On 24 February 1969 he was appointed to the Australian Army Training Team in Vietnam. In May that year he was commanding the 212th Company of the 1st Mobile Strike Force Battalion when it was attacked by a strong North Vietnamese force. 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 enemy troops, who kept up harassing fire. He found some 40 wounded men, brought some in himself and organised for the rescue of the others, leading the party back to base through enemy-dominated terrain. Years later, asked whether he was afraid, Payne replied, "My God yes, yes, I was.” Payne’s actions that night earned him the Victoria Cross.
The Military Shop has had the honour and privilege to have worked closely with Keith Payne VC on a number of occasion over the last decade, starting with the Bears to School initiative to the most recent campaign to support our veteran diggers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Diggers Tribute.
The In Service of Others collection was created in 2014 to commemorate and acknowledge those brave individuals worthy enough to receive the award. During that remarkable gathering, Keith Payne and the three other living VCs, Mark Donaldson, VC; Ben Roberts-Smith, VC, MG; Daniel Keighran, VC and sole GC recipients, Michael Pratt, GC demonstrated their support for veterans and their families, bringing light to those veteran causes that are instrumental in looking after our warriors after they leave active service. It was from this incredible gathering that a unique limited edition medallion collection was created.
In Service of Others
Diggers Tribute, the most recent collaboration between Keith Payne and the Military Shop (BrandNet), saw the creation of the Diggers Tribute website as a dedicated portal to linking people with veteran charities and to promote COVID-19 compliant Anzac Day events.
While Military Shop fronted its limited edition Sands of Gallipoli and In Service of Others collectables as a contribution to assisting veteran causes over this time, Keith Payne VC lent his voice to the initiative to ensure that the message of veteran charities was heard during the Anzac period.
“As we stand apart let’s stand together for our veterans.” – Keith Payne VC
By far the biggest and most impactful campaign was the Bears to School initiative. As the National Ambassador, Keith Payne was fundamental in spreading the proud history of service to the next generation. This campaign has seen more than 1000 bears donated to over 600 schools across Australia.
“There is much in war we cannot and should not share with our young, but there is more that we can and must share. Ours is a proud history of service and it is their understanding of our military heritage that will carry forward the best of who we are and can be.” – Keith Payne VC
SBS will be screening a documentary about one of our national treasures, Mr Keith Payne VC, AM at 8:30 pm on 27 May 20. The documentary is dedicated to our oldest living Victoria Cross recipient.