Today we remember the life and service of 41400 Major Peter John Badcoe, VC, killed in action on 7 April 1967 in the last of three heroic actions that would see him posthumously awarded Australia’s highest honour, the Victoria Cross.
This quiet, bookish bloke shows us what leadership, guts and a dedication to looking after others really mean.
Peter Badcoe didn't drink grog, didn't smoke and didn't raise hell on leave.
Not the typical Aussie Digger of the day, he was quiet and bookish preferring to read and discuss military history than play mess rugby. He was short and chubby with horn-rimmed glasses - more geek than grunt, but underestimate him at your peril as the enemy discovered.
In 1966 after 16 years in the Army and at the age of 32, Major Peter Badcoe joined the Australian Army Training Team - Vietnam and was the Australian advisor to the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) in Thua Thien province near the border with North Vietnam, far removed from the Australian AO in Phouc Tuy province near Saigon.
On February 23 1967, he monitored a radio transmission stating that a US Army Officer advising a platoon of South Vietnamese Popular Forces had been killed during a contact, his body lying in front of a troublesome enemy machine gun post, and a US Army medical officer severely wounded. Sprinting across 650 metres of open ground, swept by machine gun fire, he married up with the besieged troops, tended the wounds of the medical officer, rallied the friendly forces, then led a frontal attack on the enemy inflicting heavy casualties and neutralising the machine gun post himself.
He picked up the body of the dead US officer and still under fire, led the troops on a fighting withdrawal over the 650 metres of open ground.
Two weeks later whilst commanding the Ready Reaction Company of the province, he led a series of assaults which saved the besieged district headquarters of Quang Dien and its defenders, routing the enemy and forcing them to flee.
A month later, working with the ARVN 1st Division Reaction company and some APCs, the company came under heavy attack and withdrew to cover, abandoning Badcoe and his signaller. He ran back to the South Vietnamese troops, rallied them and spurred them to advance. They halted again, but Badcoe continued forward.
A stubborn machine gun post attracted his attention and he started lobbing grenades at it in an attempt to silence it. As he rose to throw another grenade, he was cut down by enemy fire.
For his service to his country and for these three individual acts of bravery, this unlikely hero from South Australia was awarded Australia’s highest honour… the Victoria Cross.
Here's the citation:
Some of Peter Badcoe's medals
This man embodies the finest of the Australian Army.
He was a leader who put his men and others first.
An officer who fought hard and at the front line.
Duty and service before self.
Lest We Forget.