Private Patrick Bugden, posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at Polygon Wood, near Ypres, in September 1917. His medal is among three newly-loaned for exhibition at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra (Photo courtesy of the Australian War Memorial - H12601)

Three more WW1 Victoria Crosses displayed at the Australian War Memorial

Posted on on 07 March 2017
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Victoria Cross medals awarded to three Australian soldiers in 1917-18 have been added to the Centenary display in the Australian War Memorial's Hall of Valour.

The loan of the medals won by Privates Robert Beatham, Patrick Bugden, and Major Blair Wark brings the number of VCs exhibited at the Canberra site to 81.

All received the highest British and Commonwealth decoration for bravery for their actions on the Western Front.

Beatham and Bugden fought and died in France and Belgium, respectively. Wark also fought in France during the First World War, and served again during the Second World War.

Their medals have been made available for loan by the Queensland Museum and the United Service Club Queensland. 

The Australian War Memorial is committed to displaying as many Victoria Cross medals as possible during the centenary commemorations, says Director Dr Brendan Nelson.

"It is impossible for us to fully comprehend the danger these men faced and the terror they fought through in order to defeat their adversaries. We are duty-bound to help people understand what they experienced and visitors to this gallery have that opportunity."

Robert Beatham VC

Born in England, Robert Beatham moved to Australia as a teenager. He enlisted in 1915 aged 24, and fought in France with the 8th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force (Photo courtesy of the Australian War Memorial -JO3073)

The day after the Battle of Amiens, on 9 August 1918, Private Beatham's battalion was involved in the costly but successful attack at Rosières near Villers-Bretonneux.

Beatham attacked four machine-gun posts, killing or capturing their crews and allowing his fellow soldiers to advance. He had already been wounded, and was killed that day while attacking another gun post.

Patrick Bugden VC

Twenty-year-old Patrick Bugden (pictured at top of page), a hotelkeeper from the north coast of New South Wales, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his outstanding bravery at Polygon Wood, during the Third Battle of Ypres, between 26 and 28 September 1917.

Serving with the 31st Battalion and held up by intense machine-gun fire, Private Bugden twice led small parties to silence the enemy posts. Five times he rescued wounded men trapped by intense shelling and machine-gun fire, and once, seeing that an Australian corporal had been taken prisoner, he rushed to the man’s aid. He kept fighting until he was killed. 

Blair Wark VC DSO

Blair Wark had been a member of the New South Wales Militia before enlisting as an officer in the Australian Imperial Force in mid-1915, serving with the 32nd Battalion (Photo courtesy of the Australian War Memorial - PO5879.001)

Wark fought at Fromelles in 1916, Australia's first major Western Front battle, where he was highly commended. In 1917 at Polygon Wood he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

Major Wark won the Victoria Cross for his fearless leadership during the attack on the Hindenburg Line in 1918. While in command of the battalion at Bellicourt, he often moved in advance of his troops, and was responsible for seizing field artillery, silencing machine-guns, and capturing more than 50 German prisoners.

He was commanding a Militia battalion during the Second World War when he died, aged 47.

For more information about Australian recipients of the Victoria Cross, see the Hall of Valour page on the Australian War Memorial website.

Images courtesy of the Australian War Memorial, Canberra

Source: AWM