Consideration for the Victoria Cross - Afghanistan

mariomike

Army.ca Legend
Staff member
Directing Staff
Subscriber
Mentor
Reaction score
56
Points
630
Old Sweat said:
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,

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
https://www.maxhastings.com/products/bomber-command/



 

PuckChaser

Army.ca Fixture
Staff member
Directing Staff
Mentor
Reaction score
95
Points
630
MJP said:
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.
 

MJP

Army.ca Veteran
Reaction score
54
Points
530
PuckChaser said:
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?
 

PuckChaser

Army.ca Fixture
Staff member
Directing Staff
Mentor
Reaction score
95
Points
630
MJP said:
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.
 

Blackadder1916

Army.ca Veteran
Reaction score
75
Points
530
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
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
 

Underway

Army.ca Veteran
Donor
Reaction score
75
Points
530
What a lot of people haven't seen is that quite often recommendations for medals get upgraded.  A Medal of Bravery to a Star of Courage for example.  The people who evaluate these awards are not gatekeepers.  They apply the criteria and give what awards they belive are merited. 

If there is an issue with VC's not being awarded one suspects that the criteria are possibly too stringent. Or perhaps our soldiers are to smart to get themselves into situations where a VC would be awarded.  I'm sure I heard in an interview with Smokey Smith, VC. "If I was smart I never woulda been where I was to get the VC in the first place."

 

daftandbarmy

Army.ca Myth
Reaction score
385
Points
880
Underway said:
What a lot of people haven't seen is that quite often recommendations for medals get upgraded.  A Medal of Bravery to a Star of Courage for example.  The people who evaluate these awards are not gatekeepers.  They apply the criteria and give what awards they belive are merited. 

If there is an issue with VC's not being awarded one suspects that the criteria are possibly too stringent. Or perhaps our soldiers are to smart to get themselves into situations where a VC would be awarded.  I'm sure I heard in an interview with Smokey Smith, VC. "If I was smart I never woulda been where I was to get the VC in the first place."

My Dad knew Smokey Smith pretty well, they worked in the same part of downtown Vancouver, and we bumped into him from time to time.

He once mentioned that that the 'real heroes', who deserved most of the decorations for valour, were KIA.
 

medicineman

Army.ca Fixture
Reaction score
24
Points
430
daftandbarmy said:
My Dad knew Smokey Smith pretty well, they worked in the same part of downtown Vancouver, and we bumped into him from time to time.

He once mentioned that that the 'real heroes', who deserved most of the decorations for valour, were KIA.

I remember reading somewhere that the joke going around was that Smokey Smith actually got the VC for engaging a tank with a PIAT from the standing position as opposed to what the remainder of the citation indicated...

MM
 

Eaglelord17

Full Member
Reaction score
37
Points
330
Haggis said:
I would rather that than the opposite where a valour decoration award is later called into question.

That isn't a matter of award criteria being too low or too high, rather fraudulently representing someone's situation. That could happen here if the CoC chose not to act ethically.
 

mariomike

Army.ca Legend
Staff member
Directing Staff
Subscriber
Mentor
Reaction score
56
Points
630
daftandbarmy said:
My Dad knew Smokey Smith pretty well, they worked in the same part of downtown Vancouver, and we bumped into him from time to time.

He once mentioned that that the 'real heroes', who deserved most of the decorations for valour, were KIA.

Audie Murphy said the same thing.

I saw on TV a few years ago an MoH recipient from the war ( apparently still living! ) also say that.

He was a flame-thrower specialist, and a real artist with it on Iwo Jima.
 

Furniture

Sr. Member
Reaction score
36
Points
330
Haggis said:
I would rather that than the opposite where a valour decoration award is later called into question.

What value is there in a decoration that is impossible to attain?

Perhaps Canada has gone too far down the path of keeping medals for valour and meritorious service rare.
 

daftandbarmy

Army.ca Myth
Reaction score
385
Points
880
Furniture said:
What value is there in a decoration that is impossible to attain?

Perhaps Canada has gone too far down the path of keeping medals for valour and meritorious service rare.

In Canada it's important not too look too special or important, so we try to make sure that everyone feels embarrassed about that enough that they toe the line ;)

Meanwhile, the US is the largest economy on earth largely because they are kind of the opposite.

I was talking to a guy who is in business down there and he said something like 'they kill you with encouragement, and it works like crazy.'
 

Towards_the_gap

Sr. Member
Reaction score
0
Points
210
Furniture said:
What value is there in a decoration that is impossible to attain?

Perhaps Canada has gone too far down the path of keeping medals for valour and meritorious service rare.

I've seen MSM's handed out for people literally doing their job. In fact you can pretty much say it's a check in the box for going past colonel (and AF/Navy equiv). Valour decorations - yes indeed, they are rare. Not so with the meritorious dec's.
 

Furniture

Sr. Member
Reaction score
36
Points
330
Towards_the_gap said:
I've seen MSM's handed out for people literally doing their job. In fact you can pretty much say it's a check in the box for going past colonel (and AF/Navy equiv). Valour decorations - yes indeed, they are rare. Not so with the meritorious dec's.

I almost added a caveat about COs and deployments, but held back due to mixed company.

Our system for awarding meritorious awards is a skewed, while I agree that clerks are important, go back and look at the number of clerks vs other support trades that received MSM in Afghanistan.... From my recollection there were a lot of HQ folks getting medals, while the shop floors and sentry towers/crew hatches were underrepresented.
 

Halifax Tar

Army.ca Veteran
Reaction score
25
Points
530
Furniture said:
I almost added a caveat about COs and deployments, but held back due to mixed company. [/u

Our system for awarding meritorious awards is a skewed, while I agree that clerks are important, go back and look at the number of clerks vs other support trades that received MSM in Afghanistan.... From my recollection there were a lot of HQ folks getting medals, while the shop floors and sentry towers/crew hatches were underrepresented.


Its funny you bring that up.  While at the KLE meeting at CJOC before our deployment on FRE the number and distribution of awards was already allotted.

I was saddened to see that's actually true, and it really makes those awards worthless now, in my eyes at least.
 

Haggis

Army.ca Veteran
Reaction score
61
Points
530
Towards_the_gap said:
I've seen MSM's handed out for people literally doing their job.

In 1991 I was nominated for an MSM.  Yes, I know the process is supposed to be confidential. I found out about it from a Bde HQ staff officer who told me (at a mixed mess function) that he'd stopped my nomination at the Bde level because "we don't reward people for doing their jobs".  It's good to see that things have changed (#sarcasm).
 

Infanteer

Army.ca Myth
Staff member
Directing Staff
Donor
Reaction score
19
Points
530
The "don't give someone an award for doing their job" line is BS, and we need to move away from that point of view.  There is nothing wrong with recognizing a job well done and we need not be overly stoic about recognition.

Using this line of reasoning, we could say that Smokey Smith was just doing his job when he took out German AFVs at the Savio River Bridgehead.
 

brihard

Army.ca Fixture
Mentor
Reaction score
261
Points
830
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with recognizing someone for “Just doing your job (exceptionally well)”. Some times “just doing your job” can meet the MSM’s criteria of “ a military deed or activity performed in a highly professional manner, according to a very high standard that brings benefit or honour to the Canadian Forces”. If your job matters enough, just doing it very well could absolutely hit that. Otherwise why would so many of the NCMs who are awarded it be SAR Techs or EOD?
 
Top