Saturday, June 22, 2024




The stories behind the names on the signs at the rest stops on the Remembrance Driveway, which goes from Sydney to Canberra.

The highway commemorates persons awarded the Victoria Cross by naming rest stops after them.

The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces

The VC was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria to honour acts of valour during the Crimean War.

The metal used to make every Victoria Cross medal has been made from cannons captured by the British at the siege of Sevastopol.

In 19991 the Victoria Cross for Australia was created, so that the VC no longer needed to be awarded by the British monarch. The Victoria Cross for Australia is the "decoration for according recognition to persons who in the presence of the enemy, perform acts of the most conspicuous gallantry, or daring or pre-eminent acts of valour or self-sacrifice or display extreme devotion to duty". Awards are granted by the Governor-General with the approval of the Sovereign.


The next named stop on the Remembrance Driveway is that of Warrant Officer Kevin Arthur "Dasher" Wheatley, VC

For reasons that will be clear when you read the facts below, I still remain in two minds about his action that led to his death. On the one hand, it was a heroic sacrifice, on the other hand he had a wife and children.

Let me know your thoughts.

I wrote about Dasher Wheatley before I started the Remembering Heroes series, the item below is a repost of much of that Bytes post from April 24, 2010. I have updated and enlarged that post.


Location of rest stop:

Federal Highway
Lake George, ACT

This is one of the cleanest rest stops if you need too ‘spend a penny’ – with flush toilets instead of long drops.

Driving to and from Canberra you will notice signs along the Hume and Federal Highways declaring it to be the Remembrance Driveway, honouring those who have served in the Australian Defence Forces. It was commenced in 1954 by the planting of trees in Macquarie Place, Sydney by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip. Originally conceived as the establishment of groves of native trees (including that beautiful stand of gums at Bass Hill) as symbols of hope for the future, in the 1990’s it was expanded to include Victoria Cross Rest Areas and Memorial Parks.

One such rest area name, Kevin Wheatley VC, remains familiar to me from when I first read of his being awarded the Victoria Cross. I was a lad at the time and I remember being both moved and awed by the manner of his passing. That feeling persists to this day - “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13).

Warrant Officer Kevin “Dasher” Wheatley had been born in 1937. Married in 1954 and having enlisted in the Regular Army in 1956, he served in Vietnam from early 1965 as part of the Australian Army Training Team.

Dasher Wheatley was killed in action in Vietnam on 13 November 1965. He was aged 29 and was survived by his wife, son and three daughters.

Australian policy at the time was for military personnel killed overseas to be buried overseas. Private funding enabled his body to be returned to Australia and buried at Pine Grove Cemetery at Eastern Creek, near Blacktown. In 1966, following a public outcry, the Government reversed its policy so that the remains of service personnel who died overseas would in future be returned to Australia at public expense if their families desired.

In 1993 the VC and other military decorations awarded to Dasher Wheatley (including the US Silver Star and. the Republic of Vietnam’s Military Merit Medal and Cross of Gallantry with Palm) were presented to the Australian War Memorial Canberra.

Military career:

On 12 June 1956, at the age of 19, Wheatley enlisted in the Australian Army and after completing basic training he was allocated to the Royal Australian Infantry Corps and posted to the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. Early the following year, he was posted to the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment and he subsequently served a tour of Malaya between late 1957 and early 1959, during the Malayan Emergency. After his return to Australia, Wheatley served a posting with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment in 1959–61 and then the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment from 1961 to 1965. He was promoted twice in 1964, firstly to sergeant and then warrant officer. In early 1965, he was posted to the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam and deployed to South Vietnam.

Early in his tour he was involved in an action with Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) regular troops in Quảng Trị Province. During the fighting, a child ran across the battlefield. Seeing the danger, Wheatley ran after the girl through the cross fire and brought her back to safety, using his own body to shield her. Later, in August 1965, during an attack on a Viet Cong held village Wheatley was recommended for an award by a US infantry advisor after he single-handedly exploited the position, carrying the attack up a steep slope as the VC forces withdrew. The recommendation was not acted upon at the time, however, and in September Wheatley was transferred to another team, known as the "A Team", who were part of the 5th Special Forces Group. Under the command of Captain Felix Fazekas, the team operated around the village of Tra Bong.


Tra Bong was very isolated, with only a single road providing access. On 13 November, after this road had been captured by the VC, a group of Australian advisors, including Wheatley accompanied a company from the Civil Irregular Defence Group (CIDG) on a "search and destroy mission". Wheatley was assigned to one of the platoons with a fellow warrant officer, Ron Swanton. As the platoon advanced through rice paddies in the vicinity of Binh Hoa, they came under heavy fire from a larger VC force. In the ensuing fighting, Swanton was mortally wounded. As the situation grew more intense, Wheatley requested support from Fazekas and a medical evacuation for Swanton. When his platoon began to scatter, Wheatley carried the wounded Swanton to a safer area as Fazekas moved his troops to support. As the VC closed around his position, Wheatley insisted on staying with Swanton even though he was urged to leave by medical personnel. Wheatley was subsequently killed while defending his comrade.


The  citation for the posthumous award to Dasher Wheatley of the Victoria Cross,

Warrant Officer Class II Kevin Arthur WHEATLEY
Australian Army Training Team Vietnam
13 November 1965, at Tra Bong Valley, Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam

On 13th November 1965 at approximately 1300 hours, a Vietnamese Civil Irregular Defence Group company commenced a search and destroy operation in the Tra Bong Valley. Accompanying the force were Captain F Fazekas and Warrant Officers KA Wheatley and RG Swanton. At about 1340 hours, Warrant Officer Wheatley reported contact with the enemy. Enemy resistance strengthened and finally Warrant Officer Wheatley asked for assistance. Captain Fazekas immediately organised the centre platoon to help and personally led and fought towards the action area. While moving forward he received another radio message from Warrant Officer Wheatley to say that Warrant Officer Swanton had been hit in the chest, and requested an air strike and an aircraft, for the evacuation of casualties.

At about this time the right platoon broke in the face of heavy enemy fire and began to scatter. Although told by the medical assistant that Warrant Officer Swanton was dying, Warrant Officer Wheatley refused to abandon him. He discarded his radio to enable him to half drag, half carry Warrant Officer Swanton, under heavy machine-gun and automatic rifle fire, out of the open rice paddies into the comparative safety of a wooded area, some 200 metres away. He was assisted by a Private Dinh Do who, when the Viet Cong were only some ten metres away, urged him to leave his dying comrade. Again he refused, and was seen to pull the pins from two grenades and calmly awaited the enemy, holding one grenade in each hand. Shortly afterwards, two grenade explosions were heard, followed by several bursts of small arms fire. The two bodies were found at first light next morning after the fighting had ceased, with Warrant Officer Wheatley lying beside Warrant Officer Swanton. Both had died of gunshot wounds.

Warrant Officer Wheatley displayed magnificent courage in the face of an overwhelming Viet Cong force which was later estimated at more than a company. He had the clear choice of abandoning a wounded comrade and saving himself by escaping or of staying with Warrant Officer Swanton and thereby facing certain death. He deliberately chose the latter course. His acts of heroism, determination and unflinching loyalty in the face of the enemy will always stand as examples of the true meaning of valour.


Dasher Wheatley’s family at a special ceremony to award Wheatley a posthumous Silver Star, the third highest military-combat decoration from the United States.

For his leadership of the attack on the Viet Cong-held village in August 1965, Wheatley was nominated for the US Silver Star, but the award was delayed due to Australian policies regarding the acceptance of foreign awards. The award was finally approved and presented to his son, George, in December 2021. Additionally, the South Vietnamese awarded Wheatley the Knight of the National Order of Vietnam, the Military Merit Medal and the Cross of Gallantry with Palm.

Wheatley's VVC award was one of four Victoria Crosses bestowed upon members of the AATTV and was the first awarded to an Australian during the Vietnam War.

L to R - Mrs Edna Wheatley with her son George, and two of her daughters at the dedication ceremony for the “Warrant Officer Dasher Wheatley” memorial at Campbelltown NSW on 13 November 2015.


Reader comment August 20, 2016, in response to original post:

I had the pleasure of serving with Dasher in 1 RAR, played rugby with him, winning the army competition in 1962. He and I lived in Campbelltown NSW, and travelled to work in my Morris Minor convertible, which was my wife's car, she was teaching in Campbelltown, and had to suffer walking to work!

I was serving as a Warrant Officer in PNG, so missed his funeral, my wife Margaret attended the service with Mrs Wheatley, they were great friends, he and I spent many hours in the bar at the 'army' pub in Liverpool, NSW. And the Other Ranks Bar at Holsworthy Army Barracks, he could drink most of us under the table, and had a habit of dashing around head butting walls, not how he got his nickname!

I say without doubt, he was my best mate, and I still miss his presence.

15285 WO2 Eric 'Lofty' Hansen... ex. 3 RAR, 1 RAR, 5 RAR, PNGVR PNG, LAE AREA COMMAND, PNG.

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