News & Blog

Australian VC Awarded

Posted on Tue, 20 January 2009 by Phil Mussell - General News, Medal News

The first Australian VC (as opposed to a VC awarded to an Australian) has been awarded to Trooper Mark Donaldson of the Special Air Service. Details are as follows



It is with great pride that I announce that today, the Governor General will award an Australian Soldier – Trooper Mark Donaldson of the Special Air Service Regiment – the Victoria Cross for Australia. As Australia's highest military honour, it is only awarded to those who display the most conspicuous gallantry in the face of the enemy. In the history of our nation, only 96 Australians have been accorded this ultimate recognition of gallantry, dedication and sacrifice. Trooper Donaldson becomes the 97th Australian recipient of this award, and the first recipient of the Victoria Cross for Australia instituted in 1991.

Trooper Donaldson has been awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry under fire during operations in Afghanistan in September 2008. An excerpt from the citation for the award is as follows:

On 02 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 the wounded soldiers. This selfless act alone bought enough time for those wounded to be moved to relative safety.

The patrol was forced to conduct numerous vehicle manoeuvres, under the 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.

In accepting this award, Trooper Donaldson has also shown tremendous humility and has recognised that his actions were undertaken as part of a team. All Australian Soldiers should feel tremendously proud of the actions of Trooper Donaldson, and the recognition that the award of the Victoria Cross represents. His actions, and those of the other members of his patrol, are exemplars of the very best in Australian soldiering.

On behalf of all members of the Australian Army, I congratulate Trooper Donaldson on his being awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia.


Lieutenant General

Chief of Army

16 January 2009