Military History

The Highest Honour #2 | Peter Badcoe | Cameron Baird

By The Cove January 25, 2021


Major Peter John Badcoe, VC (1934 - 1967, 33yo)

Peter Badcoe was born and raised in Adelaide. Always wanting to join the army he entered the Officer Cadet School at Portsea, Victoria in 1952. Major Peter Badcoe was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Australian Staff Corps in December 1952.

He was allotted to the Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery in which he served in a number of Regimental and Staff postings until August 1965. He then transferred to the Royal Australian Infantry Corps and joined the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam in August 1966. He was posted as Sector Operations Officer in Thua Thien Province, South Vietnam. Dubbed "the Galloping Major", he was "always on the go".

Between 23 February to 7 April 1967, Badcoe repeatedly performed extraordinary feats. While under fire he attacked across open ground; he rescued an American adviser; he captured a machine-gun; he led attacks; and he provided leadership and an example to wavering troops. He was eventually killed by a burst of enemy fire as he rose to throw a grenade. "His valour and leadership were in the highest traditions of the military profession and the Australian Regular Army." He was buried at Terendak Cemetery, Malaysia.

Badcoe was awarded the Victoria Cross, service medals for the Vietnam War, the United States Silver Star, the South Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and the South Vietnamese Wound Medal.

Buildings and awards have been named after Badcoe, including a soldiers' club in South Vietnam, an assembly room and library at Portsea, the main lecture theatre at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, and a perpetual medal for an Australian Football League match held on Anzac Day. Source Australian War Memorial https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P10676758

The full citation for the award appeared in The London Gazette on 17 October 1967. It read, in part:

On 23rd February 1967 he was acting as an Advisor to a Regional Force Company in support of a Sector operation in Phu Thu District. He monitored a radio transmission which stated that the Subsector Adviser, a United States Army Officer, had been killed and that his body was within 50 metres of an enemy machine gun position; further, the United States Medical Adviser had been wounded and was in immediate danger from the enemy. Major Badcoe with complete disregard for his own safety moved alone across 600 metres of fire-swept ground and reached the wounded Adviser, attended to him and ensured his future safety. He then organised a force of one platoon and led them towards the enemy post. His personal leadership, words of encouragement, and actions in the face of hostile enemy fire forced the platoon to successfully assault the enemy position and capture it, where he personally killed the machine gunners directly in front of him. He then picked up the body of the dead officer and ran back to the Command post over open ground still covered by enemy fire.

On 7th March 1967, at approximately 0645 hours, the Sector Reaction Company was deployed to Quang Dien Subsector to counter an attack by the Viet Cong on the Headquarters. Major Badcoe left the Command group after their vehicle broke down and a United States Officer was killed; he joined the Company Headquarters and personally led the company in an attack over open terrain to assault and capture a heavily defended enemy position. In the face of certain death and heavy losses his personal courage and leadership turned certain defeat into victory and prevented the enemy from capturing the District Headquarters.

On 7th April 1967, on an operation in Huong Tra District, Major Badcoe was with the 1st A.R.V.N. Division Reaction Company and some armoured personnel carriers. During the move forward to an objective the company came under heavy small arms fire and withdrew to a cemetery for cover, this left Major Badcoe and his radio operator about 50 metres in front of the leading elements, under heavy mortar fire. Seeing this withdrawal, Major Badcoe ran back to them, moved amongst them and by encouragement and example got them moving forward again. He then set out in front of the company to lead them on; the company stopped again under heavy fire but Major Badcoe continued on to cover and prepared to throw grenades, when he rose to throw, his radio operator pulled him down as heavy small arms fire was being brought to bear on them; he later got up again to throw a grenade and was hit and killed by a burst of machine gun fire. Soon after, friendly artillery fire was called in and the position was assaulted and captured.

Major Badcoe's conspicuous gallantry and leadership on all these occasions was an inspiration to all, each action, ultimately, was successful, due entirely to his efforts, the final one ending in his death. His valour and leadership were in the highest traditions of the military profession and the Australian Regular Army.

— The London Gazette 17 October 1967

 

CPL Cameron Stewart Baird VC (1981 - 2013, 32yo)

Cameron Baird was born in Burnie, Tasmania, in 1981. He joined the Australian Regular Army in January 2000 and was posted to 4th Battalion (Commando), Royal Australian Regiment (now 2nd Commando Regiment). Baird served in East Timor and Iraq and was deployed four times to Afghanistan. He was awarded the Medal of Gallantry in 2007 on his second operational tour.

Baird was on his fourth tour of Afghanistan in 2013 when he was involved in the action for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross. He is the fourth person to receive the Victoria Cross for Australia during Operation Slipper.The VC citation reads, in part: 

On 22 June 2013, a Commando Platoon of the Special Operations Task Group, with partners from the Afghan National Security Forces, conducted a helicopter assault into Ghawchak village, Uruzgan province, in order to attack an insurgent network deep within enemy-held territory. Shortly after insertion, Corporal Baird's team was  engaged by small arms fire from several enemy positions. Corporal Baird quickly seized the initiative, leading his team to neutralise the positions, killing six enemy combatants and enabling the assault to continue.

Soon afterwards, an adjacent Special Operations Task Group team came under heavy enemy fire, resulting in its commander being seriously wounded. Without hesitation, Corporal Baird led his team to provide support. En route, he and his team were engaged by rifle and machine gun fire from prepared enemy positions. With complete disregard for his own safety, Corporal Baird charged towards the enemy positions, supported by his team. On nearing the positions, he and his team were engaged by additional enemy on their flank. Instinctively, Corporal Baird neutralised the new threat with grenades and rifle fire, enabling his team to close with the prepared position. With the prepared position now isolated, Corporal Baird manoeuvred and was engaged by enemy machine gun fire, the bullets striking the ground around him. Displaying great valour, he drew the fire, moved to cover, and suppressed the enemy machine gun position. This action enabled his team to close on the entrance to the prepared position, thus regaining the initiative.

On three separate occasions Corporal Baird charged an enemy-held building within the prepared compound.  On the first occasion he charged the door to the building, followed by another team member. Despite being totally exposed and immediately engaged by enemy fire, Corporal Baird pushed forward while firing into the building.  Now in the closest proximity to the enemy, he was forced to withdraw when his rifle ceased to function. On rectifying his rifle stoppage, and reallocating remaining ammunition within his team, Corporal Baird again advanced towards the door of the building, once more under heavy fire. He engaged the enemy through the door but was unable to suppress the position and took cover to reload. For a third time, Corporal Baird selflessly drew enemy fire away from his team and assaulted the doorway. Enemy fire was seen to strike the ground and compound walls around Corporal Baird, before visibility was obscured by dust and smoke. In this third attempt, the enemy was neutralised and the advantage was regained, but Corporal Baird was killed in the effort.

Corporal Baird's acts of valour and self-sacrifice regained the initiative and preserved the lives of his team members. His actions were of the highest order and in keeping with the finest traditions of the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force.

Source Department of Defence https://www.defence.gov.au/Vale/CplBaird/default.asp


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The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.



Comments

Your article describing the heroism of Major Badcoe and Corporal Baird struck a cord within me. Thank God for such men and thank you all at The Cove for telling their stories and keeping their memories alive.

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