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Reg Rattey VC Memorial unveiling

The last living Vietnam veteran to be awarded a Victoria Cross (VC) will be a special guest at the official unveiling of the Reg Rattey VC Memorial in West Wyalong on Saturday 9 April.

Keith Payne VC and his wife Flo Payne will be joined by other military representatives, members of the Rattey family, the Australian Army Band-Kapooka and members of the community at the unveiling of the life size bronze monument as the Bland Shire community comes together to commemorate its most decorated war hero.

Renowned Australian artist Brett “Mon” Garling was commissioned by Bland Shire Council to undertake the work and has created a stunning recreation of Mr Rattey VC in action, bren gun at the hip and poised to throw a grenade, while serving his country in South Bougainville during the Second World War.

On 22 March 1945, Mr Rattey’s 25th Battalion were ordered to capture a Japanese stronghold following an allied air and artillery attack. After determining that an attack by his section would likely incur many casualties, Mr Rattey single-handedly attacked three Japanese weapons bunkers with his bren gun. After eliminating one of the bunkers with a grenade, he returned to his section through enemy fire to obtain two more grenades before returning to destroy two more enemy bunkers.

Shortly after this his section advanced and encountered further Japanese machine gun fire, Mr Rattey launched another solo attack on an enemy gun position, causing the remaining gun crew to retreat.

He was awarded the Victoria Cross, one of only 20 handed out from the Second World War and just 100 in Australia’s military history, five months later.

The monument will stand as a permanent tribute to Mr Rattey VC and an everlasting reminder of his bravery and courage.

It is fitting that another VC recipient who has also shown tremendous courage on the battlefield, Keith Payne VC, will be in attendance at the unveiling.

During the Vietnam war, Mr Payne was commanding the 212th Company of the 1st Mobile Strike Force Battalion against attack from enemy soldiers.

Despite being surrounded on three sides and wounded, Mr Payne led the perimeter defence before spending a further three hours scouring the battlefield searching for isolated and wounded soldiers - where he found 40 casualties.

After returning to Australia, he became active in the veteran community, particularly in counselling those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 2006 and advanced to a Member of the Order of Australia in June last year for his “significant service to veterans and their families as an ambassador, patron and as an advocate for veterans’ health and welfare.”

In 2014, Mr Payne donated all 23 of his services levels, including his Victoria Cross, to the Australian War Memorial.

Bland Shire Council is encouraging all community members to attend the unveiling, which will take place within the gardens of Reg Rattey Drive at 11am on Saturday 9 April. Entertainment will be provided by the Australian Army Band-Kapooka and a free community barbecue will be available afterwards.