The Royal Australian Regiment Salutes Corporal Daniel Keighran VC

When Governor-General Quentin Bryce awarded Corporal Daniel Keighran with the Victoria Cross he earned a unique distinction in the history of The Royal Australian Regiment, he became the RAR’s first soldier to be awarded our nations highest award while on active service with a Battalion of the Regiment.  Since the Second World War and the formation of the RAR, there have been four Imperial Victoria Cross and two Victoria Cross for Australia Recipients.  The four Imperial awards were all members of the AATTV serving in the Vietnam War, three of them; Kevin Wheatley, Keith Payne and Ray Simpson were all WO2’s who had previously served in Battalions of the Regiment while the fourth, MAJ Peter Badcoe was an artillery officer.  In Afghanistan, two Victoria Cross of Australia awards have been made to special forces members, Mark Donaldson and  Ben Roberts-Smith of SASR, again both former RAR members.

Today at the United Service Club in Brisbane, The Royal Australian Regiment Association (Queensland Branch) while celebrating the 64th birthday of the Regiment toasted the achievements of Corporal Daniel Keighran VC, the third recipient of the Victoria Cross for Australia.

The award was for service in circumstances of great peril at Derapet, Uruzgan Province in Afghanistan.  In August 2010, Corporal Keighran was involved in coordinated enemy attack from multiple firing points.  According to his official citation, he “with complete disregard for his own safety, broke cover on multiple occasions to draw intense and accurate enemy fire to identify enemy locations and direct return fire from Australian and Afghan fire support elements.”  The 29-year-old’s actions were instrumental in permitting the withdrawal of the combined Australian and Afghan patrol with no further casualties.

Speaking at the Investiture Ceremony at Government House in Canberra, CDF  General David Hurley said Corporal Keighran’s selfless actions were of the highest level of bravery.  “Corporal Keighran acted with exceptional clarity and composure that spread to those soldiers around him, giving them confidence to operate effectively in an extremely stressful and dangerous situation.”

Corporal Keighran himself said he was surprised and honoured to receive the award.  “This is a very unexpected and humbling experience and I don’t think it has really sunk in yet.  I am very proud of the boys from Delta Company, 6 RAR and how they performed that day. This award is as much for their efforts as it is for mine.  I would also like to acknowledge my family, friends and especially my wife Kathryn. They have been very supportive throughout my service and deployments and I would like to recognise and thank them.”

Corporal Keighran enlisted in the Australian Army in 2000, prior to Afghanistan, he had served in East Timor and Iraq, was promoted to Lance Corporal in 2005 whilst within Mortar Platoon Support Company, 6RAR and subsequently Corporal in 2009.

CPL Keighran was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions while serving with 6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment.

Temporary Lieutenant W T Dartnell VC, 3/9/1915

Today in Australian military history – 3/9/1915 – Temporary Lieutenant W T Dartnell, 25th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, originally from Melbourne, Victoria Cross action at Maktau, British East Africa. It was a posthumous award.

William Dartnell, born at Collingwood, Melbourne, was only 15 years old when he enlisted for service in South Africa with the Victorian Mounted Rifles in 1901. He returned to South Africa in 1913 and was working there when war was declared. Using the name Wilbur Taylor Dartnell, he joined the 25th Battalion, the Royal Fusiliers, as a temporary lieutenant, and in April 1915 sailed for service in British East Africa.

Dartnell’s Victoria Cross was awarded posthumously for his actions on 3 September 1915, near Maktau, East Africa. Wounded in the leg during an ambush, he insisted on being left behind to allow other wounded companions to be carried away. Though he was twice asked to leave, he refused and began firing at the Germans around him. When his body was found, seven enemy dead were lying nearby.

Dartnell was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously, he also received the Queen’s South Africa Medal and service medals for the First World War.