Victoria Cross noticeboard.
The Australian War Memorial has made available online at www.awm.qov.au the database providing details of recommendations for honours and awards made to Australians serving with the AIF during the First World War. The database was compiled from the official archival series 'AWM28--Recommendation files for honours and awards, AIF, 1914-18 War'. The files were created by the Department of Defence between 1915 and 1919 and were originally held by Base Records Office in Melbourne. They were transferred to the Australian War Memorial in 1938. The files have been digitised to help preserve the originals which are now too fragile to be handled or photocopied. Not all recommendations resulted in an award being gazetted and not all gazetted awards have corresponding recommendations.
I immediately checked out VC recommendations and found 234 individual pages. This did not mean 234 recommendations since some recommendations covered two or three pages and there were original, duplicate and triplicate typed copies and sometimes a handwritten recommendation. In all there are 128 individual recommendations including for 58 of the 63 AIF members who received the VC. Of the 70 who did not receive the VC the great majority received another decoration or were mentioned in dispatches.
Pte William Jackson VC
Joe Furphy mentioned in he March Around the Water Cart the DCM to Pte William Jackson VC that was cancelled. There are a number of cases where a soldier was awarded a DCM or an officer was awarded the DSO and the award was subsequently rescinded and the VC awarded. The most recent case was the DCM to CSM Peter Wright of the Coldstream Guards near Salerno Italy on 25 September 1943. In July 1944 when the King was visiting troops in Italy a number of people expressed the view that the award should have been the VC. General Alexander, who had downgraded the original VC recommendation to the DCM, was informed of the representations to the King and asked if he wished to reconsider the matter. On 29 July he wrote to the War Office that he had reconsidered the matter and was submitting a recommendation for the VC. The VC to CSM Peter Wright was gazetted on 7 September 1944.
Of about 8 or 9 DSO and DCM awards rescinded and the VC awarded instead only the DCM to Jackson was gazetted in error. The First World War recommendations at the Australian War Memorial reveal 70 downgraded VC recommendations. A number of recommendations including the DCM to Jackson were upgraded to the VC. However, his DCM recommendation was not extracted and continued to be processed so that it was gazetted two weeks after the announcement of the VC. The London Gazette announced on 20 October 1916 that the award was cancelled and there is no evidence that he ever officially received the DCM. Although I do not have a photo of his wearing both medals it seems he did sign his name VC DCM during his World War II service.
While there is no doubt that Jackson was awarded the DCM which was subsequently cancelled there is no suggestion that he claimed to have been awarded the Military Medal. However, Harry Willey of Scone who was mentioned by Joe Furphy in the same issue wrote to me in amazement that on 11 November 2001 a plaque in honour of Jackson was unveiled in Balmain, Sydney for L/Cpl John William Alexander Jackson VC DCM MM! Harry has given me directions so that I can have a look myself and I hope to have a photo for the next noticeboard. In the meantime, apologies to Joe Furphy if I have further confused matters.
French Legion of Honour
The Legion of Honour being presented to veterans of the D-Day landings is not the French equivalent of the Victoria Cross. Similar claims were made in 1998 when surviving WWI soldiers received the Legion of Honour.
The French Legion of Honour combines Australian Gallantry and Distinguished Service Awards, the Order of Australia and commemorative medals rolled into one award. If the award was for war service the veteran would probably not get the Commendation for Distinguished Service, if it was for meritorious service, the equivalent would be one rank lower the Medal of the Order of Australia since the Order of Australia presently only has four levels. The Legion of Honour has five levels and the French are presenting the lowest level. However it really is equivalent to a commemorative medal such as the Centenary Medal.
One of the Australian recipients is Dacre Smyth, a former career RAN officer who is well known for his naval drawings and who whose father was Sir Nevill Smyth VC.
VC for Iraq?
A 19-year-old British soldier has been recommended for the Victoria Cross for gallantry in southern Iraq on 15 May 2004.
The young soldier of Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment was a personnel carrier driver in a vehicle patrol on a resupply mission that was attacked on three sides by the Army of the Mehdi, the militia loyal to the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. With his carrier ablaze and commander and crew wounded the soldier decided to break though the roadblock. Though still being hit by machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenades, the driver succeeded in crashing through the barrier and led the way for the rest of the convoy to get to safety. He then unloaded the wounded and made sure they were tended by medical orderlies before remounting his burning vehicle and driving it to where it could cause little harm if the fuel and ammunition still aboard blew up. He drew a fire extinguisher to tackle the blaze before he was taken away to have his own wounds treated.
Dudley Stagpoole VC DCM
Ian Lloyd, Chief Reporter, Hendon Times wrote a interesting story about Dudley Stagpoole VC DCM who was awarded the VC and DCM a week apart for gallantry in New Zealand in 1864. The article 'Hero's colourful life' published on 2 June 2004 noted that work is commencing to have his grave restored. I e-mailed Ian Lloyd that the Barnet War Memorials Initiative is to be commended for working towards restoring Stagpoole's neglected grave at Hendon Park Cemetery. I also added:
After the death of Prince Albert in 1861, Queen Victoria spent a long period in seclusion and it was not until 1874 that she again personally presented the Victoria Cross to a recipient. So the anecdote that, Dudley Stagpoole was presented with the Victoria Cross at lunch time by Queen Victoria and then went out and pawned the medal to get some money to treat himself and his mates to drink is apocryphal. In fact he was presented with the Victoria Cross on 24 January 1866 at Wanganui, New Zealand by Brigadier-General Richard Waddy.
Ian Lloyd was gracious enough to thank me for the information but did express being 'a bit disappointed as it was such a good story'!
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|Date:||Jun 1, 2004|
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