The Canberra Times: GG David Hurley singles out NSW Police officer who died in 1945

(26 Nov) As controversy swirls around some recipients of Australia’s highest military bravery awards, exactly a week after the release of the Brereton report on alleged war crimes, the Governor General, David Hurley, reappeared in public on Thursday to acknowledge their civilian bravery counterparts.

General Hurley did not acknowledge the controversy, being asked to rescind meritorious unit citations for SASR personnel, nor his own involvement as the top defence chief during the period in which most of the alleged war crimes took place.

Launching a book about the 28 Australians awarded the highest non-combat bravery awards – the George Cross and the subsequent Cross of Valour – General Hurley said he often found bravery award recipients were the least sure of their own worthiness.

“At investitures I’m often surprised by how nervous the recipient is standing in the door,” he said. “People who receive ACs and OAMs, they stand there, they’re ready to come in. Recipients of bravery medals are shaky.

“They are obviously more terrified in that moment than in the moment of the act for which they’re being recognised.

“Why? Because most of them think they’re unworthy … but that’s not the case, you did something, you responded to protect others.”

The launch took place at the Australian War Memorial. The new book, For Gallantry, was authored by one of its curators, Craig Blanch, who also co-authored the earlier book For Valour about the 100 Australians who have been awarded the Victoria Cross.

Civilian bravery award recipients are used to being overshadowed by their military counterparts. The governor general briefly slipped in his remarks on Thursday, mistakenly acknowledging VC recipients instead of the GC recipients. Mr Blanch acknowledged the discrepancy of Australia’s attention on non-combat heroes of valour.

“How many recognise the names Richard Richards, Jack Chalmers, William McAloney, Darrell Tree, Horace Madden, Victor Boscoe, Raymond Donoghue, Eric Bailey,” he asked. “Their deeds made headlines before, generally speaking, they disappeared from public consciousness.

“Recipients of the Victoria Cross are quite rightly bought to the fore on the anniversary of their remarkable deeds, or as a postscript to the anniversaries of great battles.”

Mr Blanch said that while VCs were brought to the fore on the anniversaries of their remarkable deeds or as a post script to the anniversaries of great battles, the George Cross and Cross of Valour should not be seen as appendices of their military counterpart, but as “broadly recognised symbols of our best selves.”

Their stories of moral and physical courage, he said, ask us to consider what we would have done.

General Hurley highlighted one of those stories for particular mention, that of Sergeant Eric Bailey, a member of the New South Wales Police Force who died in the events in 1945 that led to his recognition.

While on duty, Bailey questioned a man who seemed suspicious, and subsequently pulled a revolver from his pocket and shot the officer in the stomach. Bailey closed with the assailant, who fired two more shots. Despite his life-ending injuries, and suffering from shock and hemorrhaging, Bailey continued to hold the offender until assistance could arrive. Shortly after, he died.

“The fortitude and courage manifested by this police officer, in spite of the mortal injuries sustained by him at the outset of the encounter, constitute bravery and devotion to duty of the highest order,” General Hurley said.

“I single this out … because I want to believe he died knowing he had done his community proud.”

Just 28 Australians have been awarded with a George Cross or Cross of Valour for putting a strangers life above their own.

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