Medal for Gallantry: Lance Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith, Special Air Service Regiment, Australian Army

Place Asia: Afghanistan, Uruzgan Province, Chora Pass
Accession Number OL00615.002
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Award
Physical description Silver gilt
Location Main Bld: Hall of Valour: Main Hall: Afghanistan
Maker Royal Australian Mint
Place made Australia
Date made c 2006
Conflict Afghanistan, 2001-2021

Medal for Gallantry. Pantograph engraved on reverse with recipient's details.

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. The citation for the award reads:

'For gallantry in action in hazardous circumstances as a patrol sniper in the Special Operations Task Group – Task Force 637, whilst deployed on Operation SLIPPER Rotation Three Afghanistan, May – September 2006.

On the night of 31st May 2006, Lance Corporal Roberts-Smith was employed as a patrol scout and sniper in a patrol which was tasked with establishing an Observation Post near the Chora Pass in extremely rugged terrain overlooking an Anti Coalition Militia sanctuary. Early in the patrol, after an arduous ten hour foot infiltration up the side of a mountain, the patrol was required to coordinate offensive air support to assist a combined Special Operations Task Group and other Special Forces patrol who were in contact with the Anti Coalition Militia in the valley floor to their north. Following this engagement the patrol remained in the Observation Post to continue providing vital information on the Anti Coalition Militia in the area. This comprehensive reporting had a significant effect on shaping the local area for the subsequent coalition forces operation.

On the 2nd June, the Observation Post had become the focus of the Anti Coalition Militia force and repeated attempts to locate and surround the position ensued. In one particular incident the Militia attempted to outflank the Observation Post. Lance Corporal Roberts-Smith was part of a two man team tasked to move out of their relatively secure Observation Post in order to locate and neutralize the Militia and regain the initiative. This task was successfully achieved.

In another incident, two Anti Coalition Militia attempted to attack the Observation Post from a different flank, Lance Corporal Roberts-Smith again moved to support and neutralise one of these Militia. Lance Corporal Roberts-Smith then realised that the forward edge of the Observation Post was not secure and made the decision to split the team and take up an exposed position forward of the patrol so he could effectively employ his sniper weapon. Whilst isolated, and in his precarious position, he observed a group of sixteen Anti Coalition Militia advancing across open ground towards the Observation Post. Lance Corporal Roberts-Smith effectively employed his sniper rifle to stop their advance whilst receiving very accurate small arms fire from another group of Militia to his flank.

Through his efforts, Lance Corporal Roberts-Smith maintained the initiative and ensured that his patrol remained secure by holding this position without support for twenty minutes. He was eventually reinforced by his original team member and together they continued to hold off the Militia advance for a further twenty minutes until offensive air support arrived.

Lance Corporal Roberts-Smith's actions on the 2nd June 2006, whilst under heavy Anti Coalition Militia fire and in a precarious position, threatened by a numerically superior force, are testament to his courage, tenacity and sense of duty to his patrol. His display of gallantry in disregarding his own personal safety in maintaining an exposed sniper position under sustained fire with a risk of being surrounded by the Anti Coalition Militia was outstanding. His actions, in order to safeguard his patrol, were of the highest order and in keeping with the finest traditions of Special Operations Command Australia, the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force.'

For his actions during his fifth tour of Afghanistan in an operation to hunt for a senior Taliban commander, Roberts-Smith was awarded the Victoria Cross. In 2014, for his leadership and courage 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 Medal for Gallantry is preceded by the Victoria Cross and is accompanied by 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.