Defence Minister Richard Marles accused of stalling on Richard Norden’s Victoria Cross honour ‘for political gain’

By BEN PACKHAM – Australian


  • 8:55PM MAY 21, 2024


ED: Summery of the article in the Australian by Ben Packham. Photo: Private Richard Leslie Norden credit Australian

Defence Minister Richard Marles has been criticised for delaying a decision on awarding a Victoria Cross (VC) to Vietnam War hero Private Richard Leslie Norden, with some accusing him of using the delay for political purposes. The Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal recommended in July 2022 that Norden receive the VC for his valour during the 1968 Battle of Fire Support Base Coral. Despite this, Marles has not acted on the recommendation for nearly two years, missing a significant opportunity to award the honour during the 50th anniversary of the end of Australia’s involvement in Vietnam.

Veterans and advocates believe this delay is linked to the controversial issue of stripping medals from commanders implicated in war crimes identified in the Brereton Report on Afghanistan. They suggest Marles might be holding back the VC award to use it as a positive distraction when announcing the revocation of other military honours, which is expected to be highly contentious.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel George Hulse, who fought alongside Norden, expressed concerns that the VC decision is being manipulated to soften the backlash from removing medals. He and other veterans have approached Marles and Veterans’ Affairs Minister Matt Keogh multiple times for an update but have received no response. Alan “Jack” Parr, another veteran of the battle, also believes the delay is politically motivated and connected to the Brereton Report.

Private Norden, posthumously recommended for the VC, demonstrated extraordinary bravery in May 1968. His citation details how he repeatedly risked his life under heavy enemy fire to save a wounded comrade and retrieve another’s body, killing multiple North Vietnamese soldiers in the process. Despite this heroism, he only received the Distinguished Conduct Medal at the time.

The delay in awarding Norden the VC has caused frustration among the veteran community, with many unable to understand why the decision is stalled. Vietnam Veterans’ Association President Max Ball criticized the government for the hold-up, stressing that the Tribunal’s recommendations should not be influenced by other considerations. Norden’s family, particularly his brother Roger, remains hopeful but has been kept in the dark regarding the progress of the recommendation.

The situation is reminiscent of the posthumous VC awarded to naval seaman Edward “Teddy” Sheean in 2020, which was initially rejected by Defence Minister Linda Reynolds but later approved by then-Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Marles has also pledged to hold Australian Defence Force commanders accountable for war crimes committed in Afghanistan, indicating that decisions on these matters are under careful review.

The controversy highlights a broader issue of political manoeuvring within the military honours system, where decisions on recognizing valour are perceived to be influenced by broader political considerations rather than solely based on merit. Critics argue that such delays and political entanglements undermine the integrity of military awards and erode trust among veterans and their families.

In conclusion, the delay in awarding Private Richard Norden the Victoria Cross has been met with significant backlash from the veteran community and raises concerns about the politicisation of military honours. The intertwining of this decision with the sensitive issue of addressing war crimes in Afghanistan adds a layer of complexity and suspicion regarding the motives behind the delay.


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  • Kenneth Ronald Taylor May 24, 2024   Reply →

    That seems about right. Politicians will take every advantage to enhance their image. They are the only parasites on earth that will water a tree so they can eat the heart out of it.

  • Robin Farrell May 24, 2024   Reply →

    Go to A Current Affair

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