Private William Roy Cavanagh MID.
accompanying the award of Mentioned in
October 1966 during Operation Queanbeyan in
Phuoc Tuy Province South Vietnam, an
Iroquois helicopter of 9 Squadron RAAF
crashed in hilly and difficult terrain.
Initial rescue of some occupants of the
aircraft was performed by a crewman.
However, the rescue of the seriously injured
second pilot was a more complex task.
Private Cavanagh and Private Shore of C
Company 5th Battalion, Royal Australian
Regiment who were in the vicinity of the
crash arrived in time to assist in the
hazardous task of rescuing the trapped
second pilot. Seconds after the aircraft
crashed, fire broke out in the general area
of the aircraft fuel cell and engine. By
nature of the site. this fire started to
move slowly forward through the passenger
and crew compartments of the helicopter. The
presence of crew weapons, aircraft armament
and associated ammunition, together with a
quantity of TNT explosive constituting part
of the aircraft load, posed a significant
threat to those performing rescue
Conventional removal of the second pilot
from the wreckage was quite impossible due
to torsional misplacement of various
aircraft components. The fact that a small
tree trunk pinned the second pilot's right
leg to some parts of the aircraft was a
further complicating factor. Under guidance
from the crewman, Private Cavanagh then
assisted with bare handed clearing of
portions of the nose of the aircraft to
eventually free the second pilot from his
precarious position. Moments later, fire
engulfed the remaining portions of the nose
section of the wreckage.
By his complete disregard for personal
safety, Private Cavanagh, working in
unfamiliar circumstance, materially assisted
in a desperate situation, which, if allowed
to develop would most certainly have
resulted in the incineration of the helpless
second pilot in the ensuing fire in the nose
section of the aircraft.