War Stories: Hall of Valour

The Australian
War Memorial is a nation’s tribute to and commemoration of the million men and women
who have served in its armed forces. At its centre, telling the stories of the bravest
of the brave is the Hall of Valour. [Nick Fletcher] The building actually lies, if you want to say, at the
heart of the cross which the building forms. Ah, it also basically sits directly underneath
the tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier, so symbolically it is the very literal heart
of the Memorial. The Hall of Valour houses one of the largest collections at the supreme award for bravery,
the Victoria Cross. [Keith Payne] I think it’s a fine way to show and honour those blokes, ah, that
ah ah, earnt the Victoria Cross. Keith Payne is the is the last Australian to be awarded
the Victoria Cross for an extraordinary action in Vietnam when he repeatedly approached the
enemy frontline to find and bring to safety more than 40 of his men. After Australia left
the Imperial Honour System, the award, equal in every way, was renamed the Victoria Cross
for Australia. Mark Donaldson, for action in Afghanistan was its first recipient. [Mark Donaldson] I came into the War Memorial and bought one of the books and was reading through the Australian
stories, I remember saying to my wife, you know, I am just, I dont know why they
are giving me this, you know, because I don’t stack up to these guys. [Keith Payne] If you have a look
at all of them and you read the citation, you, you will find the
factor, there is one factor there they have all accepted responsibility for the task they
have got at hand, it’s ah, their responsibility they’ve accepted it. [Voiceover] The most recent holder
of the Victoria Cross for Australia for action in Afghanistan is Ben Roberts-Smith. [Ben Roberts-Smith] I mean their stories are extraordinary and what they did is beyond comprehension, so I would always
aspire to that as I think all soldiers do. [Nick Fletcher] I think the Hall of Valour celebrates in many ways “Australian’ness” I think that’s what Australians appreciate about it, at the end of the day the unifying factor is that the actions for which the Victoria Cross is awarded are always selfless actions. [Mark Donaldson] You really don’t look at yourself and, and go ok, I did this and I
did that’ it was it was never like that for me, it was all about what we did as a whole
that day. [Keith Payne] They even done a study on it, and, and is there anything in common with these
blokes? They found out there is no, no common factor. [Voiceover] On their chests the decoration that
takes precedence over any other and by tradition entitles them to privileges, including receiving
the salute even the highest ranking officer but the metal itself is fairly dull. [Nick Fletcher] Anyone who has seen one knows that it doesn’t stand out for its, ah, glittering beauty there are,
there are much more visually appealing awards but its very subdued appearance, it is probably
a fair representation of the recipients, they’re not people to trumpet their own triumphs.
[Voiceover] The thing these soldiers insist on, the thing that perhaps, all of those whose stories are
told in the Hall of Valour would say is that they did not act alone. [Mark Donaldson] I would still fight just as hard as I did that day and hope, you know, definitely all my mates around me would,
so I wouldn’t want to let them down and that’s why I would do exactly the same thing. [Ben Roberts-Smith] It’s an award that was given to us, it wasn’t given to me. [Keith Payne] The Victoria Cross was a million miles high, mine was the first I’d seen, it’s awe-inspiring. [Ben Roberts-Smith] I still walk around the Hall of Valour looking at those guys today, reading their stories and ah, you know I am wearing
one. [Mark Donaldson] I couldn’t be more proud of the fact that, you know, I am an Australian and the
fact that, ah, my Regiment and what we’ve done that day is now etched in history.

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