30 August 1933 |
|Years of service||1951–1975|
|Rank||Warrant Officer Class II|
|Unit||Royal Australian Regiment
Australian Army Training Team Vietnam
Medal of the Order of Australia
Distinguished Service Cross (United States)
Silver Star (United States)
Cross of Gallantry (Vietnam)
|Other work||Counselling sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder|
Keith Payne VC, OAM (born 30 August 1933) is an Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration for gallantry "in the face of the enemy" awarded to members of the British and Commonwealth armed forces. Payne's VC was awarded due to his actions during the Vietnam War. Aged 81, he is the last living Australian recipient of the original "imperial" Victoria Cross.[Note 1]
Keith Payne was born at Ingham, Queensland, on 30 August 1933, the son of Romilda (Millie) Hussey and Henry Thomas Payne. He attended Ingham State School and later became an apprentice cabinet-maker. Dissatisfied with working as a tradesman, Payne joined the Australian Army in August 1951 and, after brief period in Citizen Military Forces (CMF), was posted to the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment in September the following year.
Payne served with his unit in the Korean War between April 1952 and March 1953. He married Florence Plaw, a member of the Women's Royal Australian Army Corps, in December 1954, and was promoted to corporal the following year. Payne served in Malaya with this unit and in 1965, now a sergeant, he joined the 5th Battalion. In June 1965, by now a Warrant Officer Class II, Payne was a fieldcraft instructor on the staff of the Officer Training Unit, Scheyville, established to commission national servicemen. In February 1967 he was posted to Papua New Guinea where he served with the 2nd Battalion, Pacific Islands Regiment. He remained there until March 1968 when he returned to Brisbane. On 24 February 1969 he was posted to the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam (AATTV).
In May 1969 he was commanding the 212th Company of the 1st Mobile Strike Force Battalion when it was attacked by a strong North Vietnamese force near Ben Het Camp. 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.
Payne's actions that night earned him the Victoria Cross, which was gazetted on 19 September 1969. He was evacuated to Brisbane in September suffering from an illness, receiving a warm reception at the airport before entering hospital. In January 1970 Payne was posted to the Royal Military College, Duntroon as an instructor.
Payne received his VC from the Queen 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 also received the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Star from the United States of America and the Republic of Vietnam awarded Payne the Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Bronze Star.
He was later posted to the 42nd Battalion, Royal Queensland Regiment. Payne subsequently retired from the Australian Army in 1975, but saw further action as a captain with the Army of the Sultan of Oman against communist forces in the Dhofar War in 1975 and 1976.
Payne joined the Legion of Frontiersmen in 1975 and holds the rank of an Honorary Chief Commissioner. After returning to Australia and became active in the veteran community, particularly in counselling sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder. Payne and his wife raised five sons and are now living in Mackay, Queensland. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his service to the veteran community in 2006. Payne was interviewed for the 2006 television docudrama Victoria Cross Heroes which also included archive footage and dramatisations of his actions. In September 2012 he became a Patron of the Victoria Cross Trust. The mental health ward at Greenslopes Private Hospital in Brisbane is named the Keith Payne Unit (KPU), in his honour.
Honours and awards
- Unit awards
- Meritorious Unit Commendation (USA)
- Cross of Gallantry with Palm Unit Citation (South Vietnam)
- Wigmore 1986, pp. 173–174.
- The London Gazette: . 19 September 1969. Retrieved 2008-08-04.
- "Keith Payne, VC". Legion of Frontiersmen Australian Division. 2001. Archived from the original on 26 January 2014. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
- Medal of the Order of Australia, 26 January 2006, It's an Honour
Citation: For service to the community, particularly through support for youth programs and veterans groups.
- "Interviews". Victoria Cross Heroes. Retrieved 2008-07-06.
- Victoria Cross Trust
- "Psychiatry and Mental Health". Greenslopes Private Hospital website. Greenslopes, Queensland, Australia: Ramsay Health Care. 2012. Retrieved 20 November 2012.
The 30 bed Keith Payne Unit, opened in 1996, was named in honour of Australia's only surviving Vietnam Victoria Cross recipient. The Unit has long been one of the State's leading centres for the care and treatment of veterans and war widows suffering from psychiatric disorders such as drug and alcohol problems and post traumatic stress disorder
- "Who’s who in Australian Military History". Retrieved 2009-05-26.
- "Keith Payne VC". Retrieved 2009-05-26.[unreliable source?]
- "Payne VC". Digger History: An Unofficial History of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Forces. Alexandra Hills, Queensland: DiggerHistory.Info Incorporated. 2002. Archived from the original on 26 January 2011. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
- "List of Keith Payne's medals and clasps". Retrieved 2009-05-28.
- Victoria Cross, 19 September 1969, It's an Honour
- Hardman, Robert (2012-05-31). "The heroes given a front-row seat at the royal party: Charles and Camilla meet 28 living VCs and GCs ahead of Diamond Jubilee". Mail Online. Associated Newspapers. Retrieved 2012-06-01.
- Centenary Medal, 1 January 2001, It's an Honour
Citation: For service to the veterans' community.
- DFSM Clasps & Eligibility, Defence Honours & Awards, www.defence.gov.au Retrieved on 2009-05-28.
- National Medal, 25 January 1982, It's an Honour
- "Korean War Medals issued to Australian Personnel". Korean War Medals. 2008. Retrieved 6 April 2014.
- Wigmore, Lionel, ed. (1986). They Dared Mightily (2nd ed.). Canberra: Australian War Memorial. ISBN 0642994714.
- WOII K. Payne, VC AATTV Association — biography plus detailed action account.
- Warrant Officer Class 2 Keith Payne, VC AWM Who's who in Australian Military History.
- Interview with Keith Payne Australians at War Film Archive.
- RSL defends veteran over VC sale, ABC News, 20 June 2007, www.abc.net.au
- Keith Payne medal exhibit Maryborough Military & Colonial Museum: Keith and his medals[dead link]; Closer view of Keith's medals[dead link]; Pictures and Certificates[dead link]
- Keith Payne, 2002, 40th Anniversary Reunion, Australian Army Training Team Vietnam
- Keith Payne and Edward Kenna, the last two living Australian VC recipients, 15 April 2003.
- Keith Payne and Mark Donaldson, the last Australian Victoria Cross recipient with the first Victoria Cross for Australia recipient at Government House, January 2009.