In a private ceremony with Her Majesty The Queen of Australia at Windsor Castle, SAS Trooper Mark Donaldson was honoured for his extraordinary achievements in saving the lives of a number of fellow soldiers while under fire from the Taliban.
Trooper Donaldson was invested with Victoria Cross on 16 January 2009 for his "exceptional bravery" in service in Afghanistan by Her Excellency, Governor-General Quentin Bryce, with the approval of Queen Elizabeth.
The Victoria Cross was last rewarded to an Australian, Keith Payne VC, forty years ago.
Trooper Donaldson was serving with the SAS in Oruzgan province in Afghanistan in October last year when his unit was ambushed. He deliberately drew enemy fire to allow wounded soldiers to escape and be taken to safety. Then, "with complete disregard for his own safety"' Trooper Donaldson ran back 80m across exposed ground to rescue a wounded Afghan interpreter and take him back to a vehicle.
His citation said he "displayed exceptional courage in circumstances of great peril" and saved the life of the interpreter. ( A full report is on this site and a video of the investiture is embedded below)
…one of the most amazing things….
"It's amazing. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and probably one of the most amazing things that's ever going to happen,"he said, according to a report by the ABC’s Europe correspondent Philip Williams (11/11).
Trooper Donaldson says he never imagined he would find himself in Windsor Castle. "Unless I was doing a tour through the castle, I suppose, but that would be about it," he said. "Thinking about it now it's, I don't know, to me like it was back then, it was just what we had to do at the time and it was just a part of the job and that's combat."
"Whatever happens at the time is what you've just got to do to get through it. Like I've always said, I was only one person amongst many that were there that day, and many other things did happen that day so yeah, it was definitely a group effort."
"Everyone just had to get out of there and we just wanted to make sure no-one was left behind," he said.
But, he says, “I don't think you should rest on your laurels. You're only as good as your last gig so there's always more out there that needs to be done and the next job you get is the next one you've got to focus on, not the last one, so it's always about going forward."
"What the guys and girls over there are doing at the moment is quite amazing and they should definitely have 100 per cent support from everyone that they can, and they need at the time. It's quite amazing the things that they do and go through … and it's definitely a worthy cause. "And any little bit helps, whether it's buying bands or giving donations or just writing letters of support, you know every little bit helps."
Trooper Donaldson acknowledges there is controversy at the moment over the deployment of troops in Afghanistan but he says that is not for him to comment on.
"That's one of those things that's a political question and I'm not here to talk about that today, I'm here to meet the Queen."