Australian war heroes meet Prince Charles


Australian war veterans were among the Victoria and George Cross holders who sat down for tea with Prince Charles in London.

Australia’s four surviving Victoria Cross recipients have joined other Victoria and George Cross holders in London to meet with members of the Royal family.

Keith Payne VC, Corporal Mark Donaldson VC, Ben Roberts-Smith VC and Corporal Dan Keighran VC attended an afternoon tea at St James Palace hosted by the Prince of Wales.

It marked the start of three days of Royal events honouring servicemen and veterans who have received Britain and the Commonwealth's highest award for military bravery.

The parents of Cameron Baird VC, who was posthumously awarded Australia’s highest military honour last year, are also in London and will attend a reception to be hosted by the Queen later this week.

Only 100 Australian troops have been awarded The Victoria Cross since it was instituted by Queen Victoria in 1856.

Corporal Donaldson, who was awarded the VC in 2009, said the reunions were much more about the relationships between the men than it was tea with the prince or the medal itself.

"It's a bit like Christmas time when family all gets to come together, share their stories, have a catch-up, and it's just like it was the last time you saw them," he said.

"I missed the last one because I was serving in Afghanistan, so 2010 was the last one I've been to but it honestly feels like only a couple of months since the last time I saw most of these people."

Cpl Donaldson was an SAS trooper in Afghanistan in 2008 when his selfless actions during a Taliban ambush saved the life of a wounded Afghani interpreter attached to his patrol.

Mr Roberts-Smith, 35, who is Australia's most highly decorated soldier, said the reunion's royal connection made it particularly special to him.

"It's an amazing thing for a kid from Western Australia to end up sitting having a cup of tea with His Royal Highness," he said.

The former Special Air Service corporal received his VC for his actions during a helicopter assault in Tizak in June 2010, and also won a Medal for Gallantry in 2006.

Cpl Keighran was attending the biennial event for the first time.

"It is incredibly humbling to talk to these guys and hear their stories," he said.

"To be a part of that group as well - I don't think I'll get used it.

"Every year there are less and less members, so it's good to come together."

The 31-year-old won his Victoria Cross in 2012 for repeatedly putting himself in great danger at the Battle of Derapet in August 2010.

Keith Payne, an 81-year-old Vietnam veteran who was awarded the VC in 1969 said the Prince of Wales had expressed concerns about post-traumatic stress disorder affecting returned servicemen and women.

He's terribly interested in the problem of PTSD and everything and we spoke about that," he said.

"He has a very deep interest in what is happening to our veteran community."

The men will meet the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at a reception at Buckingham Palace on Thursday, and will be hosted by Prince Harry on Wednesday.

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