Australia — Speech by Minister for Defence, Victoria Cross Investiture

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. 

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Australia 

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