*Rayene S. Simpson

Australian Army Training Team

Victoria cross



Rayene S. Simpson

Warrant Officer Class Two

Australian Army Training Team, Vietnam

6 and 11 May 1969
Kontum Province, South Vietnam
Vietnam War

Ray Simpson was born at Chippendale, New South Wales, on 16 February 1926. He joined the second AIF on 15 March 1944 and was sent to the 41st/2nd Infantry Battalion, a holding unit for young soldiers under 19 years of age. On the morning of 5 August 1944, Simpson was involved in a major breakout by several hundred Japanese prisoners of war and Cowra in New South Wales. Simpsonís duty on that day was to man a Vickers machinegun, identical to another gun which, several hours earlier, had been defended to the death by Privates Hardy and Jones, who were both posthumously awarded the George Cross. Simpson was later posted to the 2/3rd Pioneer Battalion and served near the end of the war with the 26th Battalion, AIF.

Simpson was demobilised in January 1947. He held a variety of labouring jobs before re-enlisting in 1951 for service in Korea with the 3rd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment. He was made a lance corporal in November 1951 and was promoted to corporal in January 1953. During this period he married a Japanese woman, Shoko Sakai, on 5 March 1952.

Simpson was posted to the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, in January 1954 and served with that unit in Malaya for two years from October 1955. He was next posted to the 1st Special Air Service Company in November 1957 and remained with that unit until he was deployed as one of the initial group of advisers with the Australian Army Training Team, Vietnam (AATTV). Simpsonís team flew to Vietnam in July 1962.

After a year in Vietnam he returned to the Special Air Service unit but 12 months later returned to Vietnam for his second tour of duty with the AATTV, commencing in July 1964. During his second tour he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions when his patrol was ambushed in September 1964. The citation for his DCM reads as follows:A platoon sized group, led by a Vietnamese Special Forces officer, was intercepted by a superior Viet Cong force. The Vietnamese leader was an early casualty, Warrant Officer Simpson was severely wounded by rifle fire in the right leg. Despite his wound, he rallied the platoon, formed a defensive position, contacted base by radio, and, by person excample and inspiring leadership held off repeated assaults by the Viet Cong force, until, with ammunition almost exhausted, and himself weak from loss of blood, the relief force he had alerted arrived at the scene. Even then, not until he was satisfied that the position was secure and the troops of his patrol adequately cared for did he permit himself to be evacuated.

Simpson had been promoted to sergeant in July 1955 and to Warrant Officer Class 2 in July 1964. However, in May 1966 Simpson left the Army for a second time but he again re-enlisted by travelling directly to Saigon a year later to commence his third tour of duty with the AATTV. At the time when he was awarded the Victoria Cross he was serving in Kontum province near the Laotian border, as commander of a Mobile Strikes Force.

The citation for his Victoria Cross reads as follows:

On 6 May 1969, Warrant Officer Simpson was serving as Commander of 232nd Mobile Strike Force Company of 5th Special Forces Group on a search and clear operation in Kontum Province, near the Laotion border. When one of his platoons became heavily engaged with the enemy, he led the remainder of his company to its assistance. Disregarding the dangers involved, he placed himself at the front of his troops, thus becoming a focal point of enemy fire, and personally led the assault on the left flank of the enemy position. As the company moved forward an Australian Warrant Officer commanding one of the platoons was seriously wounded and the assault began to falter. Warrant Officer Simpson, at great personal risk and under heavy fire, moved across open ground, reach the wounded Warrant Officer and carried him to a position of safety.

He then returned to his company where, with complete disregard for his safety, he crawled forward to within 10 metres of the enemy and
threw grenades into their positions. As darkness fell, and being unable to break into the enemy position, Warrant Officer Simpson ordered his company to withdraw. He then threw smoke grenades and, carrying a wounded platoon
leader, covered the withdrawal of the company together with five indigenous soldiers.

His leadership and personal bravery in this action were outstanding. On 11 May 1969, in the same operation, Warrant Officer Simpson's Battalion Commander was killed and an Australian Warrant Officer and several indigenous soldiers were wounded. In addition, one other Australian Warrant Officer who had been separated from the majority of his troops was contained in the area by enemy fire. Warrant Officer Simpson quickly organised two platoons of indigenous soldiers and several advisers and led them to the position of the contact. On reaching the position the element with Warrant Officer Simpson came under heavy fire and all but a few of the soldiers with him fell back. Disregarding his own safety, he moved forward in the face of accurate enemy machine gun fire, in order to cover the initial evacuation of the casualties. The wounded were eventually moved out of the line of enemy fire, which all this time was directed at Warrant Officer Simpson from close range.

At the risk of almost certain death, he made several attempts to move further towards his Battalion Commander's body, but on each occasion he was stopped by heavy fire. Realising the position was becoming untenable and that priority should be given to extricating other casualties as quickly as possible, Warrant Officer Simpson alone and still under enemy fire, covered the withdrawal of the wounded by personally placing himself between the wounded and the enemy. From this position, he fought on and by outstanding courage and valour was able to prevent the enemy advance until the wounded were removed from the immediate vicinity. Warrant Officer Simpson's gallant and individual action and his coolness under fire were exceptional and were instrumental in achieving the successful evacuation of the wounded to the helicopter evacuation pad.

Warrant Officer Simpson's repeated acts of personal bravery in this operation were an inspiration to all Vietnamese, United States and Australian soldiers who served with him. His conspicuous gallantry was in the highest tradition of the Australian Army.

Simpson received his Victoria Cross from the Queen during a ceremony in Sydney on 1 May 1970. The United States awarded him the Silver Star and the Bronze Star for Valour. Simpson took up a position as administrative officer at the Australian embassy in Tokyo in 1972. He died of cancer in Tokyo on 18 October 1978 and was buried and the Yokohama war cemetery in Japan.

Simpson's medals and a portrait are displayed in the Hall of Valour at the Australian War Memorial. His photographs and citation are displayed in the Hall of Heroes at the John F Kennedy Center, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, USA.

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