TRAGIC IRONY IN VC HERO’S NOTES

CAMERON BAIRD WAS A SOL­DIER’S SOL­DIER, METIC­U­LOUS IN HIS PREPA­RA­TION FOR BAT­TLE, YET A DAM­AGED, MAL­FUNC­TION­ING RI­FLE COST HIM HIS LIFE IN AFGHANISTAN Re­newed search for miss­ing WWI sub

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - NEWS - RE­MEM­BRANCE DAY CHARLES MI­RANDA JOHN AF­FLECK john.af­fleck@news.com.au

AUS­TRALIA will launch the most ex­pan­sive mar­itime search since the hunt for MH370 to solve a 103-year-old mys­tery and as­sure to­day’s Aus­tralian De­fence Force ranks a grate­ful na­tion will do what­ever it takes to try to bring their men and women home.

De­fence Min­is­ter Marise Payne has agreed to part-fund the largest ever ex­pe­di­tion to find the Aus­tralian sub­ma­rine HMAS AE1 that dis­ap­peared with­out a trace off the Pa­pua New Guinea coast in Septem­ber 1914, just weeks af­ter the out­break of World War I.

Se­na­tor Payne was ap­proached by pri­vate en­ter­prise in­clud­ing a mar­itime arche­ol­ogy group led by Tel­stra chair­man John Mullen and de­scen­dants of some of the 35 AE1 men on board when she dis­ap­peared, to com­mit to $500,000 to find the sub and bring clo­sure.

Matched with pri­vate dona­tions, the search mis­sion will be the largest ever con­ducted by the Com­mon­wealth in joint ven­ture and be launched be­tween next month and Fe­bru­ary 2018.

“HMAS AE1 is one of the world’s great mar­itime mys­ter­ies

EV­ERY day is Re­mem­brance Day for the Bairds. In their Burleigh Wa­ters home set in a quiet, leafy cul-de-sac, far from the harsh con­di­tions in Afghanistan where their son died in 2013, Doug and Kay Baird – par­ents of Aus­tralia’s 100th Vic­to­ria Cross re­cip­i­ent, Cor­po­ral Cameron Baird – are re­minded daily of a ta­lented, foot­ball-mad boy who grew into fo­cused, pro­fes­sional sol­dier. A replica of the Vic­to­ria Cross sits with his other medals, which in­clude the Medal for Gal­lantry, awarded for go­ing to the res­cue of a mem­ber of his Com­mando team, Pri­vate Luke Wors­ley, who had been wounded and sub­se­quently died. That in­ci­dent hap­pened 10 years ago this month. A crafted wooden pen and box set made from pine that had its ori­gins at Gal­lipoli, and a spe­cial medal­lion pre­sented to the fam­ily by the then-US am­bas­sador, John Berry, are among the trea­sured me­men­tos that re­mind the Bairds daily of a young man who gave his life for his coun­try. Ever the care­ful pro­fes­sional, “Cam’’ Baird had a and this ex­pe­di­tion will be one of the most com­pre­hen­sive searches for the sub­ma­rine,” Se­na­tor Payne said.

“We owe it to the men of AE1, their de­scen­dants and the en­tire navy com­mu­nity to con­tinue to look for those who are for­ever on pa­trol.”

The Se­na­tor ne­go­ti­ated with the PNG gov­ern­ment for ac­cess to their ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters. rushed into ac­tion in one of the last mis­sions con­ducted by Aus­tralian spe­cial forces in the Khod Val­ley on June 22, 2013, pur­su­ing Tal­iban fight­ers who were known to be itch­ing to re­claim con­trol of the re­gion as soon as the Aus­tralians with­drew from the war.

Baird and his men were fight­ing their way through the streets of a vil­lage to reach a mate who had been shot and at risk of dy­ing if he could not be evac­u­ated within an hour.

But to reach him, they had to kill or be killed as a group of up to six Tal­iban fight­ers un­leashed ma­chine­gun hell from a room in a build­ing that was later found to be a vir­tual ar­moury.

In the gun bat­tle that en­sued – de­scribed by an­other sol­dier as “an epic shit­fight’’ – Baird led the at­tack on the room in which the en­emy fight­ers were bar­ri­caded.

But then his M4 ri­fle failed. The weapon he had spent count­less hours clean­ing and main­tain­ing had done all he

Cameron Baird con­sults a map dur­ing Bravo Com­pany’s fi­nal Afghan Ro­ta­tion.

Sub­ma­rine HMAS AE1 has been miss­ing since 1914.

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