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Monday, January 24, 2011

Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith

The Victoria Cross for Australia is the highest award in the Australian Honours System. It was created in 1991 and has precedence over all orders, decorations and medals. The first medal was awarded on 16th January 2009 to Trooper Mark Donaldson and yesterday 32 year old SAS Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith was the second Australian to receive this honour.

It was awarded for "conspicuous gallantry in action in circumstances of extreme peril" and together with the Medal for Gallantry he won in 2006, the VC makes him the most decorated member of the Australian Defence Force. With his family - his mother and his father who was a former major-general watching, Corporal Roberts-Smith stood proudly before Govenor General Quentin Bryce at SAS Headquarters in Perth yesterday.

He was an impsosing figure, 6ft 6in tall. He sat next to his wife Emma - they have twin 9 months old girls. The VIP crowd which included other surviving VC winners Keith Payne and Corporal Keith Donaldson, applauded Australia's 98th Victoria Cross Holder.

On the 11th June 2010 in the village of Tizak in Kandahar Province, two soldiers were wounded as their unit was pinned down by heavy Taliban machine gun fire. Corporal Roberts-Smith said "I just looked across and saw my mates getting ripped up. I decided to move forward because I wasn't going to sit there and do nothing - I thought I'd have a crack."

Former SAS sniper and author Rob Maylor served with Roberts-Smith for over a decade and said he was always destined for big things. "He's always had it in him, it really didn't come as a surprise. He's one of the best, very professional, down to earth, very good at his job and a good thinker. The further he goes through the ranks, he's going to become a great leader. He's a very humble bloke. Obviously it will change his life but it won't change his personality and character."

Corporal Roberts-Smith said a number of his colleagues would be recognised at a later date for their bravery that day. "It's like being a football team - you go as hard as you can until the game is won."

In this case the score was 60 dead Taliban.