After a gap of 40 years, two incredibly brave young Australian soldiers have recently been awarded the Victoria Cross (VC). The highest military decoration for valour, it is a simple design, a bronze cross with a plain crimson ribbon and if you read their citations it is very easy to understand why Mark Donaldson and Ben Roberts-Smith were both decorated for their conduct in Afghanistan.
For Valour are the words inscribed on the Victoria Cross, quite deliberately because it is awarded for more than bravery. Bravery comes in many different forms and whether, at sea, in the air or on land, bravery on the battlefield makes sense to us all, which is why the VC is often mistakenly called the highest award for bravery.
Awarded to civilians, the equivalent counterpart to the VC is the George Cross (GC), to date there has not been a dual recipient of both Crosses either in Australia or elsewhere in the Commonwealth. There are no higher awards than these, and the George Cross is also a simple design, a silver cross with plain dark blue ribbon. It is the bravery of one of Australia’s finest men however that highlights the difference between Valour and Bravery.
Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop was a doctor in the Australian Army during the Second World War. A surgeon with the rank of Lt Colonel, he served in the Middle East, Greece and Tobruk before being captured by the Japanese following the fall of Singapore. Like many doctors who had been captured, “Weary” Dunlop put his own life on the line, literally standing between the men under his care and the brutality of their Japanese captors to prevent mistreatment.
What truly distinguished him from other similar acts of bravery was that he maintained a detailed diary of these events during his captivity, an act punishable by death. Published after the war, The War Diaries of Weary Dunlop. Java and the Burma – Thailand Railway is a compelling must read which not only helps understand the man, it also shows how we have developed as a free nation and why that freedom is worth fighting for.
Be it at work, at home or play, the conviction to do what is right is an act of bravery and “Weary” Dunlop is amongst the greats in Australian history as an example to us all.
“Lest We Forget”