The late Cameron Baird has been named Australia’s 100th Victoria Cross recipient for bravery on the battlefield.
If not for injury, Australia’s 100th Victoria Cross recipient, Cameron Baird, could have been a professional footballer. Instead, he became one of Australia’s bravest and most decorated soldiers.
His bravery and self-sacrifice was recognised on Thursday with the announcement that he would posthumously receive the nation’s highest award for gallantry.
Corporal Baird, 32, died as he assaulted an insurgent-held compound during a special forces mission in the Khod Valley in Afghanistan’s Oruzgan province on June 22 last year.
He was the 40th Australian to die in Afghanistan, the fourth awarded the VC and the first posthumously since Vietnam.
He was also a very humble person who shunned the limelight and would have seen this not as an award to himself but as recognition of all his fellow soldiers, his brother Brendan told reporters.
“As a loving family this is a bittersweet moment as Cameron is no longer with us but we are honoured to have him recognised in this way and through him, all of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their beloved country,” he said.
“Lest we forget. Without Warning,” he concluded.
Without Warning is the motto of the 2nd Commando Regiment.
Cpl Baird’s father Doug said he was an outstanding sportsman and junior footballer for the Calder Cannons and could have been drafted by an AFL club if not for a shoulder injury.
So Cameron Baird joined the army at 18, serving with the 4th Battalion (Commando) – now the 2nd Commando Regiment – in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan.
During his second deployment to Afghanistan in 2007, he was awarded the Medal for Gallantry for bravery during a close-quarters fight with insurgents.
Following his death last year in his fifth tour, Defence revealed scant details beyond that he was shot and killed during a Special Operations Task Group operation.
Full details of his VC action won’t be disclosed until Governor-General Quentin Bryce reads the official citation when she confers the award on his parents next Tuesday.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott revealed some details to a packed House of Representatives chamber on Thursday.
It occurred as Commandos attacked well-defended enemy positions in the village of Ghawchak.
Cpl Baird charged enemy positions, destroying them with grenade and rifle fire.
“By drawing fire on himself, repeatedly, he enabled other members of his team to regain the initiative,” Mr Abbott said.
In the second phase, he led an assault on an enemy compound.
On separate occasions under heavy fire, he forced the door from a building.
Twice he withdrew to reload and to clear his rifle.
“For the third time he entered the building drawing fire away from his comrades who were able to secure the objective. Tragically, he was killed in this final assault,” he said.
Mr Abbott cited the accounts of two comrades, both probably used to support the VC recommendation.
“Corporal Baird’s initiative, fearless tenacity and dedication to duty in the face of the enemy were exemplary; an absolute inspiration to the entire team. I was witness to the ultimate sacrifice,” said one.
“His repeated attempts to attack that room with six insurgents inside was the bravest event that I have ever seen, in my experience, on two tours as a commando,” said the other.