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Australian war heroes back Tony Abbott’s plans for return to traditional medals for galantry
Daily Telegraph (Sydney) ^ | 27th March 2014 | Matthew Benns and Ian McPhedran

Posted on 03/26/2014 1:37:03 PM PDT by naturalman1975

AUSTRALIA’S war heroes have backed Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s suggestion for a return to traditional medals for gallantry.

Keith Payne, the last living recipient of the original Victoria Cross, awarded for valour in Vietnam in 1969, led the call for the Imperial Honours system to be reinstated.

“I don’t think it should have been changed in the first place,” he said.

“When you got the George Cross everyone knew what it was but when you get the Cross of Valour, the CV, people think you are handing in your job resume.”


“If you walk into an RSL today with an MC on then heads will turn, but if you walk in with a Star of Gallantry on no one knows what it is.”

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

TOPICS: Australia/New Zealand; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
I think the points are very well made. Up until 1975, members of the Australian military had been receiving the same decorations as others in the British Empire, and subsequent Commonwealth, and that means these decorations became well understood because of the significant numbers of them awarded during the two World Wars. Most people understood was a DSO was, or an MC was, and many people recognised them by sight.

The change to an Australian Honours system was made from the 1970s for two major reasons. The first was that we had a socialist government at the time, that wanted to reduce our connection to our traditions, the second was that there had been some issues with the fact that Australia had just, for the first time, fought a war that Britain was not involved in (Vietnam), which meant the British Ministry of Defence found itself involved in assessing decorations for a war they had not been fighting. There is considerable evidence that a large number of men had awards downgraded for political reasons because of the British involvement (and the Australian government of the time missed an opportunity to correct this that the British probably expected them to take - an "End of War" list).

The result was that a new system of decorations was introduced to replace the British Imperial system. The intention was quite clear - to have an Australian Medal equal in stature and status to each of the major British awards.

Because of its very special history, the Victoria Cross (VC) was 'replaced' by the Victoria Cross for Australia (VC) - an absolutely identical medal (it is manufactured by the same Jewellers who have done so for over a century) with the same post-nominal letters and the same criteria for awarding it. And Britain has shown that it is treated the same way - the three living Australians who have recently received the VC for service in Afghanistan have all been treated in Britain as having received a genuine VC. In this case, it's worked.

But for every other decoration, it's now different - and that is a problem.

The biggest problem in my view is with the Cross of Valour (CV) that replaced the George Cross (GC). The George Cross in the British Imperial system of honours, is treated as identical in stature to the VC - it is literally just as high an honour (nobody ever has, but if somebody ever receives both the VC and GC, the VC would take precedence only because it's the older award). The Victoria Cross can only be awarded for the "most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy.". That last criteria is the reason why the George Cross was created during World War II - to have a decoration that could be given for people who had been every bit as brave as VC recipients, when no enemy was present (a lot of the early GCs were awarded to bomb disposal personnel). The point is that the GC is meant to be as prestigious as the VC - and it is treated that way.

In Australia, it was replaced by the Cross of Valour (CV) which, theoretically, is meant to also be equivalent to the Victoria Cross - and officially it is. But hardly anybody in everyday life understands that. In 2002 in the aftermath of the Bali Bombing, two Australians - Senior Constable Timothy Britten CV, a police officer, and Richard Joyes CV, a civilian, repeatedly reentered the bombed Sari club at the most extreme risk to their lives, to time and time again carry others to safety. If they had received the George Cross (GC) instead of the CV, they would be close to household names in Australia - as it is, most people just do not understand what they did. Australia's last recipient of the George Cross - like Senior Constable Britten, a police officer, Michael Pratt GC - flies to England every couple of years to have dinner with other VC and GC recipients and a member of the Royal family - the CV recipients miss out in comparison. I don't know if that matters to them but I think it does illustrate the problem.

It's all compounded to some extent that most of the people who have received medals like the Star of Gallantry (SG) and Medal for Gallantry (MG) recently have been Special Forces soldiers whose identities are protected and so their awards can not be properly publicised - which means those medals remain largely invisible to the Australian public - for example the five soldiers who have received the Star of Gallantry in Afghanistan are known only as Sergeant A, Sergeant P, Sergeant D, and two different Private S's (the two SAS soldiers who have received the Victoria Cross had the protection on their identity lifted, and so these have been publicised but with a lot of the other decorations this hasn't happened). If they were getting more media attention, people might come to understand what they mean.

1 posted on 03/26/2014 1:37:03 PM PDT by naturalman1975
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To: naturalman1975

This is welcome news, the 1970’s changes never made much sense. All they really needed to do was move the reviews for the existing awards to Canberra from London.

Redoing a working and well known system accomplished nothing.

2 posted on 03/26/2014 2:19:06 PM PDT by GreenLanternCorps (Hi! I'm the Dread Pirate Roberts! (TM) Ask about franchise opportunities in your area.)
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To: naturalman1975

Tony Abbott is British by birth isn’t he? They certainly shouldn’t have changed the GC, they treated that award as inferior to the VC when it isnt.

3 posted on 03/26/2014 2:23:01 PM PDT by sinsofsolarempirefan
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To: sinsofsolarempirefan
Yes, he was born in England and came to Australia with his parents when he was about three. His mother was Australian-born, and his father had previously been a child evacuatee to Australia at the start of World War II, before serving in the Australian military later in the war.

The Cross of Valour is officially the equal of the George Cross and Victoria Cross, but I agree not retaining the GC in the same way the VC was retained undermined that official intention. The official reason for the different treatment was that because so many fewer GCs had been awarded to Australians in comparisons to VCs (only fourteen GCs compared to ninety six VCs, that it had not captured the same place in the cultural heritage as the VC had).

4 posted on 03/26/2014 4:53:03 PM PDT by naturalman1975 ("America was under attack. Australia was immediately there to help." - John Winston Howard)
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To: GreenLanternCorps
All they really needed to do was move the reviews for the existing awards to Canberra from London.

That would have been much more sensible - too sensible for a Labor government.

Although, to be fair to them, there were actually a couple of other genuine problems they were seeking to address - the big one being that officers received awards that were higher in status than other ranks for the same thing - so officers would receive the Military Cross and other ranks the Military Medal for the same action, among a number of other similar discrepancies (AFC/AFM, DFC/DFM - and to some extent DSO/DCM). That did need to be fixed and in 1975, it was beyond Australia's ability to fully fix it. I really wish they had kept the George Cross, though.

Britain finally fixed it in 1993 (when in cases of the discrepancy, the medal awarded to officers became the medal awarded to all ranks), and so that old problem is no longer something we need to worry about.

5 posted on 03/26/2014 11:19:41 PM PDT by naturalman1975 ("America was under attack. Australia was immediately there to help." - John Winston Howard)
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