Exceptional bravery of Paddy Bugden sets an example for all
PRIVATE Patrick 'Paddy' Bugden was just 20 years old when he rallied together a small group of comrades to storm two concrete enemy pillboxes under heavy fire.
During the same two days of battle from September 26 to 28, 1917, the Alstonville digger managed to single-handedly rescue a corporal who was being taken across to enemy lines by three German soldiers.
He was said to have shot one enemy and bayoneted the remaining two, freeing his fellow soldier.
On at least five other occasions, Paddy rescued wounded soldiers from No Man's Land under intense shell and machine gun fire.
Given the Alstonville soldier's incredible feats of bravery, it's no surprise he was the first Northern Rivers soldier to receive the Australian Army's highest honour for gallantry, the Victoria Cross.
Before enlisting in Brisbane on May 25, 1916, Paddy worked at his family's hotels in Alstonville and Billinudgel.
He was the eldest of four children, born on March 17, 1897 in Gunderimba.
Paddy was described as a born athlete who had a simple and direct sense of humour
In January 1917, Paddy wrote to his mother telling her he would be facing the firing line the next day.
"If by chance anything happens, I feel that I shall gain a place of happiness," he wrote. "For I have never done a deed in my life, that I am ashamed of. So I fear nothing."
Paddy died on September 29, 1917, in a bomb attack and was buried where he fell.
His mates fenced his grave and erected a Celtic cross decorated with flowers.
The bravery Paddy showed on the Belgium battlefields during World War I earned him a letter from King George V.
After his death, King George wrote to Paddy's mother, Annie Kelly, describing her son's bravery and awarding him the Victoria Cross.
"It is a matter of sincere regret to me that the death of No 3774 Private Patrick Bugden, 31st Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, deprived me of the pride of personally conferring upon him the Victoria Cross, the greatest of all rewards for valour and devotion to duty," he wrote.