Australian Victoria Cross recipients’ were members of the colonial forces during the Boer War, where 6 gallant men were awarded. Since then there were 66 awards during the First World War; 20 in the Second World War; and 4 in the Vietnam War. In the last couple of years, the Victoria Cross for Australia was awarded to Corporal Mark Donaldson and Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith, both from the Australian Special Air Service Regiment, for their conspicuous acts of gallantry in action, in circumstances of extreme peril in Afghanistan.
The medal itself is rather plain, being a bronze cross and a tightly woven crimson ribbon upon which is written “For Valour”. However, it symbolises extraordinary actions and character, in the form of impeccable leadership in times of mortal danger rescuing comrades at the risk of one’s own life or standing fast against overwhelming odds.
Those that have been awarded the Victoria Cross are respected by all members of the Defence Force, so even a Private who has been awarded the Victoria Cross is saluted by the Chief of the Defence Force.
After reading many of the citations of those who have been awarded the Victoria Cross, a commonality seems to be that they do not wish to be considered heroes. Rather recipients are usually extremely humble, often saying that they reacted on instinct doing what they have been trained to do. Nonetheless their actions should be an inspiration to all of us.