At an annual commemoration of the event in which three young commandos lost their lives, the presentation formally recognised Ian Halliburton’s actions, which saved the life of one of his comrades, Barry Higgins.
Though Mr Halliburton was unable to travel to the commemoration, the award was presented to a member of the Commando Association on his behalf.
Unaware that he would be presented with the award, Mr Halliburton received the medallion and personal letter from Australian Commando Association Victoria president Doug Knight by mail following the event.
Mr Halliburton, who is now 92 years old and a resident at Ingenia Gardens Carey Park, was humbled by the recognition.
“I had no idea I was going to get it; it was meant to be a surprise and it certainly was one!”
The incident took place on 17 February 1960, when a group of 75 commandos set off from Queenscliff on a planned mock raid at Portsea, before unforeseen weather conditions turned the exercise deadly. The sudden shift in conditions caused the training crafts consisting of two men kayaks, zodiacs, and amphibious jeeps to be washed out into the Bass Strait, and the men were at the mercy of the waves.
Mr Halliburton, who was in a 10-man Zodiac with six others on that fateful night, still vividly recalls the event all those years ago.
“I was meant to stay back as I was a signaller, but I wanted to go on the exercise, so I convinced them to let someone else take over”, he said.
“The waves were honestly about 12 feet high, and when they eventually tipped the Zodiac over, we all fell out.”
As the crew clung to the sides of their craft, Mr Halliburton realised that someone was missing. “I realised that Barry wasn’t there so I thought he must be still stuck, that’s when I dived underneath, grabbed him and dragged him out”, he said.
“He started to drift away so I grabbed him again and he must have been in shock because funnily enough he bit me!”
Mr Halliburton didn’t reveal Barry’s actions until two months after the incident. “Barry and I were on another exercise together and he thanked me for rescuing him; I told him ‘that’s alright, but you bloody well bit me’!”
Extremely proud of his bravery award, Mr Halliburton said he is now working towards his next achievement.
“I’m already looking forward to receiving the royal telegram when I turn 100!”
Ingenia Gardens Carey Park Community Manager Trudy Turner said that the award comes as no surprise.
“His intelligence and industrious nature are evident in everything he does, and he is truly a quiet achiever”
“He has been active in the community all his life and we’re very glad to have him here with us at Ingenia Gardens Carey Park” said Ms Turner.