Armchair critics of our elite troops can’t handle the truth


If you venture to be a tall poppy in this country, then be prepared for those of more modest achievement to come at your ankles with chainsaws.

One of our tallest poppies, literally and figuratively, is Ben Roberts-Smith, the recipient of the Victoria Cross and the Medal for Gallantry and former member of the Special Air Service Regiment.

Roberts-Smith may or may not have been ­involved in the alleged crimes in ­Afghanistan detailed in the Brereton report, but his only known crime to date is to have exhibited extraordinary bravery under fire on numerous occasions.

A genuine hero - what a perfect target for the armchair critics who have never heard or seen a shot fired in anger, and whose most critical life decisions relate to the choice between iced latte and cappuccino.

What, I wonder, would those now chanting "shame, shame, shame" have done had they been in ­Kandahar Province on June 11, 2020, pinned down by fire from three ­machineguns and with two comrades already wounded?

Would they have huddled in a hole and cried for their mothers, or done as Roberts-Smith did as detailed in this citation accompanying his Victoria Cross.

"Corporal Roberts-Smith and his patrol members fought towards the enemy position until, at a range of 40m, the weight of fire prevented further movement forward. At this point, he identified the opportunity to exploit some cover provided by a small structure," the citation detailed.

"As he approached the structure, Corporal Roberts-Smith identified an insurgent grenadier in the throes of engaging his patrol.

"Corporal Roberts-Smith instinctively engaged the insurgent at point-blank range resulting in the death of the insurgent.

"With the members of his patrol still pinned down by the three enemy machine gun positions, he exposed his own position in order to draw fire away from his patrol, which enabled them to bring fire to bear against the enemy."


Then governor-general Quentin Bryce awards Ben Roberts-Smith the Victoria Cross in Perth in 2011.
Then governor-general Quentin Bryce awards Ben Roberts-Smith the Victoria Cross in Perth in 2011.


Corporal Roberts-Smith's actions later in the encounter demonstrated "extreme devotion to duty and the most conspicuous gallantry".

In another engagement, he ­realised that the forward edge of an observation post was not secure and moved forward to take up an exposed position forward of the patrol so he could effectively employ his sniper weapon.

"Lance Corporal Roberts-Smith's actions whilst under heavy anti-coalition militia fire and in a precarious position, threatened by a numerically superior force, are testament to his courage, tenacity and sense of duty to his patrol," the Victoria Cross citation found.

Courage, tenacity, sense of duty. See much of that around these days? I see plenty of self-interest, self-indulgence, self-promotion and self-opinion, but not much in the way of courage, tenacity and sense of duty.

It is sickening to suddenly hear people moaning about a "warrior culture" as if it was a disease.

We need people with a warrior ­culture to defend us from those who would destroy our democracy.

It is worth remembering that the enemy in question are in the habit of decapitating their prisoners and burning them alive in metal cages. They are not nice people.

There can be no doubt that some bad things happened, but it's easy to judge while safely ensconced in the society that Roberts-Smith and his colleagues fought to defend.

At the battle of Milne Bay against the Japanese in Papua New Guinea in World War II where my late father served, he and his men were told to take no prisoners, and they didn't.

Were they war criminals? I don't think so.




Originally published as Armchair critics of our elite troops can't handle the truth