PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 2107


Photo of Gorton, John

Gorton, John

Period of Service: 10/01/1968 to 10/03/1971

More information about Gorton, John on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 08/09/1969

Release Type: Media Release

Transcript ID: 2107

FOR PRESS: P. M. No. 71/ 1969
Statement by the Prime Minister, Mr. John Gorton
Her Majesty The Queen has awarded the Victoria Cross to
a member of the Australian Army Training Team in Vietnam, Warrant
Officer Class 2 Keith Payne of Stafford Heights, Brisbane.
Warrant Officer Payne showed outstanding devotion to duty
and leadership under the most hazardous conditions during an operation
with a battalion of a Special Forces Unit near the Cambodian/ Laotian/
Vietnamese border in Kontum Province in May this year.
He has previously served in Korea and the Malayan
emergency and is still a member of the Australian Army Training Team,
Vietnam. Warrant Off icer Payne's acts of personal bravery add
further to the stature of the Australian Army as a professional fighting
force. I have sent Warrant Off icer Payne the following message:-
" My ministerial colleagues and I congratulate you on the
award of the Victoria Cross conferred by Her Majesty The
Queen. Your exceptional devotion to duty, personal
courage and cool leadership under fire were in the best
tradition of Australia's fighting men.
8 September 1969
Note:-Attached: Details of Warrant Officer Payne's actions
and personal background.

Details of Action: On 24 May 1969 Warrant Off icer Payne was serving as a
Company Commander in a Mobile Strike Force Battalion on a search and
clear operation in Kontum Province. Shortly after capturing an undefended
hill, two companies of the battalion were attacked by elements of a welldisciplined
and well-equipped North Vietnamese force using machine guns
and small arms. As the companies broke under heavy mortar and rocket
attack Warrant Officer Payne attempted to encourage his troops to hold
their position. He continually exposed himself to enemy fire while firing
back and throwing grenades at the North Vietnamese. He received
shrapnel wounds to his hands and arms.
Despite his efforts the battalion continued to withdraw in
disorder and the battalion commander decided to fight back to the battalion
base. Warrant Officer Payne and the remnants of his company covered
their withdrawal. He managed to hold together a small number of
indigenous soldiers of the two companies to form a temporary defensive
perimeter in a valley some 350 metres tothe north east of the hill which
the North Vietnamese had retaken.
Warrant Officer Payne then requested permission to attempt
to gather together the wounded and disoriented members of the battalion
left on or near the enemy position. He left the reorganised group and
moved out alone. In a traverse of approximately 800 metres he managed
to gather together forty indigenous soldiers in about three hours. On
return to the temporary defensive perimeter he found that his force had
returned to the battalion base. Leading these forty soldiers he found a
group of advisers who had been left behind with some seriously wounded
soldiers during the battalion withdrawal. Warrant Officer Payne arranged
for the evacuation of the wounded and personally lead the group back over
difficult enemy held terrain to the battalion base arriving in the early hours
of the morning. Mr. Gorton said his leadership and personal bravery
throughout this action were outstanding.
Personal Background: Warrant Officer Payne was born in Ingham, Queensland, on
August 1933 and enlisted on 13 August 1951 after a short period in the
C. M. F. He served with I R. A. R. in Japan and Korea in 1951 and with
3 R. A. R. in Malaya in 1964. He joined the Army Training Team in Vietnam
in January 1969 where he is still serving. He was wounded during the action
for which he received the Victoria Cross but remained on duty. / 2

His decorations and medals are:-
Victoria Cross, Korea Medal, United Nations Service
Medal ( Korea), General Service Medal with Malay
Peninsula Clasp, Vietnam Medal and Vietnamese
Campaign Medal.
Warrant Officer Payne is married with four sons and one
daughter and his family lives at 28 Falkirk Street, Stafford Heights,
Queensland. 96th Victoria Cross: Warrant Officer Payne's award is the 96th Victoria Cross
awarded to an Australian and is the fourth since World War II. The last
three awards were made to the late Warrant Officer Kevin Arthur Wheatley
for action in Quang Nhai Province, South Vietnam on 13 November 1965;
the late Major Peter John Badcoe for his actions between February and
April 1967 in South Vietnam; and to Warrant Officer Rayene Stewart
Simpson, D. C. for action in Kontum Province, South Vietnam in
May 1969.

Transcript 2107