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Reginald Roy Rattey (1917–1986)

by Anthony Staunton

This article was published:

Reginald Rattey, n.d.

Reginald Rattey, n.d.

Australian War Memorial, 134906A

Reginald Roy Rattey (1917-1986), soldier, was born on 28 March 1917 at Barmedman, New South Wales, third of seven children of Lutheran parents Johannes Albert Rattey, a South Australian-born farmer, and his wife Elizabeth Annie, née Damschke, who was born in New South Wales.  Educated at Bellarwi Public School, Reginald enjoyed playing cricket, football and tennis.  He worked on his father’s farm and as a miner, and served with a part-time Militia unit, the 21st Light Horse Regiment.  Mobilised for full-time service on 24 September 1941, the regiment was later designated the 21st Reconnaissance Battalion.  On 10 July 1942 Rattey volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force, joining the Queensland Lines of Communication Area.  A year later he transferred to the 3rd Division Carrier Company and in September 1943 was sent to New Guinea, where he became an acting corporal.  When he returned to Australia in April 1944, his rank of corporal was confirmed and in June he joined the 25th Infantry Battalion that was posted to New Guinea in July.

In Bougainville from November, the battalion saw action at several locations and from 19 March to 5 April 1945 was involved in bitter fighting for Slater’s Knoll, adjacent to the Puriata River.  On 22 March, supported by air strikes and artillery fire, the battalion attacked entrenched Japanese positions but enemy fire halted the advance.  Rattey, having decided that a bold rush offered the best prospect of success, led his section forward firing a Bren gun from the hip until he was on top of the nearest Japanese weapon-pit.  He flung in a grenade and silenced the position.  Then, using the same tactics, he silenced two more weapon-pits.  A short time later the advance was once more held up and Rattey, still carrying his Bren gun, again ran straight towards the Japanese machine-gun post killing one man, wounding another and putting the rest to flight.  Two days later he was promoted to acting sergeant and in July was awarded the Victoria Cross.  Following hospitalisation with malaria, he arrived back in Australia in October.  He was discharged at the end of the month on compassionate grounds.

After touring New South Wales promoting the Australian Comforts Fund 'Salute to Valour' drive for donations, Rattey was granted a 2400-acre (971-ha) lease fronting Lake Cowal, near West Wyalong, where he established a sheep, cattle and wheat property.  In 1946 King George VI presented him with his VC at Buckingham Palace when, as a member of the Australian contingent for the Victory March, Rattey visited London.  He again travelled to London in 1953 as part of the Australian contingent for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.  On 13 March 1948 at the Presbyterian Pioneer Memorial Church, West Wyalong, he had married Emily Joyce Café (d.1954).  He married Aileen Theresa Delaney at St Mary’s Catholic Church, West Wyalong, on 11 January 1955.  In 1956 the people of West Wyalong raised money for airfares for him and his wife, so that they could attend the VC centenary celebrations in London.

Hard-working, cheerful and modest, Rattey was regarded as a hero by the local community and a street was named after him.  Ill health eventually forced him to sell his farm and he moved into town.  Survived by his wife, their son and three daughters and the daughter of his first marriage, he died of chronic obstructive airways disease on 10 January 1986 at West Wyalong and was buried in the local cemetery.  His portrait by Harold Abbott is held by the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Long, The Final Campaigns, 1963
  • L. Wigmore, They Dared Mightily, 1986
  • Sun (Sydney), 27 July 1945, p 3
  • Army (Sydney), 30 August 1979, p 2
  • B883, item NX700427 (National Archives of Australia)

Citation details

Anthony Staunton, 'Rattey, Reginald Roy (1917–1986)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 18 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Reginald Rattey, n.d.

Reginald Rattey, n.d.

Australian War Memorial, 134906A