Family’s service history includes two VC recipients

Officer Cadet Joseph Merchant has recently been appointed to the Army and is attending the Australian Defence Force Academy.

Family’s service history includes two VC recipients

Officer Cadet Joseph Merchant ‘s appointment to the Army continues a family history of service that dates back more than 150 years, and includes two Victoria Cross recipients.

The 18-year-old from the Queensland town of Trinity Beach north of Cairns is studying a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA).

He said the opportunity to push himself physically and mentally was a key motivation to join the Army.

‘’I began to consider ADFA seriously in Grade 10,” Officer Cadet Merchant said.

‘’I had heard a lot of positive things about ADFA. I met a number of retired Army officers, including engineers. 

“After trekking in Nepal at the end of Grade 10, I fully committed to this goal and applied for ADFA at the commencement of Grade 11.”

His family’s history of service dates back to the Crimean War in the 1850s, and continues through to World War II and Vietnam.

“My grandfather, Robert Keith Peterswald, graduated from the Royal Military College – Duntroon in 1965 and served in Vietnam, and also with the 1st and 2nd Pacific Island Regiments in Papua New Guinea,” Officer Cadet Merchant said.

“My great-uncle, Eugene Esmonde, also graduated from RMC Duntroon in 1965 and had two tours of duty to Vietnam.”

Officer Cadet Merchant’s great-great-uncle, also named Eugene Esmonde, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his efforts in leading his Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Squadron in the Channel Dash operation in 1942, where he was tragically shot down and killed.

Eugene Esmonde VC also was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for leading his Fleet Air Arm Squadron in an attempt to sink the German battleship, the Bismarck

Officer Cadet Merchant’s great-great-great-uncle also was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Director-General Defence Force Recruiting Brigadier Duncan Hayward said helping attract and offer young people an opportunity to develop their skills in the ADF was one of the most rewarding aspects of his role.

“There are so many opportunities for our future officers to realise their potential, and to develop skills that produce results that go beyond the individual to help them and all Australians,” Brigadier Hayward said.

“Joseph may have started his career in Cairns, but he will have the opportunity now to explore not just Australia, but all parts of the world.”

For further information on a future career in the Australian Defence Force, visit

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