Just how Ian Reid wasn’t killed in a paddy field in Vietnam, no one can agree.
The 20-year-old Army recruit found himself in the middle of a sustained firefight on the night of April 30, 1970, when he saw another Australian soldier shot in the throat near enemy lines.
A rifleman and medic with the 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Private Reid went to the aid of Newcastle-born Noel William Cooper to stem the bleeding from his jugular vein.
Known as “Flappers” because of his prominent ears, he held Private Cooper upright for at least 39 minutes, likely saving his life while waiting in the dark for a helicopter rescue.
Completely exposed and with his back to the enemy, it has taken more than 47 years for the Army to formal recognition of his heroism.
“It began in about April 2011 when following a change to the legislation, someone like myself who actually hadn’t ever been recommended for an award could apply.
A father-of-three who went on to spend 12 years in the Army, he has not sought any award for himself.
“I consider myself extremely lucky to have such an understanding family that we’re all still together at the end of the process,” he said.
The morning after the fighting, still in shock, the man who would become his champion told Private Reid he was a hero.
“It had me stuffed how they never nicked one of his ears,” John Abernethy told his mate.
“Private Reid was exposed from the waist up, with his back to the incoming barrage of AK47 [gunfire] and rocket propelled grenades, and with the enemy tracer all around him,” he says today.
“I couldn’t understand how he couldn’t have been hit.”
Mr Abernethy was discharged from the Army after being injured and left Vietnam assuming recognition of Private Reid’s bravery was in train.
At an Army reunion in 1987 he learned an application for an honour had been rejected, later being told it was because an awards quota for the battalion had been filled.
“Despite occupying a place in the written history of the battalion… his actions were totally ignored at the time and to this day Army remains steadfastly opposed to any form of retrospective recognition,” he said.
Ian Reid and John Abernethy agree something extraordinary happened that night, with records showing Private Reid moved to an exposed position to save a mate.
“I was also looking in the same direction as the enemy, and the only clear target was Flappers Reid,” Mr Abernethy said.
“Everyone else was down behind cover. His actions were heroic,” he said.
After the hearing, the tribunal will make a recommendation to Defence Personnel Minister Dan Tehan.
Mr Reid would become the 101st Australian to be awarded the Victoria Cross.
From the Canberra Times