b. 01/11/1978 Perth, Australia.
Benjamin “Ben” Roberts-Smith (1978-) was born on the 1st November 1978 in Perth, Western Australia, the son of Len Roberts-Smith and his wife Sue. His father is a former lawyer and former Justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, which is the highest ranking court in the Australian State of Western Australia (WA). From February 2005, he was one of the inaugural Judges of the Court of Appeal Division, having been first appointed to the Supreme Court on 6th November 2000. From May 2007 he served as Commissioner of the Corruption and Crime Commission of Western Australia, having been appointed for a five-year term. He retired on 31st January 2011. Ben has a brother, Sam, born in 1985, who is an opera singer.
Ben joined the Australian Army on 11th November 1996 and, after completing initial training, was posted to 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR). Over the next six years, he deployed to Malaysia twice as part of Rifle Company Butterworth, and completed two operational tours of Timor-Leste (East Timor), including INTERFET – the Australian-led security force tasked with restoring peace and security to Timor-Leste in 1999.
In 2003, Corporal Roberts-Smith successfully completed the Special Air Service Regiment selection course and, over the next 10 years, deployed on operations with SASR on several occasions. In 2006, Corporal Roberts-Smith was awarded the Medal for Gallantry for his actions as a patrol sniper with the Special Operations Task Group in Afghanistan. On 31st May 2006, Lance Corporal Roberts-Smith was employed as a patrol scout and sniper that was tasked with establishing an observation post near the Chora Pass in Oruzgan province, Afghanistan. On 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. Roberts-Smith was part of a two-man team tasked to move out of their relatively secure position in order to locate and neutralise 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, Roberts-Smith again moved to support and neutralise one of these Militia. 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. 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. 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.
On 11th June 2010, Corporal Roberts-Smith again deployed to Afghanistan, subsequently being awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia for his actions during 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, 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. 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, Roberts-Smith identified an insurgent grenadier in the throes of engaging his patrol. Roberts-Smith 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, 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 into 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.
On 23rd January 2011, Corporal Roberts-Smith was invested with the Victoria Cross for Australia by the Governor-General in Perth, becoming the second Australian and the second operator at the Special Air Service Regiment to receive the award. On Australia Day 2014, Corporal Roberts-Smith was awarded a Commendation for Distinguished Service as a patrol commander with the Special Operations Task Group in Afghanistan from June to November 2012.
At the time of his action, Ben was married to Emma, and had just had twin girls, Eve and Elizabeth. Roberts-Smith left the full-time army in 2013 to study business at the University of Queensland. In 2015 he was appointed Chair of the National Australia Day Council, and made deputy general manager of the regional television network Seven Queensland. He has subsequently been promoted to general manager of the rural network and of metropolitan station Seven Brisbane. He regularly attends VC and GC Association Reunions when his business interests permit him. His medals are on loan to the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL, CANBERRA (LOAN).
Ben Roberts-Smith's medals on display at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra (Memorials to Valour)