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