Biography

Birth date: 30 August 1933
Birth place: Australia: Queensland, Ingham
Final rank: Warrant Officer Class 2
Service number: 12222 - Indonesian Confrontation, 1962-1966
12222 - Korea, 1950-1953
12222 - Vietnam, 1962-1975
Unit: Australian Army Training Team Vietnam

Keith Payne was born at Ingham, Queensland, on 30 August 1933. He attended Ingham State School and afterwards became an apprentice cabinet-maker. During this time he also served with the 31st Australian Infantry Battalion in the Citizens’ Military Force. Seeking greater opportunities, Payne joined the Australian Regular Army in August 1951 and after his basic and initial employment training was posted to the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR) in December 1951.

Payne was transferred to the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR) in July 1952 and later that month was sent to Japan as an infantry reinforcement. In September 1952 he was sent to Korea, where he joined his unit. He served with the battalion until they were rotated out of Korea in March 1953, whereupon he was taken on strength of Headquarters, 28th British Commonwealth Brigade. He remained with this formation until the end of the Korean War, and returned to Australia in August 1953.

In December 1954 Payne married Florence Plaw, a member of the Women’s Royal Australian Army Corps. He was promoted to corporal the following year and spent much of the next five years attending various courses and schools of instruction to further his army career.

In February 1960 Payne was posted to the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR), then based at Enoggera in Queensland. He was promoted to sergeant in July 1961 and deployed to Malaysia in August 1963. During an operation on the Malay-Thai border in October 1964, Payne was slightly injured when he fell into a river as he was crossing. He remained on duty and returned to Australia with 3RAR in February 1965.

Later that month Payne was posted to the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. However, the posting was only brief, and in June that year he was appointed as an instructor to the Officer Training Unit at Scheyville, New South Wales.

In February 1967 he joined the 2nd Pacific Islands Regiment in Papua New Guinea. He was promoted to warrant officer class 2 in May that year and returned to Brisbane at the conclusion of his posting in March 1968.

On 24 February 1969 he was appointed to the Australian Army Training Team in Vietnam. In May that year he was commanding the 212th Company of the 1st Mobile Strike Force Battalion 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 enemy troops, who kept up harassing fire. He found some 40 wounded men, brought some in himself and organised for 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.” Payne’s actions that night earned him the Victoria Cross.

He was evacuated to Brisbane in September suffering from an illness, receiving a warm reception at the Brisbane airport before entering hospital. He had recovered by November, and in January 1970 was posted as an instructor to the Royal Military College, Duntroon.

Payne received his VC from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II aboard the Royal Yacht, Britannia in Brisbane on 13 April 1970. He was made a Freeman of the city and of the shire in which his hometown was located. A park in Stafford, Brisbane, where Payne lived, was also named after him. He received the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Star from the United States, and the Republic of Vietnam awarded him the Cross of Gallantry with Bronze Star. He retired from the army in 1975, but saw further action as a captain with the Army of the Sultan of Oman during the Dhofar War.

Payne returned to Australia and became active in the veteran community, particularly in counseling sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Rolls and Awards

Honours and Awards : Victoria Cross

  • Unit: Australian Army Training Team Vietnam
  • Conflict: Vietnam, 1962-1975

Collection Items

Art (1)
Film (1)

For valour F04628

Sound (1)

Keith Payne VC as a private rifleman 1st Battalion The Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR), Korea 1952- S02290

Photograph

135693

CANBERRA, ACT. 1970-04-25. HER ROYAL HIGHNESS, THE PRINCESS ANNE (1) SPEAKING TO WARRANT OFFICER 2 K. PAYNE VC (2) AND HIS FAMILY AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE ANZAC DAY COMMEMORATION CEREMONY HELD AT THE AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL.

135693

BIN/72/0684/HQ

October 1972. Studio portrait of Warrant Officer 2 (WO2) Keith Payne VC, Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV). WO2 Payne was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry during an action in Kontum Privince on 24 May 1969.

BIN/72/0684/HQ

BIN/72/0686/HQ

October 1972. Studio portrait of Warrant Officer 2 (WO2) Keith Payne VC, Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV). WO2 Payne was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry during an action in Kontum Province on 24 May 1969.

BIN/72/0686/HQ

BIN/72/0687/HQ

October 1972. Studio portrait, featuring a side profile of Warrant Officer 2 (WO2) Keith Payne VC, Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV). WO2 Payne was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry during an action in Kontum Province on 24 May 1969.

BIN/72/0687/HQ

FAI/69/0569/NC

Australia. November 1969. Portrait of Warrant Officer Class 2 Keith Payne, VC (Victoria Cross).

FAI/69/0569/NC

LES/69/0588/VN

Two distinguished soldiers enjoying a beer at the Australian Force Headquarters, are Warrant Officer Class 2 Keith Payne of Stafford Heights, Qld (left), an Adviser with the Australian Army Training Team in Vietnam (AATTV), the fourth Victoria Cross (VC) recipient of the Vietnam war, and with him...

LES/69/0588/VN

LES/69/0589/VN

SAIGON, VIETNAM. 1969-09. AUSTRALIAN ARMY TRAINING TEAM VIETNAM (AATTV) MEMBERS GET TOGETHER AT THE SERGEANTS' MESS FOR THE TRADITIONAL TOAST AFTER THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF WARRANT OFFICER 2 (WO2) KEITH PAYNE'S VICTORIA CROSS (VC), AWARDED FOR GALLANTRY DURING AN ACTION IN KONTUM PROVINCE 1969-05-24....

LES/69/0589/VN

LES/69/0590/VN

THE AUSTRALIAN ARMY'S ONLY SERVING VICTORIA CROSS (VC) WINNERS, WARRANT OFFICER 2ND CLASS (WO2) RAY SIMPSON OF SYDNEY, NSW (LEFT), AND WO2 KEITH PAYNE OF STAFFORD HEIGHTS, QLD, GET TOGETHER FOR A VICTORIA BITTER BEER AFTER THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF WO2 PAYNE'S VC. WO2 PAYNE WON AUSTRALIA'S HIGHEST...

LES/69/0590/VN

LES/69/0592/VN

The Commander of the Australian Force Vietnam (COMAFV), Major General R. A. Hay of Red Hill, ACT (right), toasts Victoria Cross (VC) winner Warrant Officer Class 2 Keith Payne of Stafford Heights, Qld, an Adviser of the Australian Army Training Team in Vietnam (AATTV).

LES/69/0592/VN

LES/69/0594/VN

SAIGON, SOUTH VIETNAM. 1969-09. AUSTRALIA'S LATEST VICTORIA CROSS (VC) WINNER, WARRANT OFFICER 2ND CLASS (WO2) KEITH PAYNE OF STAFFORD HEIGHTS, QLD, IS CONGRATULATED BY A FELLOW MEMBER OF THE AUSTRALIAN ARMY TRAINING TEAM IN VIETNAM (AATTV), WO2 KEVIN LATHAM OF CLAREMONT, TAS, AFTER THE...

LES/69/0594/VN

LES/69/0595/VN

The world television news zooms in on Australia's latest Victoria Cross (VC) winner, Warrant Officer 2nd Class (WO2) Keith Payne of Stafford Heights, Qld, an Adviser with the Australian Army Training Team in Vietnam (AATTV), at the Australian Force Headquarters. Interviewing him is CBS newsman Tony...

LES/69/0595/VN

LES/69/0596/VN

Australia's latest Victoria Cross (VC) winner, Warrant Officer 2nd Class (WO2) Keith Payne of Stafford Heights, Qld, an Adviser with the Australian Army Training Team in Vietnam (AATTV), sitting behind the Ambassador's desk at the Australian Embassy, takes a telephone call from his wife in...

LES/69/0596/VN

P00468.001

PLEIKU, SOUTH VIETNAM, 1969. FROM LEFT, DAVE ROWE, KEITH PAYNE AND PETER HARRIS AT PLEIKU SPECIAL FORCES CAMP. KEITH PAYNE WON THE VICTORIA CROSS IN 1969.

P00468.001

P01002.085

BRISBANE, QLD. 1970-04-13. WARRANT OFFICER 2 K. PAYNE RECEIVING THE VICTORIA CROSS FROM HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH II ABOARD THE ROYAL YACHT BRITANNIA. WARRANT OFFICER PAYNE WAS AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS FOR EXTREME BRAVERY IN THE FACE OF THE ENEMY IN KONTUM PROVINCE, SOUTH VIETNAM, ON...

P01002.085

LES/69/0593/VN

Portrait of Australia's latest Victoria Cross (VC) recipient, Warrant Officer 2 (WO2) Keith Payne of Stafford Heights, QLD. WO2 Payne, An adviser with the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV), was awarded the VC for bravery in action in Kontum Province on 24/05/1969. Payne is wearing a...

LES/69/0593/VN

P00963.067

SOUTH VIETNAM. LEFT TO RIGHT: WARRANT OFFICER 2 K. PAYNE VC; POSSIBLY WO2 B. L. LESUEUR; WO2 R. S. SIMPSON; SHORTLY AFTER THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF PAYNE BEING AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS. (DONOR: AUSTRALIAN ARMY TRAINING TEAM VIETNAM (AATTV) ASSOCIATION)

P00963.067

Film

For valour

This kinescope recording of the 'For valour' television documentary on the four Victoria Cross (VC) recipients from the Vietnam war. The documentary tells the story of the actions for which Major Peter Badcoe, Warrant Officer (WO) Kevin Wheatley, WO Keith Payne and WO Ray Simpson were awarded the...

F04628

Art

Warrant Officer Class II Keith Payne

Portrait of Warrant Officer Class II, Keith Payne VC. Payne received the Victoria Cross for his actions in Vietnam. Payne was part of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV) and this portrait was painted at Duntroon in Canberra which is an army training facility for the Royal Military...

ART27773

Sound

Keith Payne VC as a private rifleman 1st Battalion The Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR), Korea 1952-1953, interviewed by Bill Fogarty

Keith Payne VC as a private rifleman 1st Battalion The Royal Australian Regiment (1RAR), Korea 1952-1953, interviewed by Bill Fogarty.

S02290

Heraldry

Medal of the Order of Australia : K Payne VC

Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM). Engraved reverse with recipient's details.

REL48055.002

United States Distinguished Service Cross : Warrant Officer Class 2 K Payne, Australian Army Training Team Vietnam

United States Distinguished Service Cross. Engraved reverse with recipient's details.

REL48055.018

Victoria Cross : Warrant Officer Class 2 K Payne, Australian Army Training Team Vietnam

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

REL48055.001

Timeline

Date of birth 1933-08-30 Ingham, QLD.
Date and unit at enlistment (ORs) 1951-08-13 Enlisted in the army.
Other 1952-04 Posted to Korea with the 1st Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment and 28th British Commonwealth Infantry Brigade.
Date returned to Australia 1953-03
Date promoted 1955 Promoted to corporal.
Other units 1956 11 National Service Training Battalion.
Other units 1960-02 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment.
Other units 1961-06 Served in Malaya with the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment.
Other units 1965-02 Joined the 5th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment, as a sergeant.
Other units 1965-06 Officer Training Unit, Schyeville.
Other units 1967-02 Served in Papua New Guinea with 2nd Battalion Pacific Islands Regiment.
Date returned to Australia 1968-03 Headquarters Northern Command, Brisbane.
Other units 1969-02-24 Joined the Australian Army Training Team in Vietnam.
Date of honour or award 1969-04-15 Awarded Victoria Cross for action at Kontum province, Vietnam whilst serving with Australian Army Training Team, Vietnam as a Warrant Officer Class 2. Payne led his company to safety under heavy fire and organised the rescue of many wounded soldiers.
Date returned to Australia 1969-09 Evacuated from Vietnam to Brisbane due to illness.
Other 1970-01 Posted to Royal Military College Duntroon as an instructor.
Other units 1972-12 42nd Battalion, Royal Queensland Regiment, at Mackay.
Date of discharge 1975-03-13