More Victoria Crosses added to war memorial display

Thursday, 16th March, 2017

Private Robert Beatham from Geelong was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for bravery at Amiens in 1918.

THREE more Victoria Crosses have gone on display at the Australian War Memorial as part of World War I centenary commemorations.

The British Empire's highest military honour was awarded to Private Robert Matthew Beatham, Private Patrick Joseph Bugden and Major Blair Anderson Wark.

The loan of these medals takes the number of Victoria Crosses on display at the Memorial to 81.

Privates Beatham and Budgen fought and died in France and Belgium, respectively. Major Wark also fought in France during World War I, and again during World War II.

Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson said the memorial is committed to displaying as many Victoria Cross medals as possible in the Hall of Valour during the centenary.

"It is impossible for us to fully comprehend the danger these men faced and the terror they fought through in order to defeat their adversaries. We are duty-bound to help people understand what they experienced and visitors to this gallery have that opportunity," said Dr Nelson.

Born in England, Robert Beatham enlisted in 1915 aged 24, and fought in France with the 8th Battalion. The day after the battle of Amiens, on 9 August 1918, Beatham's battalion was involved in the costly but successful attack at Rosières near Villers-Bretonneux.

Beatham attacked four machine-gun posts, killing or capturing their crews and allowing his fellow soldiers to advance. He had already been wounded, and was killed that day while attacking another gun post.

Twenty-year-old Patrick Bugden, a hotelkeeper from the north coast of New South Wales, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his outstanding bravery at Polygon Wood between 26 and 28 September 1917.

Serving with the 31st Battalion and held up by intense machine-gun fire, Bugden twice led small parties to silence the enemy posts.

Five times he rescued wounded men trapped by intense shelling and machine-gun fire, and once, seeing that an Australian corporal had been taken prisoner, he rushed to the man's aid, shooting and bayoneting the enemy. He kept fighting until he was killed.

Blair Wark had been a member of the New South Wales Militia before enlisting as an officer in the Australian Imperial Force in mid-1915, serving with the 32nd Battalion. A year later he fought at Fromelles, where he was highly commended. In 1917 at Polygon Wood he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

Wark's finest feat took place during the attack on the Hindenburg Line while in command of the battalion at Bellicourt in 1918. He showed outstanding leadership, often in advance of his troops, and was responsible for seizing field artillery, silencing machine-guns, and capturing more than 50 German prisoners.

One hundred Australians have been awarded the Victoria Cross; 96 under the Imperial honours system and four since Australian honours were introduced in 1991.

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