Paddy's VC on show

THE Victoria Cross won in World War I by Private Paddy Bugden of Alstonville forms part of an exhibition opened at Queensland Museum this week. Paddy, whose memory lives on through a statue in his home town, won the Australian Army's highest award for gallantry for heroic deeds in World War I. Paddy Bugden was described as being athletic, cheerful and energetic. He wrote home that his footballing friends called him the 'Tank'. He was also a fine cricketer and excelled at shot-put.

Paddy helped manage the family's hotels at Billinudgel and Alstonville before enlisting in Brisbane on May 25, 1916. His 31st Battalion trained in Brisbane, Broadmeadows (Victoria) and England before arriving in mid-winter France on January 14, 1917.

In May, the Australians fought the bloody and pointless second battle of Bullecourt. Paddy wrote home in June that: "The worst thing is the stink for the trenches that we were in is surrounded by dead bodies."

He died on September 28, performing the extraordinary feats for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross. His citation reads: "For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when on two occasions our advance was temporarily held up by strongly defended pill-boxes. Pte. Bugden, in the face of devastating fire from machine guns, gallantly led small parties to attack these strong points and, successfully silencing the machine guns with bombs, captured the gar rison at the point of the bayonet.

"On another occasion, when a corporal, who had become detached from his company, had been captured and was being taken to the rear by the enemy, Pte. Bugden, single-handed, rushed to the rescue of his comrade, shot one enemy and bayoneted the remaining two, thus releasing the corporal.

"On five occasions he rescued wounded men under intense shell and machine-gun fire, showing an utter contempt and disregard for danger.

"Always foremost in volunteering for any dangerous mission, it was during the execution of one of these missions that this gallant solider was killed." -- London Gazette, 26 November, 1917

Keith Payne VC OAM today joined the families of featured Victoria Cross recipients to launch the exhibition, The Courage of Ordinary Men: Three Stories of the Victoria Cross. CEO of Queensland Museum Dr Ian Galloway said the exhibition commemorated the 90th year since the end of World War 1 by showcasing the wartime experiences of Private Patrick Joseph Bugden VC, Private Robert Matthew Beatham VC and Major Blair Anderson Wark VC, DSO.

"This is the first time the Queensland Museum has displayed the three Victoria Crosses in its care, as well as the original letters Private Paddy Bugden wrote home to his family," Dr Galloway said.

"On the eve of Anzac Day, this important exhibition highlights the great courage and resilience of the men and women who have, and continue to, fight for our country."

Families of the men featured in the exhibition came from the United Kingdom and New South Wales for the exhibition launching. Relatives of Paddy Bugden were among those attending. The exhibition features an evocative film and soundscape immersing the visitors in what it was like in the trenches of World War 1.

Queen Victoria established the Victoria Cross award in 1856 to recognise 'conspicuous bravery' in war.

The medal has been awarded 1357 times including to 96 Australians. Keith Payne is one of only two living Australians to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

Two of the Victoria Crosses on display are on loan from the United Service Club Queensland and Mr Neil Jenman and Mrs Ruth Jenman. The other was donated to the Queensland Museum by the family of Private Paddy Bugden and is part of the museum collection. Queensland Museum South Bank is located on the corner of Grey and Melbourne streets, South Bank. The museum is open daily from 9.30am to 5pm and open from 1.30pm Anzac Day. What: The Courage of Ordinary Men: Three Stories of the Victoria Cross

When: From 23 April 2008

Where: Queensland Museum South Bank, Cnr Melbourne and Grey Streets, South Brisbane

Cost: Entry is free.

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