Military History

The Highest Honour #36 | Frank Partridge | Keith Payne

By The Cove September 19, 2021


Private Frank John Partridge VC (1924 - 1964, 39yo)

Frank Partridge was born on 29 November 1924 at Grafton, New South Wales. At age 13, Frank left school and worked on the family farm. While serving in the Volunteer Defence Corps he was called up for active service with the Australian Military Forces. He was subsequently posted to the 8th Battalion, which was a militia unit, that departed for Lae, New Guinea in May 1944.

On 24 July 1944 Partridge was a member of a patrol ordered to destroy an enemy post, known as Base 5, near Ratsua. The Australians came under heavy machine-gun fire. Despite wounds to his arm and thigh, Partridge rushed the nearest bunker, killing its occupants with grenade and knife, then began to attack a second bunker until loss of blood forced him to stop. He was awarded the Victoria Cross and was the youngest and last Australian to do so in World War 2. 

Partridge discharged from the Australian Military Forces on 17 October 1946 and returned to the family farm. In 1962-63 he was a contestant on the television quiz show - 'Pick a Box' where he was one of only three contestants to win all forty boxes. 

Partridge was an honorary member of the Returned Sailor's, Soldier's and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia, a life member and patron of the Macksville Ex-Servicemen's Club, and vice-president of the Nambucca district council of the Banana Growers' Federation Co-operative Ltd. He was killed in a motor vehicle accident on 23 March 1964 near Bellingen and was buried with full military honours in Macksville cemetery.

Warrant Officer Class 2 Keith Payne VC (1933-)

Keith Payne was born on 30 August 1933 at Ingham, Queensland. At the completion of schooling he became an apprentice cabinet maker also serving with the 31st Infantry Battalion in the Citizens Military Forces. In August 1951 he joined the Australian Regular Army.

Payne was posted to 2 RAR in December 1951, 1 RAR in July 1952 and was later sent to Japan as an infantry reinforcement. In September 1952 he was sent to Korea and served there until his battalion rotated out in March 1953, where he joined the 28th British Commonwealth Brigade and remained with them in Korea until he returned to Australia in August 1953.

In February 1960 he was posted to 3 RAR where he was promoted to Sergeant and deployed to Malaysia in August 1963. Payne was slightly injured when he fell into a river while on an operation on the Malay-Thai border in October 1964, but remained with the unit and returned to Australia in 1965. On return he was posted to 5 RAR; however, was soon appointed an instructor at the Officer Training Unit in New South Wales. In February 1967 he joined the 2nd Pacific Islands Regiment in Papua New Guinea. He was promoted to Warrant Officer Class 2 in May 1967 and returned to Brisbane at the conclusion of his posting in March 1968.

On 24 February 1969 he was appointed to the Australian Army Training Team in Vietnam. In May 1969 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 on his 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. Payne’s actions that night earned him the Victoria Cross.

Due to an illness he was evacuated to Brisbane in September 1969 and in January 1970 was posted as an instructor to the Royal Military College, Duntroon. He received the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Star from the United States, and the Republic of Vietnam awarded him the Cross of Gallantry with Bronze Star. He retired from the Army in 1975, but saw further action as a Captain with the Army of the Sultan of Oman during the Dhofar War. He returned to Australia and became active in the veteran community, particularly in counselling sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder.

 


Portrait

Biography

The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.



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