October 4, 2006:
The last three months have seen British, Australian and Canadian troops encounter their most intense combat in decades. As a result, six British and Australian troops are being recommended to receive the Victoria Cross (or VC, the highest military award in all three countries). If all of these are awarded, that will be a third of all the VCs awarded in the last sixty years. Four were awarded during the Korean War (1950-53), five in Southeast Asia in the 1960s, two in the Falklands (1982) and one in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The battles in Afghanistan involved small numbers of British, Australian and Canadian troops, often trying to pinpoint larger groups of Taliban. When the enemy was located, air power and reinforcements were called in, but before the help turned up, the Taliban had the edge, and some pretty desperate firefights ensued. Plenty of opportunities for heroics, disaster or retreat being the only alternatives.