Honours and awards

In the course of their duty individual army personnel and units may be granted honours and awards as a result of exemplary service.

Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross was created by Queen Victoria in 1856 and made retrospective to 1854 to include the Crimean War.

One hundred Australians have been awarded the Victoria Cross: 96 were awarded the Victoria Cross under the Imperial honours system (before the Australian Government chose to introduce its own honours system in 1975) and four Australian Army soldiers have been awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia, which was introduced as part of the Australian honours system by Letters Patent on 15 January 1991.

Australians have been awarded the Victoria Cross in the following conflicts:

Australian soldiers were awarded nine Victoria Crosses at Gallipoli, including seven during the Battle of Lone Pine (6–9 August 1915).

Unit honours

Units within the Australian Army may be granted a range of honours and awards by The Sovereign in honour of significant achievements during operations. These awards may take the form of honorary distinctions, theatre and battle honours, however all are generally known as battle honours.

Theatre honours

The immense geographical parameters of some conflicts required the division of hostilities into theatres, e.g. in World War II – North Africa and South West Pacific. The dates (years) of participation qualify the honour awarded. Although the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam were not on the same geographic scale, the use of a theatre honour prevailed. The award of a theatre honour is not dependent upon the award of battle honours.

Campaign honours

Campaign honours is a term which may be encountered and is used in a general sense. Some actions which occurred in a particular theatre may have comprised more than one battle. These were subsequently grouped as a campaign, e.g. the honour ‘Liberation of Australian New Guinea’ depicted, could reasonably be described as a campaign honour since it involved many battles over a protracted period.

Battle honours

Battle honours recognise participation in a particular battle. In differing cases, the battle may comprise of one significant action, e.g. Hamel in World War l or a series of actions spread over a period of time, e.g. Shaggy Ridge in World War II. It is of note that participation in a battle/operation does not entitle a regiment to a battle honour. The criteria for the award of a battle honour requires significant involvement in the battle. There are many examples of regiments which took part in battles but were not subsequently awarded the related battle honour.

Honorary Distinctions

The criteria for honorary distinctions, as were awarded for participation in the Sudan and South Africa, did not demand distinction in battle. Conversely an honorary distinction did not preclude participation in battle as occurred in South Africa, a conflict in which many significant actions occurred.

Specific battle honours

17th Construction Squadron Honour Distinction 'Namibia 1989–90'

The Honour Distinction ‘Namibia 1989–90’ recognises the vital contribution of 17th Construction Squadron to the United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) in the transition of Namibia to independence in 1990.

17 Construction Squadron was awarded the Honour Distinction, Namibia 1989-1990, in recognition of its creditable performance in support of the United Nations Transition Assistance Group operation to manage the transition of Namibia to independence in 1990.

Despite being deployed to provide engineering support, when the ceasefire broke down at the start of the mission, members of the squadron helped establish Assembly Points, which enabled the mission to continue. This activity was conducted in the face of hostility from elements of the former colonial power and personal danger arising from the breakdown of the cease fire. Later, 17 Construction Squadron became involved in the election process itself, providing security, transport and logistic support to election officials, monitors, other UN personnel, voters and polling stations. Members of 17 Construction Squadron ensured that, as much as possible, the election was able to proceed without interruption or interference and ensured that all parties were free from intimidation or duress. With the selfless support of individuals from other units of the Australian Defence Force, 17 Construction Squadron played a key role in the smooth and effective transition of Namibia from colonial rule to independence. The Squadron performed a role well beyond what was expected and brought great credit on itself, the Australian Army and Australia

2010 Eastern Shah Wali Kot

The Battle Honour Eastern Shah Wali Kot is awarded in due recognition of extraordinary heroism, exemplary combat performance and the relentless destruction of a highly trained and fanatical Taliban enemy of numerical superiority within the extremely inhospitable region of Eastern Shah Wali Kot, Afghanistan, during the period May to June 2010.

The Australian Special Operations Task Group Rotation XII, which included combat elements from the 2nd Special Air Service Squadron of the Special Air Service Regiment, Alpha Company Commando Group from the 2nd Commando Regiment, and supported by the Incident Response Regiment and the United States 101st Airborne Division, Task Force No Mercy, is awarded the Battle Honour Eastern Shah Wali Kot in due recognition of extraordinary heroism, exemplary combat performance and the relentless destruction of a highly trained and fanatical Taliban enemy of numerical superiority within the extremely inhospitable region of Eastern Shah Wali Kot, Afghanistan, during the period May to June 2010.

Tasked with a mission of vital operational importance within Regional Command – South, and of strategic significance for the International Security Assistance Force, from May 2010 the Task Group conducted a series of daring daylight helicopter-borne raids, deep into enemy territory, to destabilise local insurgent networks and to identify key Taliban leaders. Often resulting in fierce engagements with the enemy, these deadly shaping raids created fractures throughout the command and control architecture of the Taliban.

During the early hours of 10 June 2010, immediately realising a tactical opportunity, Alpha Company Commando Group audaciously established an attack by fire position inside the insurgents’ strong hold of Chenartu. Shortly after first light, the enemy surrounded the commandos and employed sophisticated tactics in an attempt to overrun the commando positions throughout the day. Holding their exposed positions doggedly under heavy and sustained attack, the commandos, determined to regain the initiative, launched several aggressive counter attacks against the assaulting enemy. Surprised by the ferocity of the commando response, combined with having lost significant numbers of fighters, the enemy withdrew to the village of Tizak to conduct deliberate planning for the destruction of the isolated commando company.

Receiving intelligence that a high level Taliban commander had now been drawn to the village of Tizak, a troop from the 2nd Special Air Service Squadron deployed by helicopter to conduct a kill or capture mission on the morning of 11 June 2010. Upon landing in Tizak, the troop was immediately engaged by a maelstrom of small arms fire and a stream of rocket-propelled grenades from insurgents in the village and the surrounding high ground, resulting in two friendlies being wounded in action and four helicopters sustaining battle damage. Despite being outnumbered four to one and suppressed under a hail of machine gun fire, the troop inched forward until they were again checked and fixed by the interlocking fire of three machine guns. Drawing on the deepest reserves of collective courage, combined with notable acts of individual valour and gallantry, the initiative was regained, allowing a subsequent break-in of the enemy’s defensive position. Exploiting a tenuous tactical foothold, the troop unflinchingly cleared the remaining depth positions in close-quarter combat throughout the remainder of the day while being relentlessly supported by U.S. AH-64 Apache helicopters from Task Force No Mercy. At the conclusion of the battle, late on the evening of 14 June 2010, a significant number of high-level Taliban commanders, a significant and disproportionate number of enemy fighters were killed, and the remaining enemy were routed and fled from the region.

The extraordinary heroism and exemplary combat performance displayed during the Shah Wali Kot Offensive resulted in a major enemy supply line from Pakistan into Kandahar being destroyed and the Taliban in eastern Shah Wali Kot being rendered ineffective. The battlefield orchestration, courage, gallantry and determination displayed by the combat elements of the Special Operations Task Group Rotation XII, under extremely adverse and hazardous conditions has set them apart, and by their achievements they have brought distinguished credit on themselves and the Australian Defence Force.