Recipients of the New Zealand Gallantry Decoration
Chief Petty Officer Writer (now Retired) John Clinton Lionel OXENHAM (W22215), Royal New Zealand Navy - year of acts: 1992; location of acts: Cambodia; year of award: 1999
Two members of the 1st New Zealand Special Air Service Group - year of acts: 2004; location of acts: Afghanistan; year of award: 2007
Lance Corporal Allister Donald BAKER (Q1018707), Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment - Special Honours List 1 October 2011
Lance Corporal Baker (then in the rank of Private) was the turret gunner in the lead vehicle of a New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team patrol when it was ambushed by insurgent forces near the town of Chartok in Bamyan Province Afghanistan on 3 August 2010. The insurgents set off an improvised explosive device, which immobilised his vehicle and then began firing at all four vehicles with small arms fire and shoulder launched rockets, in an engagement that was to continue for some 35 minutes. He immediately sought to return fire but the machine gun, which he had been manning at the time of the ambush, had been blown off its mount and another weapon, a general purpose machine gun, was also badly damaged. As he leant down inside the turret to recover his personal weapon, he saw that a fire had broken out in the rear of the vehicle and that the patrol commander, Lieutenant O'Donnell, was slumped forward in the front passenger seat. Although suffering a broken ankle, incurred in the initial explosion, he extracted himself through the top of the turret and while under direct observation and fire from the enemy, climbed down from the vehicle and made his way around to the front passenger door to provide assistance to his patrol commander. On opening the door of the vehicle, Lance Corporal Baker noticed that driver Corporal Ball was not moving, and he shouted for him to get out of the vehicle to assist him. Corporal Ball soon joined Lance Corporal Baker. For the next five minutes, while under continuous fire from the enemy, both soldiers took turns to try and recover their commander's body by one holding the door while the other reached inside to try and extract Lieutenant O'Donnell, whose body was constrained by part of the damaged vehicle. As they persevered, enemy fire intensified and the vehicle was hit by two rockets, one exploding against the driver's door and the other against the bonnet. The fire inside the vehicle began to spread and the heat became so intense that Lance Corporal Baker had to put out Corporal Ball's hair when it caught alight. He also suffered burns to his shoulders. It was only when ammunition stored inside the vehicle began to explode that both soldiers were forced to withdraw and seek shelter in a dry creek bed some 40 metres away.
In order to reach the creek bed, Lance Corporal Baker, because of the injury to his ankle, had to crawl across open ground in direct observation and fire from the insurgents, with Corporal Ball crawling alongside him. On reaching the relative safety of the creek bed, communication was established with the remainder of the patrol. A decision was made for both soldiers to remain where they were and wait for support to come forward and reach them. This occurred some 20 minutes later, during which time they continued to be targeted by the enemy.
Related Gallantry Awards:
The New Zealand Gallantry Star to Corporal Albert Henry MOORE (B10112323), Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment.
The New Zealand Gallantry Decoration to Corporal Matthew John BALL (X1015655), Royal New Zealand Corps of Signals.
Corporal Matthew John BALL (X1015655), Royal New Zealand Corps of Signals - Special Honours List 1 October 2011
Corporal Ball (then in the rank of Lance Corporal) was the driver of the lead vehicle of a New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team patrol when it was ambushed by insurgent forces near the town of Chartok in Bamyan Province Afghanistan on 3 August 2010. The insurgents set off an improvised explosive device, which immobilised his vehicle and then began firing at all four vehicles with small arms fire and shoulder launched rockets, in an engagement that was to continue for some 35 minutes. He was stunned by the initial explosion and only regained full consciousness after being shouted at by Lance Corporal Baker, the vehicle's gunner, to assist in helping extract their commander, Lieutenant O'Donnell, who was slumped forward in the front passenger seat. On regaining consciousness, he became aware that a fire had broken out in the rear of the vehicle, which was still being hit by enemy fire, and his right leg was impaled on the vehicle's engine housing. After pulling his leg free, he then extracted himself from the vehicle in full view and under fire from the enemy only 45 metres away and made his way around to the front passenger door to assist Lance Corporal Baker. For the next five minutes, while under continuous fire from the enemy, both soldiers took turns to try and recover their commander's body by one holding the door while the other reached inside to try and extract Lieutenant O'Donnell, whose body was constrained by part of the damaged vehicle. As they persevered, enemy fire intensified and the vehicle was hit by two rockets, one exploding against the driver's door and the other against the bonnet. The fire inside the vehicle began to spread and the heat became so intense that as Corporal Ball leant in to the vehicle, his hair caught alight and had to be put out by Lance Corporal Baker. It was only when ammunition stored inside the vehicle began to explode that both soldiers were forced to withdraw and seek shelter in a dry creek bed some 40 metres away.
In order to reach the creek bed, Corporal Ball crawled alongside Lance Corporal Baker, whose movements were significantly restricted due to a broken ankle, across open ground and in direct observation and fire from the insurgents. Corporal Ball, in addition to the wound to his leg, had also received shrapnel wounds to both legs and both arms, muscular damage to an ankle and burns to his head and face. On reaching the relative safety of the creek bed, communication was established with the remainder of the patrol. A decision was made for both soldiers to remain where they were and wait for support to come forward to reach them. This occurred some 20 minutes later, during which time they continued to be targeted by the enemy.
Related Gallantry Awards:
The New Zealand Gallantry Star to Corporal Albert Henry MOORE (B10112323), Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment.
The New Zealand Gallantry Decoration to Lance Corporal Allister Donald BAKER (Q1018707), Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment.
Private (now Trooper) Phillip Murray CHEATER (X1003534), Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment - New Year's Honours List 2005
On 24 July 2000, Private Cheater was the lead scout and tracker for a patrol operating on the border between East and West Timor. The patrol was following up signs of an armed militia group when it was fired on by a militia element occupying high ground overlooking the patrol's intended route. During the initial stages of the contact, Private Cheater and Private Leonard William Manning were in the direct line of fire from the militia. Private Manning was shot and Private Cheater saw him fall. Both men had become momentarily isolated from the remainder of the patrol and it was at this time that Private Cheater received splinter wounds to the side of his head and face from bullets that had struck nearby trees. Showing complete disregard for his own safety, and the injuries he had sustained, Private Cheater began moving, under heavy militia fire, to the spot where Private Manning had fallen. Despite the risk of drawing further fire, Private Cheater began calling to Private Manning to ascertain whether or not he had been killed. He then attempted to retrieve Private Manning's machine gun to prevent it falling into the hands of the militia. During this period he continued to be exposed to heavy fire.
Realising that he was isolated and that the militia were attempting to outflank his patrol, Private Cheater withdrew under fire and linked up with the remainder of the patrol. It was during this withdrawal that he suffered an ankle injury due to the extremely rough terrain. As the patrol broke contact, Private Cheater, with the assistance of another member of the patrol, fired three rounds from his grenade launcher, which finally halted the militia attack and forced them to withdraw. Private Cheater had been determined to help Private Manning if at all possible and, when he realised that he was dead, he had tried to retrieve the machine gun to prevent it falling into the hands of the militia. His action demonstrated exceptional gallantry and comradeship in the face of extreme danger and stress.
Squadron Leader Logan Charles CUDBY (J92445), Royal New Zealand Air Force - Queen's Birthday Honours List 2000
Squadron Leader Cudby, between June and September 1999, served with the United Nations Mission to East Timor (UNAMET). Initially, he was posted to the Liquica region. In two separate incidents, unarmed United Nations' convoys led by Squadron Leader Cudby came under sustained fire from militia forces. On both occasions, he successfully negotiated for the convoys to continue to their destinations. By September, all remaining United Nations staff with a large number of refugees were confined to the UNAMET compound in Dili. Unarmed patrols were being sent out to monitor the situation, as well as bring back supplies from a warehouse near the port, several kilometres from the compound. Squadron Leader Cudby willingly organised and led a number of these patrols. They were subjected to considerable intimidation by rampant bands of militia and sometimes fired upon. One such patrol to the wharf area was stopped by militia, weapons were pointed at the heads of United Nations staff and rounds fired above them. Displaying considerable courage, tact and presence of mind, Squadron Leader Cudby was able to negotiate the safe return of the patrol to the UNAMET compound. His actions over a three-month period in an atmosphere of almost constant danger provided an excellent example and role model to other United Nations personnel.
Lieutenant Colonel John Charles DYER (P49877), Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery - Queen's Birthday Honours List 2000
Lieutenant Colonel Dyer, on 6 January 1999, was serving in Sierra Leone with the United Nations Mission when rebel forces attacked Freetown, evading strongpoints in the city which were being guarded by the Nigerian-led Intervention Force (ECOMOG). The evacuation of all remaining United Nations personnel from the country was then ordered. By this stage, United Nations vehicles had become targets for both the rebels and frightened ECOMOG soldiers. Nevertheless, Lieutenant Colonel Dyer traversed Freetown to ensure that all United Nations personnel were accounted for. This task became more dangerous as the day progressed and at one point, during the rescue of a group of military observers, Lieutenant Colonel Dyer and his vehicles came under fire from tense ECOMOG personnel. At all times, Lieutenant Colonel Dyer remained calm and in control displaying a considerable presence of mind and disregard for danger in an extremely stressful situation. Through his personal courage and an accurate appreciation of a changing and volatile situation, Lieutenant Colonel Dyer was able to accomplish the successful evacuation of one hundred and twenty military and civilian United Nations personnel from Sierra Leone.
Chief Petty Officer Writer (now Retired) John Clinton Lionel OXENHAM (W22215), Royal New Zealand Navy - Special Honours List 1999 issued 23 October 1999
On 1 December 1992 Chief Petty Officer Oxenham, who was serving in Cambodia with a United Nations peacekeeping mission, was a member of a patrol conducting operations along the Shroeng Sen River. During this patrol, Chief Petty Officer Oxenham, together with three British officers and two Philipino senior ratings, were taken prisoner by members of the National Army of Democratic Kampuchea, formerly the Khmer Rouge. The group was detained for four days while negotiations to release them took place. It was during this period that Chief Petty Officer Oxenham ensured that their capture did not have a tragic outcome. His positive and level-headed behaviour was instrumental in diffusing a very tense and potentially life-threatening situation. The controlled but relaxed approach adopted by Chief Petty Officer Oxenham helped to reassure his fellow captives, while this behaviour, which often bordered on careful affront, including two failed escape attempts, demonstrated to the captors that the group were totally unwilling to acquiesce to captivity. At a time when he and his colleagues were under extreme duress, he positively, bravely and effectively influenced the interaction between captors and captives, such that all prisoners were eventually released unharmed.
Lance Corporal Leon Kristopher SMITH (T1002840), 1 New Zealand Special Air Service Group (Deceased) - Special Honours List 20 April 2013
Lance Corporal Smith enlisted in the New Zealand Army on 23 August 2005. He completed NZSAS selection in 2006 and became a badged member of the NZSAS in 2007.
Prior to the events described below, he had served on Operation Watea over the period January – October 2010 and started his second tour of duty in early August 2011.
On 19 August 2011 Lance Corporal Smith, as a member of the NZSAS Task Force, responded to an insurgent attack on the British Council Offices in the centre of Kabul, Afghanistan. Five insurgents used a Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device to gain entry into the British Council Offices. Having made entry into the compound they manoeuvred themselves into a strong defensive position where they could rain down small arms fire and rockets and ultimately detonate suicide vests against the rescue force. This incident was complex in nature. Not only was the enemy determined and well-equipped, five British nationals were also isolated within the compound.
Lance Corporal Smith arrived on the scene with other members of the NZSAS who were supporting the Afghan Crisis Response Unit (CRU). As part of a supporting plan Lance Corporal Smith moved into an over-watch position 30 metres away from the insurgents’ stronghold. The NZSAS personnel, including Lance Corporal Smith, began to prepare a plan to rescue the hostages and to assist the CRU to clear the compound of insurgents.
At approximately 11.35 am (local time) Corporal Douglas Grant, another member of the Task Force, moved across the backyard of the target building to link up with other NZSAS members. Whilst rushing up a stairwell Corporal Grant was mortally wounded by insurgent fire. Initially it was not known where Corporal Grant had fallen or what condition he was in.
With no concern for his personal safety, Lance Corporal Smith pushed into an exposed position to view and confirm Corporal Grant’s exact location. Lance Corporal Smith saw Corporal Grant lying inside a small structure slightly above him at the top of some stairs. Without hesitation Lance Corporal Smith requested to move to Corporal Grant’s position in order to render first aid, but was told by his Troop Commander to wait for a ballistic shield. During this period Lance Corporal Smith’s position was receiving a significant volume of insurgent machine gun and rifle fire.
Once Lance Corporal Smith received the ballistic shield, he took two deep breaths, gave his Troop Commander a positive nod and the ‘GO’ call was issued. Covering fire from over-watch positions was directed towards the insurgents as Lance Corporal Smith jumped into the fray. Once again without thought for his personal safety, he leapt over a wall and across exposed and open ground and up the same stairs where Corporal Grant had been shot. All the while, insurgent bullets were impacting around him. Lance Corporal Smith threw himself into the room where Corporal Grant lay and then, with cool and professional resolve, began providing immediate medical treatment. Corporal Grant was not yet confirmed dead and Lance Corporal Smith, an SAS medic, applied first aid to the wound and commenced CPR, which he continued to administer until Corporal Grant was evacuated from the building in the care of the Task Force medic. To evacuate Corporal Grant safely, Lance Corporal Smith had to call for other Task Force members to knock a hole in the brick wall of the building that he and Corporal Grant were in. Lance Corporal Smith then calmly returned to the fight. During this stage he again exposed himself to enemy fire so that he could engage the insurgents effectively. He then took part in blowing a large hole in the outer wall of the compound so that he and other members of the Task Force could minimise the open ground they had to cover to get to the panic room where the British captives were hiding. Lance Corporal Smith then provided covering fire as the captives were rushed to safety through the compound wall.
Throughout the entire incident Lance Corporal Smith displayed extreme calmness under pressure, tremendous personal bravery, and the utmost professionalism whilst under continuous insurgent fire. As a result of Lance Corporal Smith’s actions Corporal Grant received the best medical treatment possible, the Task Force was able to recover all five British nationals alive and the insurgent threat was neutralised.
Year of acts: 2004; location of acts: Afghanistan.
- For security reasons, the names of the recipients of the New Zealand Gallantry Decoration have not been released by the New Zealand Government.
- Their awards were for 'an exceptional act of gallantry and leadership under fire' and 'displaying outstanding courage and leadership' respectively.
- The 2 July 2007 media statement announcing these two awards can be viewed here.
This page was last reviewed 23 April, 2013 and is current.