The Alstonville RSL Sub-Branch is organising a commemoration to mark the centenary of the death of Paddy Bugden and his posthumous award of the Victoria Cross in 1917 which will be staged on Saturday 16 September 2017.
The commemoration will commence at the Paddy Bugden VC memorial in Alstonville and continue at the Anzac memorial at Elizabeth Anne Brown Park, ending with a function at the Federal Hotel where Paddy lived before enlisting in the 31st Infantry Battalion in May 1916 (his mother and step-father owned the hotel). Descendants of Paddy have been invited to attend.
Paddy fought in the Battle of Bullecourt and Polygon Wood in September 1917 and was killed in action at Ypres while rescuing wounded men under heavy machine gun fire on September 28, 1917, aged 20.
His VC citation reads as follows:
“For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when on two occasions our advance was temporarily held up by strongly defended ‘pill boxes’, Private 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 a bayonet.
“On another occasion when a corporal, who had been detached from his company, had been captured and was being taken to the rear of the enemy, Private Bugden, single-handed, rushed to the rescue of his comrade, shot one enemy and bayoneted the remaining two, thus releasing the corporal.
“On five occasions he rescued wounded men under intense shell and machine gun fire, showing 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 soldier was killed.”
The Paddy Bugden VC memorial was the brainchild of John Barnes OAM, Past President of the Alstonville Rotary Club who conducted the research and planning, which entailed extensive collaboration with the Bugden family and many other stakeholders including the Alstonville RSL Sub-Branch, Ballina Shire Council, the Australian War Memorial and the Defence Department. The Paddy Bugden VC memorial was built by Alstonville Rotary (sculptor Max Maxted) as its 25th anniversary project and is maintained by the Club and the Ballina Shire Council.
Of particular interest is an extract from a letter to Paddy’s mother "We are going into the firing line tomorrow. If by chance anything happens, I feel that I shall gain a place of happiness for I have never done a deed that I am ashamed of so I fear nothing."