BENALLA World War II hero Hec Waller and a dozen others have missed out on being awarded a retrospective Victoria Cross.
That is despite calls for their gallantry to be honoured.
Captain Waller lost his life when the HMAS Perth was sunk, along with the USS Houston, in a battle with the Japanese in Sunda Strait on March 1, 1942.
He and his crew of 681 — of whom only 218 survived the fight and prison camps — fought until the last of the ammunition was spent and inflicted heavy damage on the Japanese.
“Hardover” Hec earned his stripes and nickname in the Mediterranean.
His skill in swinging his destroyer from side to side while being attacked, from the air and by submarines, was revered by his crews and commanding officers.
Another to miss out on the honour is World War I digger John Simpson Kirkpatrick, famed for transporting wounded men from the Gallipoli frontline to field hospitals on his donkey.
The Defence Honours and Awards Appeal Tribunal has concluded no award of the VC or any other medal should be made to the 13 soldiers and sailors who were the subjects of its year-long inquiry.
The tribunal’s decision, released yesterday, is supported by the federal government, after the cases were reviewed by independent experts.
“For reasons of process, for reasons of history, for reasons of fact, it is not appropriate to award retrospectively a Victoria Cross,” the parliamentary secretary for defence David Feeney said.
Tasmanian senator Guy Barnett argued for the belated honour to be given to “Hardover” Hec, which would have made him the first VC winner for the navy.
The Benalla RSL sub-branch backed this recommendation.
In the 454-page report, the tribunal chaired by former attorney-general’s department secretary Alan Rose found it wasn’t possible for Australia to recommend honours in the imperial awards system.
It is possible to make retrospective recommendations in the Australian system, which replaced imperial honours in 1991, but only if there’s a clear case of maladministration or the emergence of compelling new evidence.
The inquiry into the vexed issue of retrospective VC awards to long-dead servicemen, some of whose deeds occurred almost a century ago, began last April.
It considered 11 former sailors and two soldiers from three wars.
The tribunal concluded that contrary to some submissions, there was no British bias against Australians.
Statistically, far fewer VCs go to sailors, with only 53 of 1354 imperial VCs going to members of Britain’s Royal Navy.