Posted by Vietnam Swans on March 1, 2011
Last week, on Monday, 21 February 2011, the Australian War Memorial opened its Hall of Valour. The Hall of Valour tells the stories of the 98 Australian soldiers who have been awarded the highest honour for bravery during a time of war; the Victoria Cross.
Australia has three surviving Victoria Cross recipients: Corporal Roberts-Smith (Afghanistan), Keith Payne (Vietnam) and Corporal Donaldson (Afghanistan) and all three were at the opening.
Also at the opening were Swannies, Roachie, and his wife, Ngoc.
To read more about the day, click onto which is on the ABC Canberra Radio’s website. The article also includes a link to a radio interview with the three recipients.
The states that in May 1969, was commanding a Company when it was attacked by a strong North Vietnamese force. His company was isolated and, surrounded on three sides, Payne’s Vietnamese troops began to fall back. Payne, by now wounded in the hands and arms and under heavy fire, covered the withdrawal before organising his troops into a defensive perimeter. He then spent three hours scouring the scene of the day’s fight for isolated and wounded soldiers, all the while evading the enemy who kept up regular fire. He found some forty wounded men, brought some in himself and organised the rescue of the others, leading the party back to base through enemy dominated terrain. Years later, asked whether he was afraid, Payne replied, “My God yes, yes, I was.”
On 2 September 2008, was returning to base in the Oruzgan province, Afghanistan, in a joint US, Australian, and Afghan convoy when the group was ambushed. In heavy fighting, he moved from cover to cover to engage the enemy with anti-armour weapons as well as his own rifle, several times drawing the enemy’s fire away from the wounded. He also rescued a wounded interpreter. His actions were described as being of the “highest accord and in keeping with the finest traditions of … the Australian Defence Force”
On 11 June 2010, during an operation in Afghanistan, took part in an assault against an enemy fortification, exposing his own position in order to draw fire away from members of his patrol who were pinned down. Fighting at close range, he stormed two enemy machine-gun posts and silenced them. His citation in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette notes that “his selfless actions in circumstances of great peril served to enable his patrol to break into the enemy’s defences and to regain the initiative … resulting in a tactical victory.”
In military circles, it simply doesn’t get any bigger than meeting Australia’s three living VC recipients in the same place at the same time.
Thank you to Roachie and Ngoc for sharing the photos with the Swannies.