From today’s NZ Herald
Corporal Bill Apiata, known as Willy, joins an elite club in receiving the medal.
He becomes the 22nd member of New Zealand defence forces to win a Victoria Cross, the first to receive once since WW2, and the first winner of the new Victoria Cross for New Zealand, which was instituted in 1999.
In 2004 Lance Corporal Apiata was part of an NZ SAS patrol in Afghanistan.
The troops had put up a defensive formation for the night when they were attacked by a group of around 20 enemy fighters. Grenades destroyed one of the troops’ vehicles and immobilised another.
This was then followed by fire from machine guns and further grenade attacks.
The initial attack was aimed at the vehicle where Lance Corporal Apiata was stationed, and he was blown off the bonnet by the impact of the grenade. He was not physically injured but another soldier – named only as Corporal D – was in a serious condition.
The soldiers were under constant fire from the enemy and, as they were exposed by the fire from the vehicle, they immediately tried to take cover.
Corporal D’s injuries were life threatening, and the other two soldiers began to apply first aid.
Apiata took control of the situation, as D was rapidly deteriorating. However, he was in a very exposed position and the enemy fire was becoming increasingly intense.
D was suffering from arterial bleeding and so Apiata came to the conclusion that he needed urgent medical attention or he would die.
So without considering abandoning his fellow soldier to save himself Apiata decided to carry D to the safer position where the rest of their troops were stationed and where D could get proper medical attention. Apiata then carried D seventy meters through exposed ground and enemy fire – and miraculously neither man was hit.
Apiata then resumed the fight.
Medical evaluation revealed that D would have probably died from blood loss had it not been for Apiata’s bravery in getting him the proper medical attention. D is now back on active duty.
Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Jerry Mateparae, said Corporal Apiata was a humble man who when praised for his bravery had said: “I was only doing my job, boss.”