Re­veal tragic irony

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - NEWS -

could have asked of it, but a bul­let from a Tal­iban gun dam­aged the end of his ri­fle bar­rel.

What re­sulted is known as a “dead man’s pull’’. As Baird rushed the room un­der a hail of bul­lets, his weapon stopped fir­ing even though he was pulling the trig­ger, giv­ing the en­emy its chance to cut down a man who had been larger than life, a de­voted fan of AC/DC and, as it turned out, a com­plex char­ac­ter with a deep in­ter­est in art, east­ern re­li­gion, peo­ple from other cul­tures, and in in­spi­ra­tional thoughts and quo­ta­tions.

Cpl Baird was awarded the VC posthu­mously for his brav­ery that day.

He was a stu­dent of mil­i­tary his­tory, re­flected in the prints and copies of paint­ings that were on the walls of his home in Syd­ney and now hang at his par­ents’ house. In the lounge is a large framed copy of an 1881 oil paint­ing, Scot­land For­ever!, by El­iz­a­beth Thomp­son, Lady Butler, de­pict­ing the charge of the Royal Scots Greys along­side the Bri­tish heavy cavalry at the Bat­tle of Water­loo in 1815.

At the end of a hall­way is a framed copy of Span­ish artist Diego Ve­lazquez’s por­trait of Mars, El dios Marte, show­ing the god of war at rest.

Baird’s par­ents sit in solemn con­tem­pla­tion as they pro­duce the small but sig­nif­i­cant ob­jects.

To­day they will once again re­mem­ber their son but also re­flect on the thou­sands of other Aus­tralians who died in war.

“I draw my strength from my wife,’’ Doug Baird said.

“I think she’s the rock of the fam­ily and al­ways has been. I see her be­ing very stoic in a lot of these things and that’s where I draw my strength from. To be able to show re­spect for Cameron and con­tinue to talk about the reg­i­ment, that’s where I also draw my strength from.’’

Cameron Baird’s ac­tual Vic­to­ria Cross is housed in a hall of honour in the Aus­tralian War Me­mo­rial. The replica was pre­sented to the Baird fam­ily in Lon­don in 2014 by the Vic­to­ria Cross and Ge­orge Cross As­so­ci­a­tion.

Cpl Baird had been taken to Gal­lipoli at one point in his ca­reer, as the pow­ers-that-be in the Aus­tralian De­fence Force recog­nised the enor­mous po­ten­tial of the young, yet bat­tle-hard­ened, sol­dier.

When Aus­tralia marked the cen­te­nary in 2015 of the An­zac land­ing at Gal­lipoli, Aus­tralian War Me­mo­rial direc­tor Bren­dan Nel­son gave the fam­ily some pre­cious keep­sakes.

One is a brass tin, rep­re­sent­ing the old to­bacco tins the Dig­gers used. They were pre­sented with a box with a small phial con­tain­ing sand from the beach at An­zac Cove and a spe­cial coin minted for the cen­te­nary, with the words “Gal­lipoli the Land­ing’’.

The Bairds were also pre­sented with the pen and box, made from the wood of a pine tree that had its ori­gins in the seed from a cone col­lected at Lone Pine.

In a heart­felt, hand­writ­ten let­ter to the fam­ily in 2015, Dr Nel­son said: “You gave your son, he gave his all – his life for us and our na­tion, Aus­tralia.’’

The US gave the Bairds a medal­lion to ac­knowl­edge Cpl Baird’s courage along­side Amer­ica’s own Navy SEALS.

But for the Bairds, a par­tic­u­larly pre­cious re­minder is a black folder that was handed to their son by a com­mand­ing of­fi­cer not too long be­fore he died. It con­tained pho­tographs of spe­cial op­er­a­tions troops killed in ac­tion in Afghanistan, in­clud­ing his friend and scout, Pri­vate Worsely.

Cpl Baird in­cluded in it his col­lec­tion of jot­tings, record­ing thoughts and quotes that in­spired him.

In a long list writ­ten in pen­cil, num­bers 13 and 14 are par­tic­u­larly poignant – and tragic.

No. 13 reads: “Know your tools with­out ex­cep­tion.’’

No. 14 says: “Pre­pare for the best, be aware of the worst.’’

Cpl Baird had known his M4 as though it was one of his own limbs. He looked af­ter it.

He was ac­knowl­edged by of­fi­cers and men as a sol­dier’s sol­dier, trained to per­fec­tion and ready for bat­tle.

But then the worst came. Mas­ter and ser­vant stared at death as his faith­ful weapon suf­fered a mor­tal blow and seized...

mem­o­ra­bilia (left).

Pic­tures: RICHARD GOSLING, GLENN HAMP­SON

Doug and Kaye Baird with the book about their son, The Com­mando: The Life and Death of Cameron Baird, and trea­sured

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