Speech by Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, Victoria Cross Investiture of CPL Roberts-Smith Campbell Barracks, Perth 23 January 2011
Her Excellency the Governor-General, Ms Quentin Bryce,
Prime Minister, The Honourable Julia Gillard MP,
Governor of Western Australia, Dr Ken Michael,
The Leader of the Opposition, The Honourable Tony Abbott MP,
Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith, his wife Emma, and the Roberts-Smith family,
Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston,
and Chief of Army Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie,
Officers and Soldiers of the Special Air Service Regiment and their families,
distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Today we honour a young man recognised by his peers for his uncommon valour.
Today Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith joins the ranks of an elite fraternity.
Today, Corporal, you make many people very proud.
Your family, which has its own strong military tradition.
Your unit, the Special Air Service Regiment.
Your comrades in the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force.
Today you make all Australians proud.
Today you make your country proud.
Today, as well, I know that the people of Western Australia will be both proud and delighted that another special son of Western Australia has become a Victoria Cross recipient, the 9th Victoria Cross winner born in Western Australia.
Seven others who made Western Australia their home have also earned for themselves our nation’s highest military honour.
In 1956 your Regiment chose one of your Western Australian VC predecessors Percy Gratwick when naming its soldiers’ club.
At El Alamein in 1942, Private Gratwick’s platoon was decimated. Acting entirely on his own initiative and with utter disregard for his safety, Percy charged the nearest post and destroyed a mortar crew. He then moved forward, and again under heavy machine-gun fire, charged the second post with rifle and bayonet. He was killed within sight of his objective.
Like Percy, in the face of enemy fire and what seemed insurmountable odds, you showed this same extraordinary courage and an extraordinary willingness to sacrifice yourself to protect and help others.
I know from my visits here to Campbell Barracks and discussions with members of your Regiment, that accolades do not sit comfortably with those who have earned the sandy beret.
I am told this is even more so the case for those small number who have earned the Victoria Cross.
But today we are bound to accord honour and accolade to you as an act of dedication.
You serve now for all time as a reminder that a young Australian is capable of an extraordinary act of valour, capable of a standard of courage, of audacity and single-minded determination to help and to protect others.
Today our nation honours you as a truly brave and extraordinarily daring Australian soldier.
Your family, your friends and your comrades take great pride in you and celebrate you as a son, a husband, a father and a mate.
We honour you for showing the heights to which one can rise, as your unit’s motto challenges us if only we dare.
Ministerial Support and Public Affairs,
Department of Defence,