An Australian hero

26 February, 2012
Reporter: Mike Willesee
Producer: Alex Garipoli
Go to story transcript

In a Sunday Night exclusive, Australia’s war hero Ben Roberts-Smith talks for the first time about the details of the extraordinary mission in Afghanistan that led him to being awarded the Victoria Cross – the nation’s highest military honour.

In an emotional interview, Roberts-Smith talks about the struggle to leave behind his wife and twin daughters to fight in a battle from which he might never return.

"To have the girls was easily the best day of my life. It took us a long time to have the kids through IVF, but I very much believe in what we're doing," he told Sunday Night.

On June 11, 2010, in northern Kandahar, his unit was assigned a high-priority mission - to capture or kill a high-ranking Taliban leader.

"We had a 4-Black Hawk-2-Apache package, which meant we had four helicopters to carry the blokes and two Apache gunships to support us."

The Australians knew their target was important. What they didn't know was that he'd come to meet 10 other senior commanders who were protected by over 100 battle-hardened and well armed militia.

"As we started to circle the target, we immediately started to take fire from the high ground," he says.

Roberts-Smith and his unit, six men in all, leapt from their helicopter into the battle.

"We were up against more than one machine gun. It just got so heavy, we just couldn't physically get up and fire and move so we just started to crawl."

He noticed a small structure just outside the enemy compound that could provide cover from the onslaught.

"I sort of gave a yell to the guy on my right because at that point, I was in the middle and I had a guy either side of me and we fought that way all the way forward.

I said, "I'm going to go and clear the building," so we got up, he's put in some covering fire and I just made a dash for about 15m.

If you can understand, it was not what you would consider an outhouse but a small, rundown little shed. I started to clear it through the window, and, as I did that, an RPG gunner had just started to protrude his weapon system outside of the window, and I was able to engage him at point blank.

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For the Australian War Memorial website click here

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