- The Defence Honours and Awards Tribunal was established administratively in July 2008. It inquires into, and in its present role makes recommendations to the Government on, matters referred to it by the Government relating to the granting of honours and awards to serving and former members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF). The Tribunal may also consider individual claims to medals that have been refused by the relevant awarding authority.
- The Tribunal received a submission from Mr John Bradford of Adelaide, South Australia, seeking recognition for Far East Prisoners of War killed while trying to escape, or who were executed following recapture. Mr Bradford seeks the award of a Mentioned in Despatches (MID), or the contemporary equivalent, for those Australian World War II soldiers he has identified as eligible.
- The MID is an Imperial Award the origins of which can be traced to the 18th Century, or possibly earlier. The MID is awarded by the Sovereign on the recommendation of the Service Chiefs or their delegate. For World War II veterans, the award is symbolised by the wearing of a stylised oak leaf worn on the ribbon of the War Medal 1939-1945.
- When considering the eligibility criteria for the award of the MID, the Tribunal reviewed the basis on which the award had been created and the circumstances in which it has been awarded. It paid heed to the integrity of the Australian system of honours and awards and the consequential impact any finding or recommendation might have on that system.
The Tribunal’s Findings
- After considering all the material before it, including relevant official records, the criteria for the award of the MID and the material and oral evidence provided by Mr Bradford and the Department of Defence, the substantive findings of the Tribunal are as follows:
In these circumstances, the Tribunal considers that it is appropriate that the servicemen identified as having been executed during an escape or after recapture from a Prisoner of War Camp should be awarded retrospectively and posthumously the Commendation for Gallantry.
The Tribunal recognises that implementation of this recommendation may cause difficulties for Defence in identifying an appropriate recipient. Its second recommendation is directed towards this issue.
The Tribunal recognises the sensitive nature of some of the content of this report. However, it considers that the servicemen who were executed deserve public recognition for their heroic conduct. Accordingly, it is recommended that the report be publicly released.
- The Australian government adopted the conditions and procedure for the award of a posthumous MID that had been accepted by the British Imperial Prisoners of War Committee;
- Australian Prisoners of War who were killed escaping from prison camps or who were executed following recapture were eligible for consideration for the posthumous MID if they were blameless for their capture and had made a determined effort to escape;
- Nineteen of the servicemen identified on the nominal roll prepared in 1945 and added to on 20 February 1946 were eligible for consideration for the posthumous MID, but only one serviceman was given the award as a result of being executed after recapture. (Two of the executed servicemen had been awarded a posthumous MID for other reasons.);
- The Commander-in-Chief did not consider the remaining servicemen on the nominal roll for the award of a posthumous MID;
- The Tribunal identified two serviceman, not included on the nominal roll who were executed after recapture, and who were eligible to be considered for the posthumous MID;
- The posthumous Commendation for Gallantry is equivalent to the posthumous MID;
- The Tribunal concluded it was unlikely further Far East Prisoners of War would be identified as being eligible for the posthumous MID.
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