TROOPER MARK GREGOR DONALDSON
For most conspicuous acts of gallantry in action in a circumstance of great peril in Afghanistan as part of the Special Operations Task Group during Operation SLIPPER, Oruzgan Province, Afghanistan.
Trooper Mark Gregor Donaldson enlisted into the Australian Army on 18 June 2002. After completing Recruit and Initial and Employment Training he was posted to the 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment. Having successfully completed the Special Air Service Selection Course in April 2004, Trooper Donaldson was posted to Special Air Service Regiment in May 2004.
On 2 September 2008, during the conduct of a fighting patrol, Trooper Donaldson was travelling in a combined Afghan, US and Australian vehicle convoy that was engaged by a numerically superior, entrenched and coordinated enemy ambush. The ambush was initiated by a high volume of sustained machine gun fire coupled with the effective use of rocket propelled grenades. Such was the effect of the initiation that the combined patrol suffered numerous casualties, completely lost the initiative and became immediately suppressed. It was over two hours before the convoy was able to establish a clean break and move to an area free of enemy fire.
In the early stages of the ambush, Trooper Donaldson reacted spontaneously to regain the initiative. He moved rapidly between alternate positions of cover engaging the enemy with 66mm and 84mm anti-armour weapons as well as his M4 rifle. During an early stage of the enemy ambush, he deliberately exposed himself to enemy fire in order to draw attention to himself and thus away from wounded soldiers. This selfless act alone bought enough time for those wounded to be moved to relative safety.
As the enemy had employed the tactic of a rolling ambush, the patrol was forced to conduct numerous vehicle manoeuvres, under intense enemy fire, over a distance of approximately four kilometres to extract the convoy from the engagement area. Compounding the extraction was the fact that casualties had consumed all available space within the vehicles. Those who had not been wounded, including Trooper Donaldson, were left with no option but to run beside the vehicles throughout. During the conduct of this vehicle manoeuvre to extract the convoy from the engagement area, a severely wounded coalition force interpreter was inadvertently left behind. Of his own volition and displaying complete disregard for his own safety, Trooper Donaldson moved alone, on foot, across approximately 80 metres of exposed ground to recover the wounded interpreter. His movement, once identified by the enemy, drew intense and accurate machine gun fire from entrenched positions. Upon reaching the wounded coalition force interpreter, Trooper Donaldson picked him up and carried him back to the relative safety of the vehicles then provided immediate first aid before returning to the fight.
On subsequent occasions during the battle, Trooper Donaldson administered medical care to other wounded soldiers, whilst continually engaging the enemy.
Trooper Donaldson’s acts of exceptional gallantry in the face of accurate and sustained enemy fire ultimately saved the life of a coalition force interpreter and ensured the safety of the other members of the combined Afghan, US and Australian force. Trooper Donaldson’s actions on this day displayed exceptional courage in circumstances of great peril. His actions are of the highest accord and are in keeping with the finest traditions of the Special Operations Command, the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force.
Significance of the Victoria Cross
The Victoria Cross is the pre-eminent award for acts of bravery in wartime and is Australia’s highest military honour.
It is awarded to persons who, in the presence of the enemy, display the most conspicuous gallantry; a daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice; or extreme devotion to duty.
Symbolism of the Victoria Cross
The Victoria Cross is very symbolic.
It is a Maltese cross is suspended by a ring from a seriffed “V” to a bar ornamented with laurel leaves, through which the ribbon passes.
- Crimson Ribbon – The Blood of Jesus, poured out for all men
- The “V” points to the Cross – Jesus died on the Cross as the ultimate sacrifice for all men
- The Maltese cross, also known as the Amalfi cross, is identified as the symbol of an order of Christian warriors known as the Knights Hospitaller or Knights of Malta.
- Laurel leaves – Laurel has traditionally been a symbol of victory. In ancient Greece and Rome, those who succeeded in athletic or competitive events were crowned with a laurel wreath. Thus, it is alluded to by the apostle Paul when he refers to the victor’s crown. The leaves of the laurel do not wilt, so it is sometimes associated with eternity.
The Victoria Cross was created by Queen Victoria in 1856 and made retrospective to 1854 to cover the period of the Crimea War.
Until the Victoria Cross for Australia was created in 1991, Australians were eligible for the Victoria Cross and other awards under the Imperial system of honours.
The Imperial Victoria Cross has been awarded to ninety six Australians. Ninety one received the Victoria Cross while others serving with Australian forces and five Australians received the award while serving with South African and British units.
Australians were first recognised for their gallantry in the Boer War and more recently during the Vietnam War.
Australians have been awarded the Victoria Cross in the following conflicts:
- 6 in the Boer War 1899-1902
- 64 in World War I 1914-1918
- 2 in North Russia 1919
- 20 in World War II 1939-1945
- 4 in Vietnam 1962-1972
Nine of the crosses awarded in World War I were for Australians at Gallipoli.
Victoria Cross for Australia
The Victoria Cross for Australia was instituted in the Australian honours system by Letters Patent on 15 January 1991. It replaced the British or Imperial Victoria Cross.
Trooper Donaldson has been awarded the first Victoria Cross for Australia.
Rare quality indeed
Jesus set the example. This is what Jesus said:
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because servants do not know their master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
This is my command: Love each other.
On the morning show, Sunrise, Mark Donaldson said this:
“I look after me mates, and me mates look after me.”
This is a great quality for us all to capture!
Source: Australian Department of Defence – Defence Media Liaison