AN Australian solider has been awarded his country’s highest military honour, the Victoria Cross for Australia, for his actions in battle against the Taliban in Afghanistan in June 2010.
Cpl Benjamin Roberts-Smith, 32, was leading a mission in the volatile Kandahar province on 11 June 2010 when his men came under heavy enemy machine-gun fire.
Realising his men were unable to move under the onslaught of bullets, Cpl Roberts-Smith deliberately gave away his position and opened fire, killing one Taliban fighter and overpowering another two.
At the award ceremony, Australia’s PM Julia Gillard told Cpl Roberts-Smith: “You went to Afghanistan a soldier, you came back a hero.”
But Cpl Roberts-Smith (who also has Australia’s third highest military honour, the Medal for Gallantry) was much coyer about his actions saying: “The real heroes are those who died for their country.”
There are still 1,550 Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.
Cpl Roberts-Smith becomes the second person to have received the Victoria Cross for Australia after SAS Trooper Mark Donaldson was awarded his VC just over two years ago for rescuing an interpreter under heavy fire in Oruzgan province, Afghanistan. In total, 98 Australians have now been awarded the VC – the highest military honour in the Commonwealth.