Victoria Cross

History

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:

  • 6 in the Boer War 1899–1902
  • 64 in World War I 1914–1918
  • 2 in North Russia 1919
  • 20 in World War II 1939–1945
  • 4 in Vietnam 1962–1972
  • 4 in Afghanistan 2001–

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

Recipients

The first Australian to be awarded a Victoria Cross was Captain Sir Neville Howse, VC, KCMG, CB, KStJ, during the Boer War (1900). He also served in World War I and, later, as an Australian Government minister responsible (separately) for the health, defence and repatriation portfolios.

Warrant Officer Class Two Keith Payne was the last Australian to be awarded the Imperial Victoria Cross. Invested with the Victoria Cross by Queen Elizabeth II aboard Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia in Brisbane on 13 April 1970, Warrant Officer Payne was awarded the VC for his “sustained and heroic personal efforts” while under heavy enemy fire in Kon Tum Province, Vietnam, on 24 May 1969.

Almost 40 years later, Corporal (then Trooper) Mark Donaldson, VC, became the first to be awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia when he was invested by the Governor-General in Canberra on 16 January 2009. Corporal Donaldson was awarded the VC for the “most conspicuous acts of gallantry in action of great peril in Afghanistan” during a combined Afghan, US and Australian partnered patrol in September 2008.

The second VC was awarded to Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith, VC, MG, on 23 January 2011 for “most conspicuous gallantry in action of great peril” during a helicopter assault into Tizak, Kandahar province in June 2010.

The third VC was awarded to Corporal Daniel Keighran, VC, on 1 November 2012 for his actions serving with the 6th Battalion Royal Australian Regiment during the Battle of Derapet in Afghanistan on 24 August 2010.

Corporal Cameron Baird, VC, MG, who was killed in action in Afghanistan on 22 June 2013, was announced by the Prime Minister in the Australian Parliament on 13 February 2014 as our latest Victoria Cross for Australia recipient. Corporal Baird is also the 100th Australian to be awarded a Victoria Cross.

Australian Victoria Cross recipients at Lone Pine Cemetery with a replica of the Victoria Cross carved from pine from the Lone Pine tree outside the Australian War Memorial during final preparations for the Centenary of the August Offensive commemoration activities in Gallipoli, Turkey. (Left to right) Mr Doug Baird, father of Australian Army soldier Corporal Cameron Baird, VC, MG; Mr Keith Payne, VC, AM; Corporal Mark Donaldson, VC; and Corporal Dan Keighran, VC.
Australian Victoria Cross recipients
(Left to right) Victoria Cross recipients Mr Keith Payne, Corporal Mark Donaldson, Special Air Service Regiment (SASR), and Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith, SASR, at the Australian War Memorial's Hall of Valour on the day of its official opening.
Australian Victoria Cross recipients