Victoria Cross for Australia: Corporal B Roberts-Smith, Special Air Service Regiment, Australian Army

Place Asia: Afghanistan, Kandahar Province, Shah Wali Kot
Accession Number OL00615.001
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Award
Physical description Bronze
Location Main Bld: Hall of Valour: Main Hall: Afghanistan
Maker Hancocks
Place made United Kingdom
Date made c 2010
Conflict Afghanistan, 2001-
Description

Victoria Cross for Australia. Engraved reverse suspender with recipient's details; reverse cross with date of action

History / Summary

Benjamin 'Ben' Roberts-Smith was born in Perth, Western Australia, in 1978. He joined the Australian Regular Army in 1996 and was posted to the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, with whom he took part in two tours of East Timor. In 2003 he was posted to the Special Air Service Regiment and he was on his first tour of Afghanistan in 2006 when he was awarded the Medal for Gallantry for his actions as a patrol scout and sniper during Operation Slipper.

Roberts-Smith’s Victoria Cross action occurred during his fifth tour of Afghanistan during an operation to hunt for a senior Taliban commander. In an assault against an enemy fortification on 11 June 2010, he exposed his position 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, allowing the assault team to gain the initiative. The citation for the award reads:

'For the most conspicuous gallantry in action in circumstances of extreme peril as a Patrol Second-in-Command with the Special Operations Task Group on Operation SLIPPER.

Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith enlisted in the Australian Regular Army in 1996. After completing the requisite courses, he was posted to the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, where he saw active service in East Timor. In January 2003, he successfully completed the Australian Special Air Service Regiment selection course.

During his tenure with the Regiment, he deployed on Operation VALIANT, SLATE, SLIPPER, CATALYST and SLIPPER II. Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith was awarded the Medal for Gallantry for his actions in Afghanistan in 2006.

On the 11th June 2010, a troop of the Special Operations Task Group conducted a helicopter assault into Tizak, Kandahar province, in order to capture or kill a senior Taliban commander.

Immediately upon the helicopter insertion, the troop was engaged by machine gun and rocket propelled grenade fire from multiple, dominating positions. Two soldiers were wounded in action and the troop was pinned down by fire from three machine guns in an elevated fortified position to the south of the village. Under the cover of close air support, suppressive small arms and machine gun fire, Corporal Roberts-Smith and his patrol manoeuvred to within 70 metres of the enemy position in order to neutralise the enemy machine gun positions and regain the initiative.

Upon commencement of the assault, the patrol drew very heavy, intense, effective and sustained fire from the enemy position. Corporal Roberts-Smith and his patrol members fought towards the enemy position until, at a range of 40 metres, the weight of fire prevented further movement forward. At this point, he identified the opportunity to exploit some cover provided by a small structure.

As he approached the structure, Corporal Roberts-Smith identified an insurgent grenadier in the throes of engaging his patrol. Corporal Roberts-Smith instinctively engaged the insurgent at point-blank range resulting in the death of the insurgent. With the members of his patrol still pinned down by the three enemy machine gun positions, he exposed his own position in order to draw fire away from his patrol, which enabled them to bring fire to bear against the enemy. His actions enabled his Patrol Commander to throw a grenade and silence one of the machine guns. Seizing the advantage, and demonstrating extreme devotion to duty and the most conspicuous gallantry, Corporal Roberts-Smith, with a total disregard for his own safety, stormed the enemy position killing the two remaining machine gunners.

His act of valour enabled his patrol to break-in to the enemy position and to lift the weight of fire from the remainder of the troop who had been pinned down by the machine gun fire. On seizing the fortified gun position, Corporal Roberts-Smith then took the initiative again and continued to assault enemy positions in depth during which he and another patrol member engaged and killed further enemy. His acts of selfless valour directly enabled his troop to go on and clear the village of Tizak of Taliban. This decisive engagement subsequently caused the remainder of the Taliban in Shah Wali Kot district to retreat from the area.

Corporal Roberts-Smith’s most conspicuous gallantry in a circumstance of extreme peril was instrumental to the seizure of the initiative and the success of the troop against a numerically superior enemy force. His valour was an inspiration to the soldiers with whom he fought alongside and is in keeping with the finest traditions of the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force.’

Roberts-Smith was invested with the Victoria Cross by the Governor-General, Ms Quentin Bryce, on 23 January 2011 at Campbell Barracks, Perth.

In 2014, for his conduct as a patrol commander during Operation Slipper between June and November 2012, Roberts-Smith was further recognised with a Commendation for Distinguished Service.

Robert Smith’s Victoria Cross is accompanied by the Medal for Gallantry, the Commendation for Distinguished Service, the Australian Active Service Medal, service medals for East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq, the Australian Service Medal, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, the Defence Long Service Medal, the Australian Defence Medal, and UN and NATO medals.