Corporal Cameron Baird VC MG was awarded the Victorian Cross for his actions on the day he died.
Baird joined the army at age 18. The avid sportsman was destined for the AFL when a shoulder injury altered his course.
His dad, Doug Baird OAM, remembers the day Baird came home and told his mum he wanted to join the army. He had been walking through the mall in Melbourne when he came across a recruiting office.
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Baird was first deployed in East Timor before serving multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2013, on what was supposed to be his last tour, Baird was apart of a squad who were trying to recapture Ghawchak village from the Taliban.
After entering the village on helicopters Baird's party was immediately fired upon by the Taliban. The Taliban fighters were forced to retreat, splitting into two groups with one going across a river and the other up to a rocky bank.
Baird and another team member followed across the water where they were ambushed. Baird went forward and neutralised the machine gun post before regrouping and going after the other Taliban fighters.
Again the commandos were ambushed and Baird went forward and neutralised the fighters. After another commander suffered a life threatening leg wound Baird and his team raced to clear a landing zone for a helicopter.
They were ambushed again and as Baird tried to rush a compound he was killed by Taliban fighters.
Doug and his wife accepted the Victoria Cross on behalf of their son one year later. He said they had accepted it on behalf of the whole team involved in Baird's last mission.
Baird was also awarded the Defence Force's third highest honour, the Medal for Gallantry, in 2007.
Tasmania's other VC recipients
Trooper John Bisdee
John Bisdee was the first Australian-born soldier to received the Victoria Cross. Bisdee was born in Hobart 1869 and enlisted in 1900.
He was a member of the 1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen and was awarded a Victoria Cross for his actions during the Boer War in South Africa.
After being ambushed by Boers while scouting Bisdee saved the life of an officer whose horse had ran away. Bisdee, injured himself, mounted the officer on his horse and ran alongside the horse to safety under heavy fire.
Lieutenant Guy Wylly
Guy Wylly was awarded a Victoria Cross for his actions on the same day as John Bisdee. Wylly was in charge of the scouting party which was ambushed near Warm Bad, Transvaal on September 1, 1900.
Wylly, who was born in Hobart in 1880, noticed one of his men was injured and placed them on the back of his horse. He too ran alongside the horse to safety after being shot in the leg.
Lieutenant Colonel Harry Murray
At the end of World War I Harry Murray was the most decorated soldier across the entire British empire. He had been awarded multiple Distinguished Service Orders. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre and at the end of the war he was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George.
But it was his actions in February of 1917 which won him a Victoria Cross.
Murray led a squad of about 140 men in an assault, which lasted 48 hours, on a position known as Stormy Trench at Gueudecourt. Only 48 of the 140 men survived the failed assault, but Murray distinguished himself by leading by example.
He led grenade bombing parties, bayonet charges, rescued wounded men and crawled into no-mans-land to capture intelligence.
Lance Corporal Sidney Gordon
Launceston-born Sidney Gordon was awarded a Victoria Cross for his actions during World War I. In August 1918 Gordon's battalion was wedged between the Somme and Fargny Woods. They had been pinned down by machine gun fire.
Gordon single-handedly attacked and captured the German post which consisted of one officer and 10 men. He then entered the Fargny Woods and captured a further five machine guns and 51 prisoners.
Captain James Newland
James Newland was stationed in Tasmania when World War I began. He was deployed to France and was awarded the Victoria Cross for his role in helping the assault on Boursies.
In the week starting April 7, 1917 Newland led the advance on Boursies which was initially thwarted after Newland's company came under heavily fire. Heavy losses were sustained, but after the attack Newland led a bombing run on a mill near the village which dislodged the enemy and allowed the position to be captured.
When the Germans counter-attacked and forced the Australians back Newland was able to rally his company and hold the line until backup arrived.
Sergeant Percy Statton
Percy Statton was born at Beaconsfield in 1890. He enlisted in March 1916 and was deployed to France. Two years later he was awarded a Victoria Cross for his actions in August 1918.
After a party of 13 men was cut down by a German machine gun, while the 37th battalion was trying to advance, Statton commissioned three other soldiers to attack the post.
After sneaking up the side of the road Statton led the charge on the German trench across 75 metres of open land. The group of four captured two guns and disposed of their crews before charging on another two guns. One member of the group was killed and another injured before Statton and the other man crawled to safety. Later that night Statton went back out and rescued the wounded soldier and recovered the other body.
Lieutenant Alfred Gaby
Alfred Gaby hails from North-East Tasmania. He was born at Springfield near Ringarooma in 1892. Gaby was awarded his Victoria Cross for actions on the black day of the German Army. The German army suffered 27,000 casualties that day. The same day which marked the start of the Amiens offensive.
On that same day Gaby single-handedly approached an enemy machine gun post after finding a hole in the wire. He emptied his revolver into the garrison, captured the machine gun and forced 50 soldiers to surrender before reorganising his company and consolidating the position.
Sergeant Stanley McDougall
Stanley McDougall was born at Recherche in Tasmania's South-East in 1889. He enlisted in 1915 and three years later helped counter the Great German Offensive.
It was his actions to in 1918 which led to McDougall being awarded the Defence Force's highest honour. When a Lewis gun post was knocked out by enemy artillery McDougall grabbed the gun and attacked two machine gun posts. He then turned one of the posts on the enemy killing several.
At the same time German forces had breached the Australian-held railway line so McDougall turned the gun on them before charging the group with a bayonet.
His actions forced the surrender of 33 soldiers and saved the life of at least one Australian officer.
Sergeant Lewis McGee
Lewis McGee was born at Campbell Town in 1988. The youngest of 11 brothers, McGee enlisted when he was 27. About a year after enlisting he was involved in fighting in Belgium when his platoon was confronted by machine gun fire.
McGee rushed the enemy post with a revolver killing some of the crew and capturing the rest, before reorganising the remains of his platoon and leading them through the rest of the advance. McGee's actions that day were why he was awarded a Victoria Cross.
Sergeant John Dwyer
John Dwyer enlisted in 1915 and was awarded a Victoria Cross for his actions about two years later. Dwyer was born at Lovett, but spent most of his time growing up on Bruny Island. In August 1917 he was in charge of a Vickers machine gun and had gone forward with the first wave of his battalion as part of the battle of Polygon Wood.
When the objective was reached Dwyer established a commanding firing position before eliminating and capturing an enemy machine gun. He held his position and secured a reserve gun after being shelled heavily the next day.
Captain Percy Cherry
Victoria born Percy Cherry moved to Tasmania when he was seven after his parents purchased an apple farm at Cradoc.
Cherry enlisted in 1915 having been commissioned two years prior to join 93rd Infantry Regiment. Cherry was awarded a Victoria Cross for his actions two years later.
In late March 1917 Cherry's battalion was ordered to storm Lagnicourt. They encountered fierce opposition and after all other officers had been killed or wounded he led the battalion forward.
Cherry's battalion cleared the town, with Cherry at one point rushing a crater to clear it of opposition, before the Germans counter-attacked.
Sergeant John Whittle
John Whittle was born on Houn Island in 1883 and enlisted with the Fourth (Second Imperial Bushmen, Contingent). Whittle earned his Victoria Cross at the same time as Captain James Newland outside of Boursies in April, 1917.
When a German counter-attack succeeded in entering the small trench Whittle was holding he organised his men to charge the enemy and quickly regained the position. After being forced out to a nearby road Whittle charged a machine gun which was being set up and killed the crew and taking the gun.
His crew held the position until backup arrived and a successful counter attack saw all positions regained.
Corporal Walter Brown
Walter "Wally" Brown was born in 1885 and spent his early years in New Norfolk. He was awarded a Victoria Cross for his actions near Villers-Bretonneux, France in 1918.
Brown was apart of an advanced party which had taken over some newly captured trenches near Accroche Wood. After hearing that a sniper's nest was causing trouble for other soldiers, Brown rushed the post while under heavy fire.
After reaching the stronghold he threatened everyone inside with the bomb. The whole party, one officer and 12 crew, surrendered.
Edward 'Teddy' Sheean
Teddy Sheean was the first member of the Royal Australian Navy to be awarded a Victoria Cross. In 1942, then 18-year-old Sheean strapped himself to a gun to fire at Japanese bombers attacking the HMAS Armidale and sailors in the water.
- Special thanks to Veterans' Affairs Minister Guy Barnett whose book, Tasmania's Victoria Cross Recipients, informed parts of this article.
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