The Victoria Cross won by Private Paddy Bugden forms part of an exhibition opened at Queensland Museum today.

Paddy, whose memory lives on through a statue in his home town of Alstonville, won the Australian Army’s highest award for gallantry for heroic deeds in World War I.

His citation reads:

“For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when on two occasions our advance was temporarily held up by strongly-defended pill-boxes. Pte. Bugden, in the face of devastating fire from machine guns, gallantly led small parties to attack these strong points and, successfully silencing the machine guns with bombs, captured the garrison at the point of the bayonet.

“On another occasion, when a corporal, who had become detached from his company, had been captured and was being taken to the rear by the enemy, Pte. Bugden, single-handed, rushed to the rescue of his comrade, shot one enemy and bayonetted the remaining two, thus releasing the Corporal.

“On five occasions he rescued wounded men under intense shell and machine-gun fire, showing an utter contempt and disregard for danger.

“Always foremost in volunteering for any dangerous mission, it was during the execution of one of these missions that this gallant solider was killed.”

— London Gazette, 26 November, 1917

Keith Payne VC OAM today joined the families of featured Victoria Cross recipients to launch the exhibition, The Courage of Ordinary Men: Three Stories of the Victoria Cross.

CEO of Queensland Museum Dr Ian Galloway said the exhibition commemorated the 90th year since the end of World War 1 by showcasing the wartime experiences of Private Patrick Joseph Bugden VC, Private Robert Matthew Beatham VC and Major Blair Anderson Wark VC, DSO.

“This is the first time the Queensland Museum has displayed the three Victoria Crosses in its care, as well as the original letters Private Paddy Bugden wrote home to his family,” Dr Galloway said.

“On the eve of Anzac Day, this important exhibition highlights the great courage and resilience of the men and women who have, and continue to, fight for our country.”

Families of the men featured in the exhibition came from the United Kingdom and New South Wales for the exhibition launch. Relatives of Paddy Bugden attended today’s launch.

The exhibition features an evocative film and soundscape immersing the visitors in what it was like in the trenches of World War 1.

Queen Victoria established the Victoria Cross award in 1856 to recognise ‘conspicuous bravery’ in war.

The medal has been awarded 1357, times including 96 to Australians.

Keith Payne VC is one of only two living Australians to be awarded the Victoria Cross honour.

Two of the Victoria Crosses on display are on loan from the United Service Club Queensland and Mr Neil Jenman and Mrs Ruth Jenman. The other was donated to the Queensland Museum by the family of Private Paddy Bugden and is part of the Museum collection.

Queensland Museum South Bank is located on the corner of Grey and Melbourne Streets, South Bank. The Museum is open daily from 9.30am to 5pm. Open from 1.30pm Anzac Day.

  • What: The Courage of Ordinary Men: Three Stories of the Victoria Cross
  • When: From 23 April 2008
  • Where: Queensland Museum South Bank, Cnr Melbourne and Grey Streets, South Brisbane
  • Cost: Entry is free.

PICTURE: Private Patrick Bugden, VC. Studio portrait of Paddy Bugden, date unknown. Bugden Papers, Queensland Museum.