TROOPER MARK GREGOR DONALDSON AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS FOR AUSTRALIA The members of the 4RAR Associations of Australia salute Trooper Mark Gregor Donaldson VC.
For most conspicuous acts of gallantry in action in a circumstance of great peril in Afghanistan as part of the Special Operations Task Group during Operation SLIPPER, Oruzgan Province, Afghanistan.
Trooper Mark Gregor Donaldson enlisted into the Australian Army on 18 June 2002. After completing Recruit and Initial and Employment Training he was posted to the 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment. Having successfully completed the Special Air Service Selection Course in April 2004, Trooper Donaldson was posted to Special Air Service Regiment in May 2004.
On 2 September 2008, during the conduct of a fighting patrol, Trooper Donaldson was travelling in a combined Afghan, US and Australian vehicle convoy that was engaged by a numerically superior, entrenched and coordinated enemy ambush. The ambush was initiated by a high volume of sustained machine gun fire coupled with the effective use of rocket propelled grenades. Such was the effect of the initiation that the combined patrol suffered numerous casualties, completely lost the initiative and became immediately suppressed. It was over two hours before the convoy was able to establish a clean break and move to an area free of enemy fire.
In the early stages of the ambush, Trooper Donaldson reacted spontaneously to regain the initiative. He moved rapidly between alternate positions of cover engaging the enemy with 66mm and 84mm anti-armour weapons as well as his M4 rifle. During an early stage of the enemy ambush, he deliberately exposed himself to enemy fire in order to draw attention to himself and thus away from wounded soldiers. This selfless act alone bought enough time for those wounded to be moved to relative safety.
As the enemy had employed the tactic of a rolling ambush, the patrol was forced to conduct numerous vehicle manoeuvres, under intense enemy fire, over a distance of approximately four kilometres to extract the convoy from the engagement area. Compounding the extraction was the fact that casualties had consumed all available space within the vehicles. Those who had not been wounded, including Trooper Donaldson, were left with no option but to run beside the vehicles throughout. During the conduct of this vehicle manoeuvre to extract the convoy from the engagement area, a severely wounded coalition force interpreter was inadvertently left behind. Of his own volition and displaying complete disregard for his own safety, Trooper Donaldson moved alone, on foot, across approximately 80 metres of exposed ground to recover the wounded interpreter. His movement, once identified by the enemy, drew intense and accurate machine gun fire from entrenched positions. Upon reaching the wounded coalition force interpreter, Trooper Donaldson picked him up and carried him back to the relative safety of the vehicles then provided immediate first aid before returning to the fight.
On subsequent occasions during the battle, Trooper Donaldson administered medical care to other wounded soldiers, whilst continually engaging the enemy.
Trooper Donaldson’s acts of exceptional gallantry in the face of accurate and sustained enemy fire ultimately saved the life of a coalition force interpreter and ensured the safety of the other members of the combined Afghan, US and Australian force. Trooper Donaldson’s actions on this day displayed exceptional courage in circumstances of great peril. His actions are of the highest accord and are in keeping with the finest traditions of the Special Operations Command, the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force.
On 22 January 2009, Trooper Donaldson presented his Victoria Cross to the Australian War Memorial on permanent loan.
The Victoria Cross for Australia
Significance The Victoria Cross is the pre-eminent award for acts of bravery in wartime and is Australia's highest military honour.
It is awarded to persons who, in the presence of the enemy, display the most conspicuous gallantry; a daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice; or extreme devotion to duty.
The Victoria Cross was created by Queen Victoria in 1856 and made retrospective to 1854 to cover the period of the Crimea War.
Until the Victoria Cross for Australia was created in 1991, Australians were eligible for the Victoria Cross and other awards under the Imperial system of honours.
The Imperial Victoria Cross has been awarded to ninety six Australians. Ninety one received the Victoria Cross whilst serving with Australian forces and five Australians received the award while serving with South African and British units.
Australians were first recognised for their gallantry in the Boer War and more recently during the Vietnam War.
Australians have been awarded the Victoria Cross in the following conflicts:
·6 in the Boer War 1899-1902
·64 in World War I 1914-1918
·2 in North Russia 1919
·20 in World War II 1939-1945
·4 in Vietnam 1962-1972
Nine of the crosses awarded in World War I were for Australians at Gallipoli.
Victoria Cross for Australia
The Victoria Cross for Australia was instituted in the Australian honours system by Letters Patent on 15 January 1991.
It replaced the British or Imperial Victoria Cross. Trooper Donaldson has been awarded the first Victoria Cross for Australia.
Ninety six Australians have been awarded the Imperial Victoria Cross.
The first Australian to be awarded a Victoria Cross was Captain Sir Neville Howse VC KCMG CB KStJ during the Boer War (1900). He also served in World War I and later as Commonwealth Minister for Health, Defence and Repatriation.
The most recent recipient of the Victoria Cross was Warrant Officer Keith Payne VC OAM for gallantry on 24 May 1969 in South Vietnam. Under heavy enemy fire Payne instigated a daring rescue of more than forty men; many of them wounded, and led the party back to the battalion base.
Along with Mr Payne VC, the only other surviving Australian VC recipient is Victorian Edward Kenna VC. On 15 May 1945, Private Kenna was involved in an action near Wewak, New Guinea, during which he exposed himself to heavy fire, killing a Japanese machine gun crew and making it possible for his company's attack to succeed. For this he was awarded the Victoria Cross. Three weeks later he was shot in the mouth and spent more than a year in hospital before being discharged from the AIF in December 1946.
How it is awarded
The Governor-General awards the Victoria Cross, with the approval of the Sovereign, on the recommendation of the Minister for Defence.
The Victoria Cross may be awarded posthumously.
The post-nominal entitlement for the Victoria Cross is VC.
A subsequent award of the Victoria Cross to the same person is made as a bar to the Cross. They are also entitled to the post-nominal VC and Bar.
The Victoria Cross is designed in the form of the Maltese Cross: in the centre of the medal is a lion guardant standing upon the Royal Crown.
The words "For valour" are inscribed below. The Victoria Cross is suspended from a bar by a crimson ribbon. On the reverse of the cross the date of the act of bravery is inscribed, along with the name, rank, and unit of the recipient.
Trooper M G Donaldson VC
Victoria Cross for Australia
Trooper Mark Donaldson VC, his wife Emma and daughter Kaylee at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, ACT.
On 22 January 2009, Trooper Mark Donaldson presented his Victoria Cross for Australia to the Australian War Memorial.
The Director of the Australian War Memorial, Major General Steve Gower (Retd), described the loan as a wonderful gesture for all Australians.
“Lending his Victoria Cross to the Australian War Memorial so soon after its presentation is an incredibly generous offer and we are delighted to accept his Victoria Cross and place it on public exhibition.”
Trooper Mark Donaldson VC was named as the 'Young Australian of the Year' on Australia Day (26 January) 2010.
Trooper Mark Donaldson's courageous actions represent the epitomy of the Royal Australian Regiments' motto, 'DUTY FIRST'; the combat skills and bravery of the nation's Army personnel; and the camaraderie which exists in all Australian Army units.
WELL DONE, Trooper.