Valor Friday

| October 7, 2022

Willie Apiata

I’ve touched recently on the Victoria Cross, the highest award of the British Empire and the Commonwealth. The complicated system of British awards and honors, dating back hundreds of years, has been simplified in many of the countries that make up the Commonwealth. Instead of using British honors, including military awards and decorations, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and others within the Commonwealth have created their own awards and decorations system.

The three aforementioned countries now have unique awards, distinct from the British medals they used to bestow. They all kept the Victoria Cross as their highest honor, coming above all others, just as in the British system, but they now have their own versions. This is especially confusing as the new medals, known as the Victoria Cross for Australia, the Victoria Cross for New Zealand, and simply the Victoria Cross in Canada all retain the same ribbon and same basic design for the medal itself.

So far, nobody has received the Canadian Victoria Cross. The last Canadian recipients of the British VC were awarded for action in the Second World War. The Australians have awarded their VC to five people (two posthumously). Meanwhile, the Kiwis have only awarded one of their Victoria Crosses.

The sole Victoria Cross for New Zealand recipient is Willie Apiata. Apiata is a now-retired corporal from the New Zealand Special Air Service (NZSAS). The NZSAS is, like their Australian and British counterparts in their respective armed forces, the special operations arm of the New Zealand armed forces. They are the “premier combat unit” of the NZ Defense Forces, as the NZ government calls them.

The NZSAS have seen service all over the world, including alongside their Australian and American allies in the Vietnam War, but their largest combat operations have been in Afghanistan. It shouldn’t be surprising then that Afghanistan is where Apiata earned his award.

Apiata was born and raised in New Zealand. He enlisted into the Territorial Force of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment in 1989. The Territorial Force is a part-time service similar to the National Guard in America. He first attempted to join the NZSAS in 1996, but wasn’t successful until November 2001.

By 2004, Apiata, then a lance corporal, was serving with the NZSAS in Afghanistan.  Here is his award citation for a glimpse into just why he’s (so far) the bravest man in New Zealand and the only living recipient of the VC from the island nation.

Lance Corporal (now Corporal) Apiata was, in 2004, part of a New Zealand Special Air Service (NZSAS) Troop on patrol in Afghanistan, which laid up in defensive formation for the night. At approximately 0315 hours, the Troop was attacked by a group of about twenty enemy fighters, who had approached by stealth using the cover of undulating ground in pitch darkness. Rocket-propelled grenades struck two of the Troop’s vehicles, destroying one and immobilising the other. The opening strike was followed by dense and persistent machine gun and automatic rifle fire from close range. The attack then continued using further rocket-propelled grenades and machine gun and rifle fire. The initial attack was directed at the vehicle where Lance Corporal Apiata was stationed. He was blown off the bonnet by the impact of rocket propelled grenades striking the vehicle. He was dazed, but was not physically injured. The two other vehicle crew members had been wounded by shrapnel; one of them; Corporal A, was in a serious condition. Illuminated by the burning vehicle, and under sustained and accurate enemy fire directed at and around their position, the three soldiers immediately took what little cover was available. Corporal A was discovered to have sustained life-threatening wounds. The other two soldiers immediately began applying basic first aid. Lance Corporal Apiata assumed command of the situation, as he could see that his superior’s condition was deteriorating rapidly.

By this time, however, Lance Corporal Apiata’s exposed position, some seventy metres in front of the rest of the Troop, was coming under increasingly intense enemy fire. Corporal A was of suffering serious arterial bleeding and was lapsing in and out of consciousness.

Lance Corporal Apiata concluded that his comrade urgently required medical attention, or he would likely die. Pinned down by the enemy, in the direct line of fire between friend and foe, he also judged that there was almost no chance of such help reaching their position. As the enemy pressed its attack towards Lance Corporal Apiata’s position, and without thought of abandoning his colleague to save himself, he took a decision in the highest order of personal courage under fire. Knowing the risks involved in moving to open ground, Lance Corporal Apiata decided to carry Corporal A single-handedly to the relative safely of the main Troop position, which afforded better cover and where medical treatment could be given. He ordered his other colleague, Trooper T to make his own way back to the rear.

In total disregard of his own safety, Lance Corporal Apiata stood up and lifted his comrade bodily. He then carried him across the seventy metres of broken, rocky and fire swept ground, fully exposed in the glare of battle to heavy enemy fire and into the face of returning fire from the main Troop position. That neither he nor his colleague were hit is scarcely possible. Having delivered his wounded companion to relative shelter with the remainder of the patrol, Lance Corporal Apiata re-armed himself and rejoined the fight in counter-attack. By his actions, he removed the tactical complications of Corporal A’s predicament from considerations of rescue.

The Troop could now concentrate entirely on prevailing in the battle itself. After an engagement lasting approximately twenty minutes, the assault was broken up and the numerically superior attackers were routed with significant casualties, with the Troop in pursuit. Lance Corporal Apiata had thereby contributed materially to the operational success of the engagement. A subsequent medical assessment confirmed that Corporal A would probably have died of blood loss and shock, had it not been for Lance Corporal Apiata’s selflessly courageous act in carrying him back to the main Troop lines, to receive the immediate treatment that he needed.

– Victoria Cross citation (published, The London Gazette, 2nd July 2007)

Apiata left active service in 2012, but is reportedly still a member of the reserve forces. In 2008 he donated his medal to the NZSAS Trust to safeguard it for future generations. Unlike the American Medal of Honor, which cannot be bought or sold, the VC can, and has, be sold and is a valuable military collectible. Examples appearing on the open market sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds. His medal is still available for him or his family to wear.

Just last month he, along with other surviving VC recipients, attended the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in England. She had requested all those alive who hold the VC to attend.

Category: Army, Historical, UK and Commonwealth Awards, Valor, We Remember

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BZ CPL Apiata

Excellent you were requested to attend QEII funeral. A much better selection than some members of the royal family.


Corporal Apiata Dared and Won!

Some men go bravely forth, thank God for that.

President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neande



A man.
A man who did not do what he did to earn a recognition, or to be given an invitation to the Queen’s funeral, but because of love for his brother.

We can all emulate that, even if not in those circumstances.

Skivvy Stacker

Even the language of the citation, when written in the British vernacular, sounds more impressive than the sometimes rather stilted and unimaginative language employed by the American scribes who record the deeds of the well deserving heroes of the Commonwealth of States.


“Hold on a minute there Haj…Let me get the Boss comfy, then I’ll come back and take care of your azz.”

BZ Lance Corporal Apiata. Salute!