Major Badcoe VC Statement

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On the 7th April 2008 Mark Brindal wrote to the Premier suggesting the Government get involved. He received no reply. The full text of the letter is below:

"7th April 2008.

"Hon. M. Rann, MP,
Premier of South Australia,
Parliament House, North Terrace,
Adelaide

"My Dear Premier,

"I am confident that I write on behalf of a great many South Australians. I wish to draw your attention to the potential loss of a significant piece of South Australian history and ask that your government act to preserve the material for future generations of South Australians.

"I refer to the May 20 auction of Bonhams and Goodman. Among the items on offer will be the collection of medals won by the late Major Peter Badcoe VC, along with a highly significant collection of archival material. You would be aware that Major Badcoe, a South Australian, was one of the most highly decorated officers of the Vietnam War.

"He was one of only four Australians to have been awarded a VC. He was not born to privilege but was educated in the public school system, studying his secondary education at the Adelaide Technical High School (Now Glenunga International High).

"While his medals remain important artefacts which should, I believe, be entrusted to the safekeeping of this State, the most valuable " gem " is the unprecedented collection of personal archives. Their value to the Mortlock Library would be beyond calculation.

"The Badcoe letters (the complete set is being offered saving the one which he wrote on the day of his death) are highly personal and depict a highly sensitive man, passionate about right and wrong, affected by the atrocities of war who defended Vietnamese villages caught in the crossfire up to his death and who provided an honest and heartfelt account of the things he witnessed around him.

"He was a career soldier and served his country as it demanded. Courageous as he was, he took no glory in war and finally sacrificed his life for others.
The story and memorabilia of such South Australians should not be taken from us. I trust that you will consider this matter sympathetically

"Yours sincerely
Mark Brindal"

On the 2nd May I wrote to Peter Gammell, the head of Kerry Stokes private equity company, to alert him to the medal auction.

On Monday 19th May we contacted the Attorney General (auction was on Tuesday 20th at 6.00pm) and asked if the State Government would be bidding for the medals.

At 4.48 pm we received a press release saying: "Michael Atkinson hopes the Victoria Cross awarded to Major Peter Badcoe finds its way into the hands of the Australian War Memorial when it's auctioned tomorrow". Full text below:

"Monday, 19th May 2008

"STATEMENT ON MAJOR PETER BADCOE VICTORIA CROSS SALE
The Attorney-General Michael Atkinson hopes the Victoria Cross awarded to Major Peter Badcoe finds its way into the hands of the Australian War Memorial when it's auctioned tomorrow.

"The Commonwealth's highest decoration for gallantry was awarded to the Adelaide-born soldier for a series of heroic actions during the Vietnam War in 1967.
The medal will be auctioned in Sydney tomorrow.

"'I join with the Badcoe family in hoping the medal is either purchased by the Australian War Memorial or bought by a benefactor and donated to the Memorial, as has happened in the past,' Mr Atkinson said.

"The last V.C. sold publicly was awarded to Gallipoli hero Captain Alfred Shout and fetched $1.2 million. It was purchased by media owner Kerry Stokes, who donated it to the Australian War Memorial.

'"Major Peter Badcoe is honoured in his home state by the RS.L's creation of the Badcoe Medal, which is awarded annually to the most deserving player in the S.A. Anzac Day A.F.L. match.'

"This year's winner of the award was Port Adelaide player Kane Comes."

At 5.21 pm we emailed Atkinson's office to say the question we asked was: "Would the State Government be purchasing the medals? Could you answer the question?"

The response at 5.46 pm that night was "No. The state govt won't be bidding at the auction. The reason for that is that Badcoe (and other soldiers) fought for Australia - rather than SA - so the VC is part of the national war history. Therefore it's more appropriate for the Commonwealth to aquire it either outright or through a benefactor. Does that help at all?"

Our story went to air Monday night referring to the response from the AG's office.
On Tuesday night the auction was conducted and the purchaser was at that point anonymous.

On Wednesday morning Kevin Foley, the Deputy Premier, held a press conference to say on the Tuesday morning he received a call from Kerry Stokes about an unrelated matter. At some point the issue of auction that night arose.
In Mr Foley's words at his press conference, this is how things unfolded:

"WE WERE NOT GOING TO ENTER THE BID AND THAT WAS A CLEAR GOVERNMENT DECISON. HOWEVER AS I SAID AFTER TAKING A TELEPHONE CALL FROM MR STOKES I TOOK THE DECISION AS ACTING PREMIER THAT WE WOULD BE I STAND BY THAT I THINK IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO."

The outcome was one that we had hoped would occur. The State joined forces with Mr Stokes to secure a valuable piece of SA and Australian history inspite of the policy created by our new Veteran Affairs Minister, Michael Atkinson.

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