13 July 2007

NZ VC awarded for Afghan service

ZUI this article from The Australian:
A New Zealand soldier has become the first person since World War II to be awarded the country's highest honour for bravery, after a daring rescue of a wounded comrade while serving in Afghanistan in 2004.

Corporal Bill Apiata of the New Zealand Special Air Service was given the Victoria Cross for New Zealand.

The medal is based on Britain's Victoria Cross, the highest decoration for British soldiers.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said Corporal Apiata, 35, was awarded the medal for carrying a severely wounded soldier across open ground while coming under heavy fire.


There are 22 New Zealand soldiers who have been awarded the British Victoria Cross, the last of which was in 1946 for service in World War II.

New Zealand separated its system of honours and awards from Britain's in 1999, creating the new award.

Like New Zealand, fellow Commonwealth countries Australia and Canada have established their own version of the British Victoria Cross.

TVNZ has this to say:
It was 3.15am one morning in Afghanistan in 2004 when a troop of SAS soldiers came under fire from 20 enemy fighters with machine and rocket propelled grenades.

Apiata was blown off the bonnet of his vehicle in the attack and one of colleagues was seriously injured. Apiata picked up his colleague and carried him 70 metres in what was described as broken, rocky and fire-swept ground under heavy fire. He placed his colleague into safety and then joined the counter attack.

The government says Corporal Apiata showed little regard for his own life when he saved his colleague who would certainly have died from loss of blood otherwise.

And from The Age, we have this:
Three other members of Apiata's squad, from the Special Air Services commando unit, were awarded lesser gallantry medals for actions in the battle, in Afghanistan in 2004. They were not named for security reasons, Clark said.

Apiata was a member of the SAS squad that won a Presidential Citation from US President George W Bush in 2004 for their actions in Afghanistan.


His medal is the first Victoria Cross awarded a New Zealander since WWII and the first to a serving member of the Special Air Service anywhere in the Commonwealth, Clark said.

Clark said Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, New Zealand's head of state, had approved the award for Apiata.

The New Zealand Herald has Cpl Apiata's citation, as well as the other three, here.

In addition to Apiata, there are currently 12 living holders (six British, two Australian and four Gurkha) of the Victoria Cross: eight from World War II, and one each from Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and Iraq.

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