Veterans demand ADF chief General Angus Campbell return his medal

By Cydonee Mardon

Veterans are demanding that General Angus Campbell hand his Distinguished Service Cross back — with one calling for the Australian Defence Force chief to resign.


A retired army major has called for Australian Defence Force chief General Angus Campbell to hand his Distinguished Service Cross back — and said if he doesn’t “the government should take it from him”.

The call by Stuart McCarthy, a two-tour veteran of ­Afghanistan, comes amid growing anger among elite special forces troops after Gen Campbell demanded his senior officers surrender their own medals or show proof of why they deserve them.

The move against his top brass follows the release of the Brereton report in November 2020 into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan by Australia’s Special Forces.

None of the top officers were believed to have been implicated or included in the adverse findings against 39 soldiers who are the subject of police investigation.

But the move signals all those in leadership positions have to bear some form of accountability for the behaviour of some of Australia’s elite forces.

PHOTO: Stuart McCarthy completed two tours of Afghanistan.

Mr McCarthy’s sentiments are echoed by former special forces commando Wes Hennessey, who says he will be writing to MPs next week requesting Gen Campbell’s resignation.

“Here we are, two years after the release of the Brereton Report, and the CDF makes another attempt to force our Special Operations personnel to relinquish Afghanistan honours and awards,” Mr Hennessey said.

“Based upon what? That all decorated officers were complicit with purported allegations? That is absolutely absurd.”

Mr Hennessey said the officers in question were some of the “finest and experienced” he’d worked with.

“They hold the majority core of the current combat experience within the ADF,” he said.

“If we were to become involved in a regional conflict, or support combat operations of a third country, we will very much need the experience of these officers.”

A military law academic specialising in command responsibility for war crimes, who spoke to The Sunday Telegraph on condition of anonymity due to his current work overseas, described Gen Campbell’s response as “shallow” and “ill-informed”.

“Deterring war crimes starts at the top, and war crimes cases since World War II recognise that,” he said.

“In Australia’s case, the top includes commanders of Joint Task Force 633.”

The academic, an Afghanistan veteran, said Gen Campbell’s reported justification of his actions in demanding medals be returned “so he could be seen to be doing something about discipline issues … entirely misses the point”.

There is no suggestion Mr McCarthy or Mr Hennessey have been asked to return medals.


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  • [email protected] November 27, 2022  

    Our government has sent and will continue to do, to support other countries but when these troops, being navy, army or air, land overseas their hands are tied behind their backs and their weapons are taken off them, because they might have to make a life or death decision.

    They do not have time to ask up the channel of command for permission.
    They trained for this task. To make those decisions
    As the old saying goes, All is not always fair in war.
    Do not return to the 60’s
    We should be proud of all our service personnel, past,present and future

  • Michael Connolly November 27, 2022  

    I agree Campbell can’t have it both ways, if officers have to hand their medals back then he should lose his Distinguished Service Medal, he can’t use the Sgt Schultz I know nothing clause. If he did not know what is alleged occurred during his tenure in Afghanistan then he is derelict in his duty.

  • Brian J. Hurlock November 27, 2022  

    As someone who served 21 years in the RAAF, the last 6 years as a WOFF, I have a disrespect for Campbell, especially in his role as CDF, which knows no bounds. His cowardly desertion of the Officers, SNCOs, and OR Diggers of our elite Special Forces troops, in the face of unproven accusations made about alleged War Crimes, via the repeatedly traitorous, collection of worthless Comrades in the ABC, for Christ’s sake, is, in my opinion, an act of infamy worthy of Campbell’s sacking (or, if he has one scintilla of decency and pride remaining – his resignation!). For many current and Ex Members of the Armed Services communities, it will be a stain on Campbell’s name and reputation, never to be expunged!

    I can’t go as far as supporting the concept of HIS surrender of his Awards and Medals, for I know not the circumstances of the various reasons associated with the awarding of them, and I don’t want to be guilty of a similar unfair “rush to judgement” of which I believe Campbell is grievously guilty!

    But I DO know, his disloyal condemnation of our bravest, while not ONE of them have, even now, been proved guilty of the “hearsay”, and in my opinion, trumped up, charges – Campbell even accepting the word of quite possibly lying Afghanistan enemy combatants or family of such, I think is lower than shark droppings at the bottom of oceans!

    Eternal shame on that man (?)!

    (P.S. Also one of PM Scott Morrison’s worst performances – an act of perfidious disloyalty to troops HE had helped place in harm’s way on behalf of a grateful (?) Nation, but not one of them found guilty of any crime!).

  • Neil Arnott November 27, 2022  

    I agree wholeheartedly with Brian on his comments and thoroughly endorse his comments. Campbell is a disgrace to the uniform and the men he supposedly represents. I served Nines years in the army and did a tour of Vietnam in 69/70. This is the worst person to be in command of our forces. Time he went .

  • Andew Ochiltree November 28, 2022  

    I am totally appalled at the ongoing witch hunts and public crucifixions of our defence force members who have served our country with enormous distinction. If there are some who, in the eyes of defence, were guilty of misconduct then let Military Law punish them as deemed fit.
    A bit late now for for those who have or are being singled out but please no more.
    If decorations, honours and awards are to be retracted publicly then investigations should go back prior to Afghanistan where crimes including murder went unreported.
    Andrew Ochiltree MM
    Ex 9 RAR

  • Wally Mcleod November 30, 2022  

    I totally agree with Brian and all other comments. General Campbell is unfit to hold his position as he will now never hold the respect of his subordinates . He has betrayed them and i believe that as far as alleged war crimes are concerned the buck stops at the top.
    Wally Mcleod
    Ex 1RAR & 9RAR

  • Peter Desmond December 4, 2022  

    I knew Andrew Ochiltree, before his MM. A fine soldier!

  • Colin Bishop (ex- RAIng WO2) March 20, 2023  

    In light of the ICC investigation into war crimes and arrest warrant issued against Vladamir Putin one has to wonder if they could investigate Angus Campbell over his command of TF 633 when the alleged war crimes were commited by SASR in Afghanistan.
    The moral of SASR members is next to ZERO and other officers have been told to draft a letter about why they should not return medals (such as DSC) awarded for service in Afghanistan.
    Campbell was awarded a DSC when most of his time was spent in the middle east and NOT Afghanistan (for leadership in action).
    General Tomoyuki Yamashita was executed after WWII for the actions of his troops.
    A former member of SASR has today been charged with the unlawfull killing of an Afghan man that was shown on ABC 4 Corners!

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