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“It got to the point where it was
like ‘f*** this, I’m not going to sit here
while one of the boys gets hit’,” he said.
“I thought I’d just have a crack.”
The patrol commander, Sgt P,
described what he saw when CPL
Roberts-Smith moved forward.
“He saw the opportunity and he ran
forward on his own after I’d thrown my
grenade,” Sgt P said.
“He got to the wall and took out the
two guns with his M14.
“I’ve been in the Special Forces a long
time and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen
something like that. Him running at
two guns while they were still firing was
amazing to watch.”
Making it to the wall was only part of
the problem for CPL Roberts-Smith, who
then had to take on several insurgents
to clear the position.
“As I got up to move forward I saw
two guys run into the house and I then
ran straight up to the gap in the wall
and got about 3m from the first gun,
which was firing at us,” he said.
“I could clearly see his face and there
was the realisation from us both when
we saw each other – and in the end it
was me being the luckier out of the two
of us. I stopped and engaged him.”
About 6-10m away from the first PKM
was the other gunner, who was holding
up the troop on the creek obstacle.
“I saw him and then engaged him,”
CPL Roberts-Smith said.
“It was like standing in someone’s
backyard with a flat, mud-brick floor
maybe 12m long by 10m wide.
“By the time I’d engaged the second
guy the two others in my patrol had
moved forward to where I was.”
At this stage he didn’t know where the
rest of the patrol was and didn’t want to
lose the initiative over the enemy.
“We knew there were other Taliban in
the building and we quickly discussed
what each of us was going to do, so I
moved to the door of the house and the
other two followed,” he said.
“My mate entered the door and he saw
an insurgent in the corner of the inside
of the house but he had a stoppage.
“He peeled back out and I went in
and engaged the first guy I saw, he went
down and then I had a stoppage.
“I continued down the room
and there was another insurgent
and another one beside him,
I got him and my mate came
in behind me and engaged the
“We moved through the
position and mopped up the last
On that one position they had
killed about 10 insurgents.
After CPL Roberts-Smith
silenced the two guns and he
and his mates cleared the house,
they and the rest of the troop
continued to fight for more than
six hours in the area.
This included three hours
of heavy fighting and a further
three of sporadic contact.
“It’s important to note once we
got through that position it achieved
the breakthrough we needed,” CPL
“The next patrol which pushed up
on our flank broke through the next
compound in a different scenario.
“All day for most of the patrols it
went from one thing to another.
“All day in our earpieces we could
hear the numbers of KIA coming in,”
CPL Roberts-Smith said.
“Our fire support team was inserted
onto the side of a mountain to provide
cover for us. As soon as they hit the
deck they came under fire immediately
and were fighting for their lives on the
mountain by themselves, like we were
in the valley.
“No matter what you were doing no
one missed out, everyone was in their
own little battle.”
Even the helicopter crews found
themselves constantly under fire.
“Our pilot took multiple machine-
gun hits through his cockpit into the
belly of the aircraft, we had RPGs
flying underneath the wheels while we
were sitting with our legs outside the
aircraft,” CPL Roberts-Smith said.
“In the end we gathered all the enemy
weapons, took them back with us and
we were extracted after midnight on
Initially, the Special Forces troop was
told there would be about 10 insurgents
in the locality, but it turned out to be
“We were outnumbered four to one
and we ended up killing 11 on a list of
wanted Taliban and found out that as we
arrived, senior Taliban commanders were
having a meeting.”
CPL Roberts-Smith didn’t have time
to contemplate if he had put in a
performance that would result in a VC.
“We got back to the base that night
with dirt and blood on our uniforms and
had a pie,” he said.
“Commander JTF 633 MAJGEN John
Cantwell had travelled to Tarin Kot and
congratulated us on our mission.
“Thirty minutes later we went to
bed, got up the next day and went on
another mission that night. That’s just
how it was.
“I’ve never been to Afghanistan and
not been in a gun fight. This is how we
operate over there – we’re an offensive
CPL Roberts-Smith said the Shah
Wali Kot mission was a fantastic win
for the ADF.
“What was weighing heavily on us
was the loss of the 2CER engineers Sprs
Smith and Moreland to IEDs earlier in
the month,” he said.
“This affected the troop a lot.”
This article first appeared in Army,
The Soldiers’ Newspaper on February 3.
“We got back to the base that night with dirt and blood on our uniforms and had a pie.”
Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith, VC MG
Above: The Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston,
salutes Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith, VC MG during an Investiture Ceremony
at Campbell Barracks, Swanbourne, January 23. Photo: Corporal Chris Moore.
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