Mark Donaldson VC Portrait Sitting

The Victoria Cross & George Cross Portrait Project has been an exceptionally challenging, yet rewarding portraiture project. Individuals who have been awarded the Victoria Cross have been selected because they are worthy of Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand’s highest military award for their bravery and conduct in the field. Similarly, those awarded the George Cross are civilians or military personnel who have displayed conspicuous bravery in and away from the field. These awards are not issued lightly. They are the very greatest honour for individual valour and merit. These individuals are the modern day heroes.

 

Over the next few week’s I’ll be posting all the VC & GC recipients in a series of Blog Posts. Here is my Fifth post in the series, recipient Mark Donaldson VC. (View Full Series of Posts).

The actions for which Donaldson’s Victoria Cross for Australia were awarded took place on 2 September 2008. Patrolling with Afghan and US forces, they were ambushed by a well-prepared and larger Taliban force. The ambush began with a sustained machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire, causing several casualties. Donaldson deliberately exposed himself to fire from the Taliban fighters in order to draw their attention away from the casualties, allowing them to be moved to cover. When the patrol attempted to withdraw, the number of casualties was such that the unwounded personnel (including Donaldson) had to make their way on foot, beside their vehicles, as the casualties filled the vehicles. As they set off, it was realised that an Afghan interpreter attached to the patrol was wounded, and had not been loaded into the vehicles. Donaldson immediately crossed the 80 metres (87 yds) or so of open ground between the convoy and the interpreter, under heavy fire, and then carried him back to the vehicles where Donaldson administered first aid. The patrol eventually broke free of the ambush after two hours.

 (Rory Lewis)

When asked about the incident, Donaldson commented: “I’m a soldier, I’m trained to fight … it’s instinct and it’s natural. I just saw him there, I went over and got him, that was it.” The events were first reported by the Australian press on 12 December 2008 following a briefing by Major General Tim McOwan on 11 December. At this stage, Donaldson was identified only as “Trooper F”. Donaldson then became the first recipient of the Victoria Cross for Australia on 16 January 2009; he was presented with the medal by the Governor-General at a ceremony in Government House, Canberra.

 

 

Johnson Beharry VC Portrait Sitting

The Victoria Cross & George Cross Portrait Project has been an exceptionally challenging, yet rewarding portraiture project.  Individuals who have been awarded the Victoria Cross have been selected because they are worthy of Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand’s highest military award for their bravery and conduct in the field. Similarly, those awarded the George Cross are civilians or military personnel who have displayed conspicuous bravery in and away from the field. These awards are not issued lightly. They are the very greatest honour for individual valour and merit. These individuals are the modern day heroes.

 

Over the next few week’s I’ll be posting all the VC & GC recipients in a series of Blog Posts. Here is my second post in the series, British, recipient Johnson Beharry VC. (View Full Series of Posts)

On 1 May 2004, Beharry was driving a Warrior tracked armoured vehicle that had been called to the assistance of a foot patrol caught in a series of ambushes. The Warrior was hit by multiple rocket-propelled grenades, causing damage and resulting in the loss of radio communications. The platoon commander, the vehicle’s gunner and a number of other soldiers in the vehicle were injured. Due to damage to his periscope optics, Pte. Beharry was forced to open his hatch to steer his vehicle, exposing his face and head to withering small arms fire. Beharry drove the crippled Warrior through the ambush, taking his own crew and leading five other Warriors to safety. He then extracted his wounded comrades from the vehicle, all the time exposed to further enemy fire. He was cited on this occasion for “valour of the highest order”.

 

While back on duty on 11 June 2004, Beharry was again driving the lead Warrior of his platoon through Al Amarah when his vehicle was ambushed. A rocket-propelled grenade hit the vehicle six inches from Beharry’s head, and he received serious shrapnel injuries to his face and brain. Other rockets then hit the vehicle, incapacitating his commander and injuring several of the crew. Despite his life-threatening injuries, Beharry retained control of his vehicle and drove it out of the ambush area before losing consciousness. He required brain surgery for his head injuries, and he was still recovering in March 2005 when he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Johnson-Beharry-VC (Rory Lewis Photographer 2016)

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Daniel Keighran VC Portrait Sitting

The Victoria Cross & George Cross Portrait Project has been an exceptionally challenging, yet rewarding portraiture project.  Individuals who have been awarded the Victoria Cross have been selected because they are worthy of Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand’s highest military award for their bravery and conduct in the field. Similarly, those awarded the George Cross are civilians or military personnel who have displayed conspicuous bravery in and away from the field. These awards are not issued lightly. They are the very greatest honour for individual valour and merit. These individuals are the modern day heroes.

 

Over the next few week’s I’ll be posting all the VC & GC recipients in a series of Blog Posts. Let’s begin with Australian recipient Daniel Alan Keighran, VC.

 

Daniel Alan Keighran, VC  is an Australian soldier and a recipient of the Victoria Cross for Australia, Keighran was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions while serving with the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, in a fire-fight with insurgents during the Battle of Derapet on 24 August 2010, an action of Operation Slipper.

During the battle, Keighran “with complete disregard for his own safety” repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to draw fire away from a team treating a battle casualty (Keighran’s friend Lance Corporal Jared MacKinney). Keighran’s actions were key in allowing the Coalition forces to withdraw without further casualties.

 (Rory Lewis)

Help me to turn the Victoria & George Cross Project Into a Book Click Here

Victoria & George Cross Portraits

Recently I was honored to be commissioned by the Victoria & George Cross Association to capture portraits of those who have been decorated with Britain and the Commonwealths Highest Orders for Bravery for both Military and Civilian actions. The commission has been exceptionally challenging; the recipients who live all over the globe from Nepal and Canada to New Zealand & Australia. The project is underway and has clocked up the air miles taking me across the globe to capture the men and women who have been posthumously decorated for exceptional bravery.

 

The stories of valor; selfless courage and fearlessness I have read are incredible and to meet living heroes is indescribable. These men and women have saved lives at the risk of their own; held their ground under immense pressure and injury to themselves. I wanted to post just a few of the tales of valor, if you would like to view the full collection please see my project page.

 

Johnson Beharry VC

Lance Sergeant Johnson Gideon Beharry VC (born 26 July 1979) is a British Army soldier who, on 18 March 2005, was awarded the Victoria Cross. On 1 May 2004, Beharry was driving a Warrior tracked armoured vehicle that had been called to the assistance of a foot patrol caught in a series of ambushes. The Warrior was hit by multiple rocket propelled grenades, causing damage and resulting in the loss of radio communications. The platoon commander, the vehicle’s gunner and a number of other soldiers in the vehicle were injured. Due to damage to his periscope optics, Pte. Beharry was forced to open his hatch to steer his vehicle, exposing his face and head to withering small arms fire. Beharry drove the crippled Warrior through the ambush, taking his own crew and leading five other Warriors to safety. He then extracted his wounded comrades from the vehicle, all the time exposed to further enemy fire. He was cited on this occasion for “valour of the highest order”.

 

While back on duty on 11 June 2004, Beharry was again driving the lead Warrior of his platoon through Al Amarah when his vehicle was ambushed. A rocket propelled grenade hit the vehicle six inches from Beharry’s head, and he received serious shrapnel injuries to his face and brain. Other rockets then hit the vehicle, incapacitating his commander and injuring several of the crew. Despite his life-threatening injuries, Beharry retained control of his vehicle and drove it out of the ambush area before losing consciousness. He required brain surgery for his head injuries, and he was still recovering in March 2005 when he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

 

Peter Norton (GC)

Peter Norton (GC) London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis

Peter Norton (GC) London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis

Norton was second-in-command of the American Combined Explosives Exploitation Cell (CEXC) based in the outskirts of Baghdad. Going to the aid of a United States Army patrol that had been attacked by an improvised explosive device (IED) on 24 July 2005, he was checking for the presence of further devices when a secondary victim-operated IED exploded. He lost his left leg and part of his left arm, and he sustained serious injuries to his other leg and lower back. Despite his injuries, he continued to give instructions to his team, suspecting that further devices might be in the vicinity. He refused to be evacuated until he was certain that all personnel on the ground were aware of the danger. A third device was subsequently located and dealt with the following day. He was promoted to major on 31 July 2008. On 1 August 2013, Norton retired from the army on medical grounds.

 

Margaret Vaughan GC

Margaret Vaughan GC London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis

Margaret Vaughan GC London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis

May 28th, 1949, a party of Scouts, aged between 11 and 15 years, visiting Sully Island were cut off by the rising tide from a causeway which led to the mainland. Most of the boys got safely across, but two of them were forced off the causeway by the strong tide. The leader of the party returned to help the elder boy but in the struggle he too became exhausted. Margaret Vaughan (aged 14 years) saw from the beach the difficulties they were in. She undressed and swam towards them over a distance of some 30 yards in cold, rough water and against strong currents due to the rising tide. On reaching them she towed the boy to the shore while he supported himself by grasping the straps of her costume and his leader’s coat. At about ten feet from the shore a life belt was thrown in which the boy was placed by the other two and the three reached the shore safely. Margaret Vaughan’s action probably saved the life of the Scout leader as well as that of the elder boy.

 

Jim Beaton VC

Jim Beaton GC London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis

Jim Beaton GC London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis

Beaton received the George Cross in 1974 for protecting The Princess Anne from the would-be kidnapper Ian Ball during an attack in The Mall, London. He received the Director’s Honor Award of the United States Secret Service in the same year. He was made an LVO in 1987 and promoted to CVO in 1992.

 

In March 1973, Beaton was transferred to the Royalty Protection Squad, A Division, and from 14 November served as a Personal Protection Officer to Princess Anne. He was given the number 11 in the small team responsible for protecting members of the Royal Family. On 20 March 1974 the princess and her husband Captain Mark Phillips were returning to Buckingham Palace from a royal engagement. Their car was stopped in the Mall by another vehicle driven into its path.The car was driven by Ian Ball, who was later declared to be mentally ill; Ball jumped out of his vehicle and tried to force the Princess from her car. He shot the royal chauffeur, Alex Callender, and a passing journalist, Brian McConnell, who tried to assist. Inspector Beaton was shot three times, including serious wounds in the chest and abdomen, and a gunshot wound to his hand, sustained when he tried to block Ball’s weapon with his own body, after his own gun had jammed. Beaton also sustained injuries to his pelvis while trying to disarm Ball. For his bravery Beaton was awarded the George Cross; Callender and McConnell were each awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal. Beaton remained with the Princess until February 1979.

 

Captain Rambahadur Limbu VC 

Captain Rambahadur Limbu VC London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis

Captain Rambahadur Limbu VC London Portrait Photographer Rory Lewis

Limbu was 26 years old, and was a lance corporal in the 2nd Battalion, 10th Princess Mary’s Own Gurkha Rifles, British Army during the Indonesian Confrontation when, on 21 November 1965 in Sarawak, Borneo, Lance Corporal Rambahadur Limbu was in an advance party of 16 Gurkhas when they encountered about 30 Indonesians holding a position on the top of a jungle-covered hill. The lance-corporal went forward with two men, but when they were only 10 yards from the enemy machine-gun position, the sentry opened fire on them, whereupon Limbu rushed forward and killed him with a grenade. The remaining enemy combatants then opened fire on the small party, wounding the two men with the lance-corporal who, under heavy fire, made three journeys into the open, two to drag his comrades to safety and one to retrieve their Bren gun, with which he charged down and killed many of the enemy.

 

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