Cpl Roberts-Smith receives his Medal for Gallantry from Maj-Gen. Michael Jeffery in 2006.
Cpl Roberts-Smith receives his Medal for Gallantry from Maj-Gen. Michael Jeffery in 2006.

The son of Corruption and Crime Commission chief Len Roberts-Smith will receive Australia's highest military honour tomorrow for charging into machine-gun fire and killing several Taliban fighters in Afghanistan last year.

Cpl Ben Roberts-Smith, 32, will become just the second Australian recipient of a Victoria Cross since the end of the Vietnam War and the first to have already been awarded a Medal for Gallantry, which he received in 2006.

The married father of two, known as RS to his mates at the WA-based Special Air Service Regiment, will receive the famous medal from Governor-General Quentin Bryce at a ceremony at Campbell Barracks in Swanbourne.

Cpl Roberts-Smith followed in his father's footsteps when he joined the military soon after graduating from Hale School in 1995.

Len Roberts-Smith, a former Supreme Court judge who will retire from his position at the CCC in two weeks, was a major-general as a military judge advocate-general for several years.

Ben's brother Sam, a graduate of the WA Academy of Performing Arts, is at the Australian Opera in Sydney.

Defence yesterday refused to confirm Cpl Roberts-Smith would become the 98th Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross and Len Roberts-Smith declined to comment.

A schoolboy rugby champion who also played school basketball with future sporting stars Michael Gardiner and James Harvey, Cpl Roberts-Smith won Hale School first XV's best and fairest award in his final year at school.

At more than 200cm tall, the giant second rower then played for the Nedlands-based Associates colts in the RugbyWA competition and later the club's premier grade team.

Former SAS soldier Rob Maylor, who used a nickname when writing about Cpl Roberts-Smith in his book SAS Sniper, said his friend would be a deserving recipient of Australia's second Afghanistan campaign Victoria Cross.

Mr Maylor, who left the SAS last year, said he served alongside Cpl Roberts-Smith and Australia's previous Victoria Cross winner Cpl Mark Donaldson several times.

Cpl Roberts-Smith had originally been with 3RAR at Holsworthy Barracks in Sydney but had joined the SAS in 2002, he said.

"The three of us have worked together a hell of a lot," he said.

"We have all worked in Afghanistan and other places. I speak to RS on the phone regularly but he didn't even tell me about what happened in this incident.

"But I would say he is one of the best soldiers.

"He is very focused on his job and he is a very, very good thinker. A very lateral thinker.

"This sort of thing (winning a Victoria Cross) can have a huge effect on someone but he is such a strong character and so humble that, although this is major, it won't go to his head."

Cpl Donaldson, who was born in NSW, received his honour after braving enemy fire to rescue a wounded Afghan interpreter in the southern Afghan province of Oruzgan in September 2008.

Cpl Roberts-Smith was recommended for the Victoria Cross after intense fighting in the Shah Wali Kot region of Kandahar last June.

Up to 30 SAS soldiers had come under heavy fire when he stormed a nest of Taliban fighters and silenced three machine-guns.

He received a Medal for Gallantry in 2006 for courage under fire in Afghanistan's Chora Valley.

He will become the first WA-born Victoria Cross recipient since World War II when Pte Tom Starcevich, of Esperance, received the medal for attacking a series of Japanese machine-gun posts in Borneo, killing 12 enemy soldiers.

He died in 1989.

The West Australian

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