AN 82-year-old WWII veteran and an off-duty police officer were awarded bravery medals yesterday for their heroism in stopping an armed robbery at Woolgoolga last year.
Coffs Coast residents Henry Hill and Senior Constable David Brooker were in the right place at the right time to be heroes on February 19, 2007.
Mr Hill was outside the Woolgoolga National Australia Bank in Nightingale Street at approximately 11.20am when he saw Woolgoolga IGA part-owner, Tere Sheehan, approached by a man wearing a balaclava and brandishing a handgun.
The gunman demanded the money bag Mr Sheehan was carrying and forced him inside the bank.
Mr Hill followed, and after seeing the pair struggling in a corner, the former British Royal Marine showed his courage by jumping on the gunman's back and putting his hands around his neck.
“Next minute I knew he had thrown me off him and smacked me in the head with the gun,” Mr Hill told the Advocate last year.
The Lorikeet Park pensioner copped a split lip and cuts for his efforts but was unfazed by suggestions he was a hero.
“I just acted out of instinct - my friend was being attacked and all I wanted to do was help him,” he said.
The gunman fled following the tussle with Mr Hill, but he didn't get far until another Coffs local showed his bravery.
Senior Constable David Brooker and his wife, also a member of the NSW Police, were off-duty and shopping on Nightingale Street when they saw the alleged robber exit the bank with the bag of money.
Const. Brooker leapt into action by tackling the gunman to the ground and rolling him onto his stomach to immobilise him.
The off-duty officer restrained the offender until police arrived.
While the handgun was later found to be fake, the bravery displayed by the two Coffs Coast men was not.
The two men were among 24 individuals who received bravery awards at a ceremony yesterday.
The bravery awards are part of the Australian Honours system, which consists of 53 awards.
The best known is the Order of Australia announced on Australia Day and the Queen's Birthday public holiday.
The bravery medal is the third highest award following the cross of valour and the star of courage.
Governor-General Michael Jeffery said the national bravery awards recognise the heroic actions of those amongst us who have placed the safety and lives of others before their own.
“We are privileged to have such role models in our society, and it is an honour to be able to recognise their acts of selfless bravery,” Mr Jeffery said.
Amongst the other bravery award recipients yesterday were a boy who drowned trying to save his sister in rough seas and a man who freed a seriously injured driver for his car just moments before it erupted in flames.