Australia — Victoria Cross Inquiry

The Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tary for Defence, Sen­a­tor David Feeney, today announced that the inde­pen­dent Defence Hon­ours and Awards Appeals Tri­bunal will inquire into unre­solved recog­ni­tion for past acts of naval and mil­i­tary gal­lantry and val­our.

“There have been numer­ous acts of gal­lantry and val­our by Aus­tralian naval and mil­i­tary ser­vice­men since World War I,” Sen­a­tor Feeney said.

“I am pleased that the Tri­bunal will inquire into recog­ni­tion for thir­teen naval and mil­i­tary per­son­nel. Their brave acts of gal­lantry and val­our deserve greater recog­ni­tion.

“Their sto­ries are hero­ic. Robert Davies fired at ene­my air­craft, as he and his gun mount slow­ly sub­merged. Fran­cis Emms manned a machine gun whilst severe­ly wound­ed.

Ordi­nary Sea­man ‘Ted­dy’ Sheean brave­ly shot down a bomber and kept air­craft away from his mates in the water. He went down with his ship.

These Aus­tralians will now receive the nation­al recog­ni­tion that they deserve,” Sen­a­tor Feeney said.

The thir­teen ser­vice­men include:

1. Gun­ner Albert Neil (Neale) Cleary – Army (East Gee­long, VIC)
2. Mid­ship­man Robert Ian Davies – Navy (Green­wich, Syd­ney, NSW)
3. Lead­ing Cook Fran­cis Bas­sett Emms – Navy (Launce­s­ton, TAS)
4. Lieu­tenant David John Hamer – Navy (Mel­bourne, VIC)
5. Pri­vate John Simp­son Kirk­patrick – Army (Shield, Coun­ty Durham, UK.)
6. Lieu­tenant Com­man­der Robert William Rankin – Navy (Cobar, NSW)
7. Able Sea­man Dal­mor­ton Joseph Owen­dale Rudd – Navy (Unknown)
8. Ordi­nary Sea­man Edward Sheean – Navy (Bar­ring­ton, Devon­port, TAS)
9. Lead­ing Air­crew­man Noel Ervin Shipp – Navy (Julia Creek, North QLD)
10. Lieu­tenant Com­man­der Fran­cis Edward Smith – Navy (Lis­more, NSW)
11. Lieu­tenant Com­man­der Hen­ry Hugh Gor­don Dacre Stok­er – Navy (Unknown)
12. Lead­ing Sea­man Ronald Tay­lor – Navy (Unknown)
13. Cap­tain Hec­tor Mac­don­ald Laws Waller – Navy (Unknown)

“A num­ber of peo­ple have raised the issue of a Vic­to­ria Cross for for­mer Defence Force per­son­nel with the Gillard Gov­ern­ment,” Sen­a­tor Feeney said.

“Through the Terms of Ref­er­ence, I have direct­ed the Tri­bunal to make rec­om­men­da­tions on the eli­gi­bil­i­ty of the list­ed naval and mil­i­tary mem­bers to receive the Vic­to­ria Cross, the Vic­to­ria Cross for Aus­tralia or oth­er forms of recog­ni­tion for their ser­vice.

“I am also pleased to announce that as part of this Inquiry, the Tri­bunal will receive sub­mis­sions from inter­est­ed mem­bers of the pub­lic for oth­er Defence Force mem­bers who may also be wor­thy of appro­pri­ate recog­ni­tion for an act of gal­lantry or val­our.

“How­ev­er, it is impor­tant that these sub­mis­sions are sup­port­ed by appro­pri­ate doc­u­men­ta­tion, not just anec­do­tal evi­dence,” Sen­a­tor Feeney said.

It is impor­tant to note that although sub­mis­sions for ser­vice­men oth­er than the thir­teen cas­es will be received as part of this Inquiry, they will not be con­sid­ered in detail at this time.

All sub­mis­sions will be record­ed, acknowl­edged, analysed and referred to the Gillard Gov­ern­ment for deci­sion con­cern­ing pos­si­ble future action.

“I encour­age for­mer ser­vice mem­bers, his­to­ri­ans, fam­i­ly of the thir­teen mil­i­tary per­son­nel and mem­bers of the gen­er­al pub­lic to take advan­tage of this oppor­tu­ni­ty and make a sub­mis­sion to the Tri­bunal,” Sen­a­tor Feeney said.

The Inquiry will be head­ed by the Chair of the Tri­bunal, Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor Den­nis Pearce AO. He will be assist­ed by Tri­bunal mem­bers:

  • Pro­fes­sor David Horner AM, Pro­fes­sor of Aus­tralian Defence His­to­ry in the Strate­gic and Defence Stud­ies Cen­tre at the Aus­tralian Nation­al Uni­ver­si­ty;
  • Vice Admi­ral Don Chalmers AO (Retd), for­mer Chief of Navy;
  • Brigadier Gary Born­holt AM, CSC (Retd), for­mer senior Army offi­cer; and
  • Air Com­modore Mark Lax OAM, CSM (Retd), for­mer senior Air Force offi­cer.

“Before the Tri­bunal can make any rec­om­men­da­tions on the eli­gi­bil­i­ty of the thir­teen cas­es for any form of ret­ro­spec­tive recog­ni­tion, we will have to look at the rules, pro­ce­dures and issues of prin­ci­ple relat­ing to the award of the Vic­to­ria Cross, the Vic­to­ria Cross for Aus­tralia, and oth­er forms of appro­pri­ate recog­ni­tion and the evi­den­tiary stan­dards,” Pro­fes­sor Pearce said.

“We will con­sult experts in the field of hon­ours and awards. We will also take into account the con­sti­tu­tion­al and diplo­mat­ic issues.

“Only once this has all been done, will the Tri­bunal be able to pro­ceed to the con­sid­er­a­tion of the thir­teen cas­es. We are expect­ing to con­duct pub­lic hear­ings around Aus­tralia in the sec­ond half of this year,” Pro­fes­sor Pearce said.

A call for sub­mis­sions will be released short­ly in the nation­al press. Sub­mis­sions to the Inquiry will close on 30 June 2011. The full terms of ref­er­ence for the inquiry and guid­ance on how to make a sub­mis­sion can be obtained at: www.defence-honours-tribunal.gov.au

The Tri­bunal can be con­tact­ed at:

Defence Hon­ours and Awards Appeals Tri­bunal
Locked Bag 7765
CANBERRA BUSINESS CENTRE ACT 2610
or via e-mail to DHA.Tribunal@defence.gov.au

Fur­ther Infor­ma­tion: Mary Berming­ham, Act­ing Exec­u­tive Offi­cer, Defence Hon­ours and Awards Appeals Tri­bunal (02) 6266 3486

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

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