Author Topic: Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan  (Read 4427 times)

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Offline Walt

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Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan
« on: November 10, 2020, 08:36:40 »
Attached is a link to an interesting article regarding the potential to retroactively award the Victoria Cross to members of the Canadian Armed Forces who served in Afghanistan.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/victoria-cross-afghanistan-rick-hillier-1.5796078

Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2020, 22:36:04 »
Attached is a link to an interesting article regarding the potential to retroactively award the Victoria Cross to members of the Canadian Armed Forces who served in Afghanistan.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/victoria-cross-afghanistan-rick-hillier-1.5796078

A couple of other VC citations, for UK recipients in AFG, by way of comparison:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joshua_Leakey#:~:text=In%202015%2C%20Leakey%20was%20awarded,Afghanistan%2C%20on%2022%20August%202013.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bryan_Budd#:~:text=He%20was%20the%2020th%20UK,of%20the%20Second%20World%20War.

Given some of the actions they were invovled in, I'm sure that at least one of our SMV recipients would qualify...
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Offline dapaterson

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Re: Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2020, 22:47:37 »
So, to recap: two CDSes who were responsible for H&R during the CAF engagement in Afghanistan who never saw fit to recommend any action for a VC, are now saying that their work was shoddy, and should be revisited?
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Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2020, 22:55:32 »
So, to recap: two CDSes who were responsible for H&R during the CAF engagement in Afghanistan who never saw fit to recommend any action for a VC, are now saying that their work was shoddy, and should be revisited?

Oh, you're goooood  :nod:
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Offline FJAG

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Re: Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan
« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2020, 23:00:59 »
So, to recap: two CDSes who were responsible for H&R during the CAF engagement in Afghanistan who never saw fit to recommend any action for a VC, are now saying that their work was shoddy, and should be revisited?

Sigh.  :waiting:
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Re: Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan
« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2020, 08:39:52 »
So, to recap: two CDSes who were responsible for H&R during the CAF engagement in Afghanistan who never saw fit to recommend any action for a VC, are now saying that their work was shoddy, and should be revisited?

There are two factors I would consider in these cases.

First, given the personalities involved in the nomination process (as alluded to, above) were any of these members actually upgraded from SMV to VC nominations at the time? if not, why?  Both the CDS's mentioned in the article were huge on both recognizing the soldiers and creating bling.  Unless more supporting facts came to light or witnesses were to come forward to reinforce the nominations, they would likely stand as is.

Second, The clock has run out.  However, our leaders could follow the US lead in the example of SFC Alwyn Cashe.  SFC Cashe was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and the US Senate passed a Bill in September waiving the five-year time limit for Medal of Honor awards.
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Re: Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan
« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2020, 11:49:15 »
So, to recap: two CDSes who were responsible for H&R during the CAF engagement in Afghanistan who never saw fit to recommend any action for a VC, are now saying that their work was shoddy, and should be revisited?
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Offline tomahawk6

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Re: Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan
« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2020, 19:53:58 »
I can see how military leaders don't want to devalue the VC, its the same in the US. Personally I think every soldier killed in action deserves their nation's highest honor. The honor won't BRING BACK their loved one but it signifies to the nation that the loss was a sacrifice of the life of the fallen and a loss for a family. So award the nation's highest honor to those that have sacrificed their all, cannot their country reciprocate ?

Offline Dimsum

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Re: Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan
« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2020, 20:03:48 »
I can see how military leaders don't want to devalue the VC, its the same in the US. Personally I think every soldier killed in action deserves their nation's highest honor. The honor won't BRING BACK their loved one but it signifies to the nation that the loss was a sacrifice of the life of the fallen and a loss for a family. So award the nation's highest honor to those that have sacrificed their all, cannot their country reciprocate ?

The UK and Australia have awarded VCs to living members in the last 20 years.  While most of the actions that get awarded VCs end up being posthumous, that's not a requirement.
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Offline Brihard

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Re: Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan
« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2020, 22:01:57 »
I can see how military leaders don't want to devalue the VC, its the same in the US. Personally I think every soldier killed in action deserves their nation's highest honor. The honor won't BRING BACK their loved one but it signifies to the nation that the loss was a sacrifice of the life of the fallen and a loss for a family. So award the nation's highest honor to those that have sacrificed their all, cannot their country reciprocate ?

We have a medal for being wounded/killed in action. The VC is very specifically for valour. That's not to take away form the sacrifice of those we've lost, but there's a distinction between having the awful luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and those who specifically act in a valorous manner in the face of a known, immediate danger.

Canada has a federal honours system- civilian or military, nearly all medals (minus a few issues by provinces or municipalities) are under one common system with a common order of precedence. The Victoria Cross is at the absolute top of the order of precedence for the Canadian honours system.
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Offline MilEME09

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Re: Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan
« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2020, 22:47:29 »
We have a medal for being wounded/killed in action. The VC is very specifically for valour. That's not to take away form the sacrifice of those we've lost, but there's a distinction between having the awful luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and those who specifically act in a valorous manner in the face of a known, immediate danger.

Canada has a federal honours system- civilian or military, nearly all medals (minus a few issues by provinces or municipalities) are under one common system with a common order of precedence. The Victoria Cross is at the absolute top of the order of precedence for the Canadian honours system.

Now I have heard atleast in the UK, VC recipients are to be saluted, due to this you will never see someone with a VC on parade for obvious kinks in the traditional format of a parade.

Anyone know if that is the case here?

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Re: Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan
« Reply #11 on: November 13, 2020, 00:01:00 »
Now I have heard atleast in the UK, VC recipients are to be saluted, due to this you will never see someone with a VC on parade for obvious kinks in the traditional format of a parade.

Anyone know if that is the case here?

https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/medals/victoria-cross

Quote
There is a widespread though erroneous belief that it is statutory for "all ranks to salute a bearer of the Victoria Cross".

There is no official requirement that appears in the official Warrant of the VC, nor in Queen's Regulations and Orders, but tradition dictates that this occurs and as such the Chiefs of Staff will salute a Private awarded a VC or GC.

https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/1944-01-25/debates/4b8d9a02-53a7-45b1-afaa-0395ff915a5c/VcRecipients(Salutes)

Quote
Vc Recipients (Salutes)

25 January 1944   Volume 396

Mr. Reakes

asked the Secretary of State for War if, in view of the fact that the Congressional Medal of Honour, America's highest military award, carries with it the tribute that the highest officers of the American Army, even four-star generals, shall salute the recipient although he is only a private, he will alter the Orders so that the winners of the Victoria Cross shall receive the same tribute from high ranking officers of the British Army.

Sir J. Grigg

I understand that the hon. Member is misinformed about the tribute paid to holders of the Congressional Medal of Honour.

Offline Dimsum

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Re: Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan
« Reply #12 on: November 13, 2020, 14:10:41 »
Now I have heard atleast in the UK, VC recipients are to be saluted, due to this you will never see someone with a VC on parade for obvious kinks in the traditional format of a parade.

Anyone know if that is the case here?

Maybe?  But one assumes that the person is presented the VC on a parade of some sort, so they'd be on parade...
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Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan
« Reply #13 on: November 13, 2020, 15:49:20 »
Just to note that Canada did not award any VCs in Korea, either. Apparently, as in Afghanistan, there were no individual actions of the "most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour, self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy."

Only 16 were awarded in the Second World War, although Canada had about 1 million men and women in uniform, while 73 were awarded in the First World War when we had a much smaller force and five were awarded during the South African War which might be considered comparable to Afghanistan in many respects ~ a smallish special force operating, far away, as part of an allied force.  :dunno:



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Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan
« Reply #14 on: November 13, 2020, 17:11:41 »
Just to note that Canada did not award any VCs in Korea, either. Apparently, as in Afghanistan, there were no individual actions of the "most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour, self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy."

Only 16 were awarded in the Second World War, although Canada had about 1 million men and women in uniform, while 73 were awarded in the First World War when we had a much smaller force and five were awarded during the South African War which might be considered comparable to Afghanistan in many respects ~ a smallish special force operating, far away, as part of an allied force.  :dunno:

My Dad, a WW2 vet, was fond of noting that for a Canadian to be awarded a VC once 'they would have to earn it twice'. :)
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Offline Walt

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Re: Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan
« Reply #15 on: November 13, 2020, 19:08:17 »
My Dad, a WW2 vet, was fond of noting that for a Canadian to be awarded a VC once 'they would have to earn it twice'. :)

Sadly, we apparently now have to think twice about once awarding a VC to a Canadian. Shameful.
+300 « Last Edit: November 13, 2020, 20:27:35 by Walt »

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Re: Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan
« Reply #16 on: November 13, 2020, 22:45:06 »
Sadly, we apparently now have to think twice about once awarding a VC to a Canadian. Shameful.
A few years ago I came to the conclusion that if a Canadian soldier managed to quite literally save the World.
If the soldier was really,really lucky,the chain of command might just be willing to settle for probation and maybe community service.
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Re: Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan
« Reply #17 on: November 13, 2020, 23:06:44 »
It's absolutely appalling that we did not have a VC awarded for Afghanistan. The cynic in me says it was political untenable that we award a Victoria Cross to downplay the conflict as "not a war". A quick search of the folks who earned a SMV, these citations popped out at me:

https://www.gg.ca/en/honours/recipients/142-69
https://www.gg.ca/en/honours/recipients/142-13
https://www.gg.ca/en/honours/recipients/142-4

Easily one of those 3 individuals could have won a Victoria Cross and no one would have batted an eye, truly extraordinary.

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Re: Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan
« Reply #18 on: November 13, 2020, 23:59:11 »
It's absolutely appalling that we did not have a VC awarded for Afghanistan. The cynic in me says it was political untenable that we award a Victoria Cross to downplay the conflict as "not a war". A quick search of the folks who earned a SMV, these citations popped out at me:

https://www.gg.ca/en/honours/recipients/142-69
https://www.gg.ca/en/honours/recipients/142-13
https://www.gg.ca/en/honours/recipients/142-4

Easily one of those 3 individuals could have won a Victoria Cross and no one would have batted an eye, truly extraordinary.
I tried not to get sucked into the internal debate one's actions vs another and if it was worthy of a VC or not as I find them personally distasteful. That said I was present for one of those actions* and know there are member(s) of esteemed forum that participated post tour honour committees to ensure all pers were covered. 

Knowing the details beyond a 80 word citation in one situation makes me personally believe we got it right the first time. I could be wrong but if it was truly deserved then why didn't those advocating for it now make it happen considering they had the power to make it so then?

*I am bias and realize that by the very fact that I focused on my own actions and those of the folks I was in charge of, not at times the larger battle. If anything the fact my (and others) observations at the time were slightly different affirm that eye witnesses are not super reliable and subject to any number of well known issues that can affect their recollection.
+300 « Last Edit: November 14, 2020, 11:22:23 by MJP »
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Offline Old Sweat

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Re: Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan
« Reply #19 on: November 14, 2020, 07:50:12 »
A few observations after following this thread. First, to be awarded a decoration, one has to be recommended. Trite, but true. In my young officer days a long time ago, a common belief was that Canadian senior officers tended to not submit many recommendations for awards, citing as their reason that the soldier was just doing his job. That did not mean that, at the same time, they refused to accept any decorations they were awarded.

A friend, a professional military historian with a PhD, once told me that the criteria established for the Canadian VC were so stringent that it was unlikely that anyone could meet them.

And as for previous wars, there was one recommendation from Korea that I am aware of, to a stretcher bearer in, I think, 2 RCR, but it was downgraded somewhere in the chain above brigade. I once did a study of the Boer War VCs. About half of the awards were for rescuing a comrade under fire. This would include the VC to Sergeant Richardson of the Strathconas. Last, Donald Graves's history of the South Alberta Regiment recounts how the CO read the citations for the first VCs in NWE and realized that Major David Currie's action at St-Lambert-sur-Dives was at least as noteworthy. However, he had only been recommended for a DSO. The CO talked to the Divisional Commander, who was able to intercept the recommendation before it was forwarded further, and supported its upgrade to a VC. See my first comment about the requirement to be recommended first before one could receive an award.*

* Re South Africa, the 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry was the only Canadian unit to not have a non-commissioned member receive a gallantry award, either a VC or a DCM. The Queen's Scarf to Private Thompson does nor really count as it was not a gazetted decoration. Contrary to popular lore, Thompson had not been recommended for a VC once, let alone twice. After the war, a recommendation for a VC for him was submitted, but the deadline for recommendations had passed.

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Re: Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan
« Reply #20 on: November 14, 2020, 10:45:21 »
A few observations after following this thread. First, to be awarded a decoration, one has to be recommended. Trite, but true. In my young officer days a long time ago, a common belief was that Canadian senior officers tended to not submit many recommendations for awards, citing as their reason that the soldier was just doing his job. That did not mean that, at the same time, they refused to accept any decorations they were awarded.

A friend, a professional military historian with a PhD, once told me that the criteria established for the Canadian VC were so stringent that it was unlikely that anyone could meet them.

Reminds me of something I read,

Quote
Bennett's insistence that there should be no stars or professional heroes among his officers. "There will be no living VCs in 8 Group."

Air Vice Marshal Donald Clifford Tyndall Bennett, CB, CBE, DSO
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Re: Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan
« Reply #21 on: November 14, 2020, 11:09:11 »
Knowing the details beyond a 80 word citation in one situation makes me personally believe we got it right the first time. I could be wrong but if it was truly deserved then why didn't those advocating for it now make it happen considering they had the power to make it so then?

Yep, an 80 word citation doesn't do a multi-page nomination document justice, and there's always going to be questions about the process. These questions are always going to come up, as the entire process is clouded in secrecy (which is needed as first reports from a battle area can be overblown or under stated) and that the criteria is sufficiently vague to leave a lot of room for interpretation. It would be interesting to note how many, if any, CAF members were nominated for a Victoria Cross or if at the National H&A boards any SMV nominations were discussed for upgrading to VC. The knowledge that the honest discussion took place to consider a VC winner would reduce a lot of the second guessing years later.

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Re: Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan
« Reply #22 on: November 14, 2020, 11:33:47 »
Yep, an 80 word citation doesn't do a multi-page nomination document justice, and there's always going to be questions about the process. These questions are always going to come up, as the entire process is clouded in secrecy (which is needed as first reports from a battle area can be overblown or under stated) and that the criteria is sufficiently vague to leave a lot of room for interpretation. It would be interesting to note how many, if any, CAF members were nominated for a Victoria Cross or if at the National H&A boards any SMV nominations were discussed for upgrading to VC. The knowledge that the honest discussion took place to consider a VC winner would reduce a lot of the second guessing years later.

I have seen a unit board that held a cross section of the unit's ranks to alleviate the worries on secrecy, it was at the time very well received. Having seen a few HHQ discussions they always seemed very well done with due consideration given to files. As much as we malign HHQs the people in key posns are generally pretty switched on so I have to believe* that due diligence is taken there as well.


*famous last words?
« Last Edit: November 14, 2020, 11:40:58 by MJP »
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Re: Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan
« Reply #23 on: November 14, 2020, 11:36:19 »
I have seen a unit board that held a cross section of the unit's ranks to alleviate the worries on secrecy, it was at the time very well received.

I can see why that would be well received. Those young, motivated Cpls and MCpls witnessing the process in a transparent manner well help them be effective WOs and MWOs to advocate for proper awards for their troops.

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Re: Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan
« Reply #24 on: November 14, 2020, 12:55:45 »
The CDS twins may have been heartened in the campaign by the recent Australian retrospective awarding (posthumously) of the VC to a RAN sailor for action in WW2.  The Australians instituted a very open honours review process, highlighted by a 2013 inquiry that reviewed the cases of 13 members of the Australian Forces as to whether retrospective award of the VC was justified.  At the time, none were recommended, but it didn't stop there.  Eventually, one of that 13 was awarded the VC.  There was of course some political involvement. 

https://www.pm.gov.au/media/ordinary-seaman-edward-teddysheean
Quote
The Australian Government recognises the extraordinary service, dedication and sacrifice of Ordinary Seaman Edward 'Teddy' Sheean and the Prime Minister has written to the Governor-General requesting he seek the approval of Her Majesty The Queen to posthumously award a Victoria Cross for Australia.

Our view and policy has always been that consideration of the awarding of a retrospective Victoria Cross would only occur in light of compelling new evidence or if there was evidence of significant maladministration.

There was a clear conflict of advice between the 2013 Inquiry into Unresolved Recognition for Past Acts of Naval and Military Gallantry and Valour (the Valour Inquiry) and the 2019 review of the Defence Honours and Awards Appeal Tribunal as to whether the case of Teddy Sheean met those standards.

There were further differences of opinion in the interpretation of what was contained in those reports. This conflict prevented a clear recommendation from being made and needed to be resolved before proceeding further. That’s why the Prime Minister commissioned an expert panel to provide further advice on the subject.

The panel has identified maladministration in the consideration of Teddy Sheean’s actions, as well as compelling new evidence that his previously awarded Mention in Dispatches should be replaced with a Victoria Cross.

Overturning a decision relating to a Victoria Cross nearly 80 years later requires compelling reasons. The panel has articulated those reasons clearly.

This is an exceptional case for an exceptional Australian.

The panel found that:

-  Teddy Sheean was done a substantial injustice in consideration of his actions in the original decision-making period of 1942-45, constituting maladministration;
-  On the basis of all the evidence now available, higher recognition for Teddy Sheean is supported;
-  Teddy Sheean’s courageous sacrifice of his life to save his shipmates meets the eligibility criteria for a Victoria Cross for Australia; and
-  the highest level of recognition should be accorded in this exceptional case.

This report is also testament to the dedication of Teddy’s family and friends, as well as Tasmanian Veterans' Affairs Minister Guy Barnett and Member for Braddon and ex-serviceman Gavin Pearce to ensure that Teddy received the recognition he deserved. The frustration they have felt at times should not be underestimated but it is the Government’s duty to uphold the highest evidentiary standards for the awarding of a Victoria Cross. We are pleased this process has provided an avenue for their efforts to be validated and rewarded.

The Government thanks the expert panel for their detailed work in preparing their report and recommendations, particularly the efforts of panel’s chair Dr Brendan Nelson AO.

The panel’s report can be found at Historic Victoria Cross Report of the Expert Panel

The reports generated by the process can make interesting reading and may give some sense of behind the scene machinations.

The 2013 Inquiry   The Report of the Inquiry into Unresolved Recognition for Past Acts of Naval and Military Gallantry and Valour

The 2019 Tribunal that recommended the award 

Historic Victoria Cross Report of the Expert Panel 


There have been other submissions to the Defence Honours and Awards Appeal Tribunal to review other cases re the VC.  In most of those cases the applications have been made by individuals other than the person recommended, but in one instance the submission was made by the (former) soldier himself.   Before commenting derisively about a possible Walting Matilda, read the report.  https://defence-honours-tribunal.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Reid-Decision.pdf
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