Reginald (Reg) Rattey
Repatriated to Australia
Twenty Australians were awarded a Victoria Cross (VC) in World War II. West Wyalong farmer, Reginald Roy Rattey, was one of them.
Rattey was born in Barmedman, a small town 30 km south of West Wyalong. His parents were farmers in the former gold mining community. As a boy, he loved playing sport and was a good horseman, riding his horse to school each day.
When he was old enough, Rattey volunteered for part-time militia service in the 21st Light Horse Regiment.
In 1942, Rattey joined the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) for overseas service. He was sent to Port Moresby in the Territory of Papua in 1943. Then Rattey's unit was posted to Bougainville in the Territory of New Guinea in late 1944.
On 22 March 1945, in heavy fighting against the Japanese and just a few days short of his 28th birthday, Rattey performed an act of bravery under intense enemy fire. For this action, he later received the highest military decoration, the Victoria Cross (VC).
With the 2/25th Battalion unable to advance and suffering heavy casualties, Rattey rushed the Japanese machine-gunners, armed with a Bren gun and a grenade. The citation records how Rattey:
... coolly calculated that a forward move by the section would be halted by fire with heavy casualties, and he determined that a bold rush by himself alone would surprise the enemy, and offered the best chance for success. With amazing courage and great determination, he rushed forward, firing his Bren gun from the hip ...
Shortly afterwards, the Australians met more enemy fire. Once more, Rattey rushed forward, firing at the Japanese Juki heavy machine gun. Some of the Japanese gun crew were killed and others were wounded. The rest fled. Rattey's unit captured the machine gun and 2,000 rounds of ammunition.
Rattey was later discharged on compassionate grounds. He returned to Australia in late October 1945 and was recruited to help raise money for the Australian Comfort Fund.
In 1946, Rattey attended a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London, where he received his VC from King George VI.
Rattey returned to his home at West Wyalong. He married twice. His first wife, Emily, died in 1948, after only 6 years of marriage, leaving Rattey to raise their young daughter alone. He remarried in the summer of 1955. He and his second wife, Aileen, had 4 more children.
Rattey farmed sheep, cattle and wheat until his health made the physical demands of farming too difficult. He also caught tiger snakes that could be milked for anti-venom serum.
Rattey died on 10 January 1986.
Commemorating Reginald Rattey
The Australian War Memorial commissioned a portrait of Rattey in 1957.
Rattey was much loved and respected by his hometown of West Wyalong. The local council named a street in his honour and installed a life-size bronze statue in a local park.
- National Archives of Australia: Department of Defence [III], Central Office and Soldier Career Management Agency; Second Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1939-1947; NX700427; RATTEY, REGINALD ROY: Service Number NX102964; 1941-1992
- Wikipedia contributors. "Reg Rattey." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 21 Jul. 2020.