Decision: Stories of leadership in the services

 Decision cover

This commemorative publication is a part of the series; a Century of Service. In times of war, decision-making can take on a great significance. Many serving Australians have demonstrated leadership with the decisions they have made. 

ISBN: 978-0-9944775-6-9
Series: Century of Service
Access a designed version to download or print

In the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, there are 15 stained-glass windows. Each shows a figure dressed in military uniform, and under each figure is a word which describes a quality displayed by Australians during wartime. One window features a soldier of the First World War beneath an arrow in a target. He represents all the men and women who have provided direction, support and hope as leaders.

This window bears the word Decision.

Note to reader: Most of the events described take place during wartime. You may feel sad after reading some of them. Teachers may wish to be sensitive to students who have family members serving overseas in war zones.

Readers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent should be aware that this book contains images of a deceased Indigenous ex-serviceman. It also contains an historical source that includes discriminatory content.


We all make decisions every day – they shape the lives we lead. In times of war, decision-making can take on a greater significance. Many Australians over the past century of service have demonstrated leadership with the decisions they have made. These individuals have come from all ranks and services – some have made one-off decisions that saved lives; others have made a series of decisions over time that influenced the outcome of battles or wars.

This book explores the stories of twelve Australian leaders. One is the young Vera Deakin White, who made a 'very daring' decision to travel to Egypt in 1915 to contribute to the war effort. Another story highlights the qualities that Peter Cosgrove drew on to command the multinational peacekeeping force in East Timor in 1999.

Australia's defence personnel rely on their leaders, particularly in situations where lives may be at risk, whether during peacetime or in times of war. This was seen in 1964 when a group of seamen were trapped in the sinking HMAS Voyager (II) after a training accident off Jervis Bay. The selfless decisions of Jonathan Rogers resulted in a number of them reaching safety. Similarly, when Harry Smith and his company were under attack for many hours at Long Tan in Vietnam, the soldiers depended on his judgement and the teamwork he had encouraged.

Lord Moran, after studying the impact of battle on soldiers during the First World War, noted:

A few men had the stuff of leadership in them, they were like rafts to which all of the rest of humanity clung for support and for hope.

In Australia's wartime history many men and women have provided support and hope to those around them. This book highlights just some of these leaders.

A group of male military officers talking to each other.

Pakchon, Korea. 1950-11-08. Officers making decisions for the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (3RAR), on their advance to the front line. Left to right: Major General Edgar Humes (US) Chief Surgeon United Nations; Lieutenant Colonel I. B. Ferguson, Commanding Officer, 3RAR; Colonel A. H. Brunel (French) Black Beret) and Major General K. Norris (Australian Director General of Medical Services). AWM 146992

Strategic thinking: General Sir John Monash

There are many styles of effective leadership. General Sir John Monash, who served during the First World War, developed a style that helped him become one of Australia's most successful military leaders.

So what made John Monash an effective leader?

As an engineer who had planned large projects before the war, Monash valued organisation and innovation. To him, planning was critical:

The main thing is always to have a plan; if it is not the best plan, it is at least better than no plan at all.

After taking a commission in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in 1914, he spent hours considering the best ways to launch attacks or move troops and frequently used maps and diagrams to shape his thinking. He considered all the resources available to him, developing strategies involving infantry, artillery, aircraft and tanks. He was well aware of the capacity of a variety of weapons, and combined different types to great effect.

Having been tested as a military leader at Gallipoli and on the Western Front, Monash was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General in May 1918 and given command of the Australian Corps. His leadership approach was successfully applied a few months later during the Battle of Hamel in France:

Essential to the whole scheme was firepower and timing. Monash planned to use sixty tanks together with large volumes of artillery. The tanks and infantry were to advance behind the artillery's creeping barrage. Heavy artillery would fire on selected targets … Aircraft would drop ammunition and supplies and some tanks would be used for moving supplies and men.

The battle commenced at 3.10 am on a misty morning and within a few hours the Australian troops, and the Americans who had fought alongside them, were celebrating an important victory. Monash and his men were congratulated by government leaders from Britain, France and Australia. Monash described the success as a result of 'careful preparation and coordinated action'.

Using a similar strategic approach, Monash was responsible for planning several more successful attacks in the following months. These ultimately contributed to the Allied victory. In recognition of his outstanding leadership, he was knighted by King George V in August 1918.

A studio portrait of a male military officer.

Monash, pictured here in 1915, was nearly fifty years of age and an experienced engineer when he was commissioned into the AIF at the outbreak of war. Having held positions in the citizens' forces, Monash was initially put in command of the 4th Brigade, which he led at Gallipoli. AWM A01241

Do you think Monash's age when he joined the AIF may have helped him become a successful military leader?

Pair of octagonal compressed fibre identity discs punched with a hole on each end.

These identity discs were issued to Monash during the First World War. AWM REL/00805.002

Luger LP08 Artillery semi automatic pistol.

This Luger pistol was issued to Monash during the First World War.AWM RELAWM15104.001

A map with pins placed on it.

This map and pin set were used by Monash for planning operations when he was Commander of the 3rd Australian Division on the Western Front. The pins were numbered and colour-coded to identify each of his units. AWM REL/00801.001

In what situations might Monash have used these objects?

A piece of paper with typed information on it.

This timetable of events formed part of Monash's planning for the Battle of Hamel. His proposed timing proved very accurate, with all key objectives being taken in just over 90 minutes. AWM RCDIG0000633

What are the advantages and disadvantages of careful planning?

A painting depicting a battle with smoke rising from the landscape.

A Henry Fullwood, Attack on Hamel-Vaire (1918, water with gouache with charcoal on paper, 37.6 cm x 54.4 cm, AWM ART02493)

This painting depicts the Battle of Hamel on 4 July 1918. Monash planned the assault which became an important allied victory.

How might the landscape near Hamel have influenced the battle strategy Monash developed?


In 1914 Australia was part of the British Empire and had close ties to 'the mother country', particularly in regard to trade and defence. When Britain entered the war, Australians were keen to help and the government pledged thousands of soldiers and other resources for the war effort. Throughout the war, Australians serving overseas were ultimately under the command of senior British officers, although some Australians, including John Monash, held positions of great responsibility.

Portrait bust of Lieutenant General Sir John Monash.

Paul Montford, General John Monash (1928, bronze, 68 x 50.5 x 30 cm, AWM ART13579)

John Monash enjoyed much fame at the end of the war, not only in Australia but also in England, where he stayed until 1919 to help with the return of troops to Australia.

What are some of the ways that we celebrate the achievements of leading Australians?

Discoloured white triangle of cotton tied by the fly end to a roughly hewn stick.

A surrender flag used by a group of German soldiers after the capture of Mont St Quentin in France, in August 1918. This was another Allied victory credited to Monash's effective planning and strategy. AWM RELAWM00988

As a leader, Monash recognised that a strategy was only as good as its implementation, and carefully discussed his plans with his officers. He invited their input and made sure they understood what was required of them. Interestingly, he did not often talk to his troops. While some leaders gained the respect of their men by spending time amongst them, Monash believed the best way to win over the troops was by showing them military success without needless loss of life. He became known for the motto 'feed your troops on victory'.

Despite his success, John Monash was not without his critics. Some people suggested that he should not be trusted because of his Jewish heritage. Others felt that he was egotistical, always craving recognition and reward from his superiors. Despite this, Monash was greatly respected by those who worked with him.

After the war Monash continued to be recognised as an effective leader in roles such as manager of the State Electricity Commission in Victoria. He also became a spokesperson for returned soldiers and contributed to the building of the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne.

John Monash died in 1931 and his state funeral was attended by crowds estimated at 250,000 people. He was buried with Jewish rites in Brighton Cemetery.

A group portrait of military officers.

Monash with his senior officers in France, 1918. Monash always worked closely with his senior officers and usually gained their respect. AWM E02750

Do you think communication is an important leadership skill?

Ten rows of pin flags attached to a thin wad of paper.

Having been promoted to commander of the Australian Corps on the Western Front in May 1918, Monash used these pin flags on a master map to keep track of the position of his units. The ninety-seven flags were designed to reflect the cloth patches worn by each unit under his command. AWM REL/00815.002

Did you know?

John Monash's success as a military leader is still remembered in Australia today. His name has been given to a university, town, suburb, freeway, science school and academic scholarship. His portrait can also be found on the $100 note.

Leading his men: Brigadier General Harold 'Pompey' Elliott

During the First World War, Brigadier General Harold 'Pompey' Elliott earned a reputation for not asking his men to do anything he was not prepared to do himself. His focus was always on the welfare of his troops, a responsibility he took very seriously.

Having already served in the Boer War, Elliott went on to lead troops in many major First World War battles involving Australia. Large, capable, brave, outspoken, demanding, and full of character, he quickly won the trust and respect of his men (who gave him the nickname Pompey, after a popular Carlton football player). He held several positions during the war and achieved significant military success in battles at Gallipoli and on the Western Front.

Despite his popularity and success, Elliott did not take the loyalty of his men for granted. For him, leadership came with a great sense of responsibility. In a letter to his wife, Elliot wrote of his men:

It is wonderful the loyalty and bravery that is shown, their absolute confidence in me is touching ... You must pray more than ever that I shall be worthy of this trust, Katie, and have wisdom and courage given me worthy of my job.

The Battle of Fromelles in July 1916 perhaps best demonstrates Elliott's approach to leadership. Having been recently appointed Brigadier General in command of the 15th Brigade, Elliott was instructed to prepare his men for an offensive action near the French town of Fromelles. As a capable tactician, Elliott believed the planned attack was 'doomed to failure'2 and informed the British command of his view. When his opinion was dismissed, Elliott dutifully sent his men into battle. The attack was a disaster. In perhaps the worst day in Australian military history, more than 5500 men became casualties, about 1800 of whom were from Elliott's 15th Brigade.

The following day Elliott went to greet the survivors with Lieutenant John Schroder, who described what occurred:

What had been ordinary sandbagged trenches were now heaps of debris, and it was impossible to walk far without falling over dead men … [Pompey] went from battalion to company headquarters and so on right along the line. A word for a wounded man here, a pat … to a bleary-eyed digger there, he missed nobody. He never spoke a word all the way back to [headquarters] but went straight inside, put his head in his hands, and sobbed his heart out.

Studio portrait of a man in military uniform and hat

Brigadier General HE 'Pompey' Elliott, a renowned fighting soldier, commanded his 15th Brigade in the counter-attack at Villers-Bretonneux on 24–25 April 1918. AWM A02607

Sign constructed from three wooden planks with back bracing and metal nails. 'Nach Fromelles' [to Fromelles] and an arrow are stencilled in black paint on the front.

This sign was created by German forces during the war to direct their soldiers to the French town of Fromelles. As Elliott predicted, the Battle of Fromelles on 19 July 1916 was a strategic and costly disaster for the Allies. RELAWM07383

How do you think Elliott felt sending his men into battle when he had concerns about the plan of attack?

Australian Army issue tan leather ankle boot (for the left foot) without toecap.

Elliott was noted for his bravery at Gallipoli, where he was shot in the foot while wearing this boot. Of the seven Victoria Cross (VC) recipients at Lone Pine, four were from Elliot's battalion. Elliot was also recommended for the VC by his superior, but it was not awarded. RELAWM01089.001

What factors might influence decisions about who receives military awards?

A man standing in the entrance of a dwelling.

Brigadier General HE ‘Pompey’ Elliott stands at the door of a captured German Divisional Headquarters near Harbonnières, 9 August 1918. AWM E02855

Portrait painting of a male soldier.

WB McInnes, Brigadier General Harold Elliott (1921, oil on canvas, 102.7 x 90.2 x 10 cm, AWM ART03182)

During the First World War Elliott was appointed Companion of the Order of Bath and Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George, by the King. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, the Russian Order of St Anne and the French Croix de Guerre. These were in addition to his Distinguished Conduct Medal from the Boer War. Today, this portrait of Elliott hangs in the Australian War Memorial.

Illustrated cover of the Australian Imperial Force War Diary, 15th Infantry Brigade for March 1919, depicting Australian soldiers marching past a memorial in France.

This 1919 magazine cover featured Elliott. Much respected by his men, he was involved in some of the AIF's major battles on the Western Front.

Bernie Bragg, Front cover of the Australian Imperial Force Unit War Diary, 15th Infantry Brigade, March 1919 (Applied art, 33 x 22.7 cm, AWM RC05495)

In your opinion, what characteristics make a leader popular? What characteristics win them respect?

After rebuilding his brigade, Elliott went on to command in several successful battles. He is particularly remembered for the quick decisive action he displayed at Polygon Wood in 1917 and the brilliant night attack he organised at Villers-Bretonneux in 1918. But he never forgot Fromelles or lost his anger with the British commanders he held responsible for so many Australian deaths. Some suggest his ongoing and outspoken criticism of his superiors prevented his further promotion. For the men he led, however, his forthright manner only made him more popular. A few months after the Allied victory, his leadership was acknowledged by his beloved brigade, which marched around his French headquarters cheering until he appeared.

Elliott returned to Australia and became a Senator for Victoria, but his wartime service was never far from his mind. He continued to speak out about what he saw as poor decision making during the war and to fight for the welfare of veterans. He also held several command positions in the citizens' forces, eventually being promoted to the rank of Major General.

Having dedicated much of his life to service, Elliott understood the reality of war. He wrote of Gallipoli:

When anyone speaks to you of the glory of war, picture to yourself a narrow line of trenches two and sometimes three deep with bodies (and think too of your best friends, for that is what these boys become …) mangled and torn beyond description by the bombs, and bloated and blackened by decay … This is war and such is glory.

On 23 March 1931 Pompey Elliot took his own life in Melbourne, at the age of 52.

FAST FACTS Structure of the AIF

The shape of the AIF changed throughout the First World War, but followed this basic structure. Over the course of the war, seven AIF Divisions were raised. A similar structure was adopted during the Second World War.


Number of people





3 brigades

Major General



4 battalions

Brigadier General



4 companies

Lieutenant Colonel



4 platoons

Captain or Major



3 or 4 sections






Did you know?

During all wars and conflicts, some service men and women on active duty have developed mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and what is now known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These conditions are often debilitating and can last for many years. The Australian Defence Force provides ongoing support for those affected.

Near side view (left) of a horse being held by a male soldier.

Known for his larger than life character, Elliott convinced many of his men that his horse (shown below) had the ability to identify untidy soldiers during inspections. In fact, Elliott used subtle commands to make his horse stop suddenly, pull back its ears and point its head toward unshaven or badly dressed soldiers. AWM E02382

Stepping up: Vera Deakin White

The First World War was the costliest war in which Australians have served, with some 60,000 dead and many more wounded. During this time of loss, a young woman called Vera Deakin chose to step up as a leader.

Shortly after the First World War began, Vera Deakin put aside her musical career to help with the war effort. Despite her parents' concerns, she made a 'very daring'1 decision to set sail for Egypt. The day after she arrived in Cairo in October 1915, Deakin established the Australian Wounded and Missing Inquiry Bureau for the Red Cross.

Most of Australia's soldiers were serving at Gallipoli in Turkey during 1915. Many thousands had been killed, wounded or taken prisoner; it was for this reason that Deakin travelled to Cairo and made contact with the Red Cross. With the challenges of the continuing campaign at Gallipoli, information about the welfare of individual soldiers was hard to collect, even for the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). Deakin's bureau began gathering and sharing information about serving Australians to pass on to families at home.

The small bureau that Deakin established soon expanded under her leadership to become a sizable and efficient organisation. Deakin was responsible for hiring and managing staff and she believed a capacity for accuracy and hard work was essential. As a leader, she also displayed these skills herself:

I never let any information … lie in the office when I went home at night. I stayed till everything had gone out at night by cable to Australia to relieve the parents, or the wives, or the nearest and dearest.

When most of the AIF sailed for France and the Western Front in 1916, Deakin and her team also relocated, basing themselves in London with the British Red Cross. With the help of staff in Britain, France and Belgium, the bureau checked casualty lists and made contact with soldiers who might know what had happened to those who were killed, injured or listed as missing. The bureau responded to up to 25,000 inquiries each year.

A studio portrait of a female military officer.

This image shows Vera Deakin in her Red Cross uniform in 1918, when she was running the Australian Wounded and Missing Inquiry Bureau in London. AWM P02119.001

How do you think Deakin felt about becoming a leader while only in her early twenties?

A woman with a young child sitting in an office with a female military officer.

During the Second World War, Deakin White again headed up the Bureau for Wounded, Missing and Prisoners of War for the Australian Red Cross in Melbourne. In this 1943 image, she is giving advice to a woman whose husband had been reported missing in the Middle East. AWM 051664

What skills would Deakin White have needed in her position?

A piece of paper with typed information on it.

George Earp gave this witness account to the bureau in 1915 when it was based in Cairo. Bureau staff usually collected several accounts – which often varied – before the information was passed on to families. AWM RCDIG0000227

Why would receiving information like this have been so important to families?

A piece of paper with typed information on it.

Deakin wrote this letter to thank Corporal John Kelly for information he had provided about a missing soldier. Today, all records from the bureau are stored at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and have been digitised so that they can be viewed online. AWM RCDIG0001261

What does the style of this letter tell you about Deakin's approach to her work?

Typed cardboard label 'AUSTRALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR, AUSTRALIAN RED CROSS COMMISSIONERS 54, VICTORIA STREET LONDON' secured in a steel holder with three turned in edges.

The label and seal above were used to send parcels to Australian prisoners of war. RELAWM09488.001

The letters the bureau sent to families in Australia often contained sad news. Many families whose loved ones had been listed as missing or dead, wished for confirmation and information. Unlike the AIF, which only held official records, the bureau could 'obtain the intimate details that bring a certain amount of comfort to distressed relatives'.

Sometimes the eyewitness accounts differed or contradicted each other, but the bureau provided a summary of the information it gathered. The letter sent to Arthur Marginson in 1918 was typical and included the following information:

… your brother was killed outright by a shell, on the right of the South of Albert, and is buried on the Amiens– Albert Road about a mile from Lavieville. Pte. Duncan saw him killed and helped to carry him out for burial by the Battalion Pioneers.

At a time of hardship for so many Australians the service provided by Deakin and her team was greatly appreciated, including by Marginson. He wrote to Deakin to thank her and noted 'the system by which you gain your information reflects great credit on your society which is doing so much now to alleviate the suffering of relations of the men who go out'.5 In 1917, aged only 25, Vera Deakin was appointed to the Order of the British Empire for her achievements in establishing and leading such a critical organisation.

Deakin returned to Melbourne after the war, where she married Thomas White and raised three children. She continued to use her administrative skills working with the Children's Hospital and various charities. She also maintained her commitment to the Red Cross, and reactivated the Bureau during the Second World War.

Looking back on her life, Vera Deakin White described the young woman who set sail for Egypt as 'very selfish and very headstrong'. Yet, it was perhaps also these attributes that enabled her to become a compassionate, dedicated and effective leader. She died in August 1978 in Melbourne.

Female military officers looking at files inside steel filing cabinets.

These steel cabinets used by the Melbourne bureau during the Second World War are filled with files of correspondence between the Red Cross Society in Australia and branches of the Red Cross throughout the world. AWM 051612

Why did the Red Cross branches all over the world need to work together?

A studio portrait painting of a female military officer.

Vera Deakin White worked with the Australian Red Cross Society for much of her adult life. She was made an honorary life member in 1945 and served as the national vice chairman between 1945 and 1950. The oil painting is by artist Robert Hofmann. AWM P02119.002

In what ways might being female have helped or hindered Vera Deakin White in her life's work?

Did you know?

Vera Deakin was the third and youngest daughter of Alfred Deakin, who became Australia's second Prime Minister in 1903. He went on to serve two more terms, as Australia's fifth and seventh Prime Minister.

Heavy card box and lid of stapled construction with paper red cross label glued to lid.

50,000 Australian Red Cross Christmas boxes were distributed to patients in hospitals, casualty clearing stations and command depots in France and Great Britain in 1917. AWM REL32973

White cotton armband with a wool flannel red cross sewn in the centre.

Second World War armband showing a Red Cross symbol. AWM REL/22106

FAST FACTS The Red Cross

The Red Cross is an international movement which aims to prevent or reduce human suffering wherever it is found. An important arm of the movement is the International Committee of the Red Cross. Formed in 1863, the committee is a neutral organisation which uses international law to protect the lives and dignity of victims of wars and conflicts. This includes providing information and helping to connect people who have been separated by war. Today nearly 200 Red Cross societies exist across the globe; however, in many non-Christian countries these are named Red Crescent societies, and use a red crescent rather than a cross as their symbol.

Leading in adversity: Lieutenant Colonel Edward 'Weary' Dunlop

The brutality with which Japanese forces treated many prisoners of war (POWs) during the Second World War has been well documented. As commander and doctor to a group of Australian prisoners, Lieutenant Colonel Edward 'Weary' Dunlop demonstrated the value of good leadership.

Having already served in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, Dunlop was taken prisoner by the Japanese in Java in February 1942. A year later he was given command of nearly 1000 POWs – known as Dunlop Force – and taken to Thailand. Living in various prison camps, Dunlop and his men were among the thousands used by the Japanese forces over two years to build and maintain a 415 km railway through Thailand and Burma. The conditions were appalling: men were not adequately fed, clothed, rested or housed. Disease was rife in the tropical environment, yet the Japanese did not provide adequate medicine or equipment. Beatings were brutal and frequent, and thousands of prisoners and Asian labourers died.

In the view of his captors, Dunlop's task as a doctor was to keep sufficient numbers of men available to work. As a commander, he had regular communication with the Japanese officers and was responsible for presenting the required number of men to work each day – a task that became increasingly difficult. In 1945 he wrote:

Work parades ultimately became a deplorable spectacle with men tottering with the support of sticks and carried piggy-back on to the parade ground, unable to walk, in order that fixed figures could be met.

Despite the hardship, Dunlop's skills as a doctor and commander are credited with saving numerous lives.

While Dunlop was not the only doctor to serve in these challenging conditions, he has become the most well-known, earning widespread respect during and after the war. To many of the prisoners it was his kind nature that stood out. Dunlop was a tall and gentle man who quickly won the trust of his patients. As one soldier noted:

[Weary] had a great tenderness in him and he wasn't ashamed of it … to see Weary dealing with somebody who was really sick was very moving, [especially] when you get it in a person who is so much of a man.

A studio portrait of a male military officer.

Murray Griffin, Colonel Edward (Weary) Dunlop (1956, oil on hardboard, 102 x 76.5 cm, AWM ART26999)

p>Dunlop studied medicine at the University of Melbourne and it was here he gained his nickname – a play on Dunlop Tyres ('tyres' to 'tires' to 'weary'). He was working as a doctor in England when the Second World War began and joined the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps in 1939.


Why do we use nicknames?

A roll written on a fringed rectangle of brown canvas kitbag and showing the colour patch of the unit within a laurel wreath.

This banner was created in Java after Dunlop and his men of 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion were taken prisoner by the Japanese. Approximately a third of the men whose names are listed died during captivity. AWM REL/11885

How would Dunlop's work as an army medical officer have differed after being taken as a prisoner?

Detailed sketch of a severe tropical ulcer on a prisoner of war's leg.

Jack Chalker, Tropical ulcer (1945, watercolour over pencil on paper, 29.2 x 19.2 cm, AWM ART90854)

Disease was the biggest killer of men working on the railway. Dysentery, cholera, and malaria were common, along with tropical ulcers. The ulcers, caused by wounds that became infected, were difficult to treat and often led to amputations.

Leg ulcer operation on the Thai-Burma Railway.

Murray Griffin, Ulcer operation, Thailand railway (1945–46, brown ink over green pencil, 35.2 x 50.3 cm, AWM ART25052)

Dunlop and other medical officers had to be resourceful when treating patients. This drawing shows an operation being conducted without adequate medicine, equipment or sanitation.

How do you think Dunlop and the other medical officers felt about operating on men in these conditions?

A piece of a leg bone.

Section of ulcerated tibia removed from a British POW : Lieutenant Colonel E E Dunlop. AWM REL26678.

Dunlop's commitment to his patients also meant he protected them fiercely. On several occasions he put his own life at risk by standing up to his captors, either to refuse their demands or to prevent brutality against other prisoners. One of his patients in Java, a British man called Billy Griffiths, had lost his sight and both hands in a mine explosion. A Japanese guard decided that Griffiths' injuries were too severe for him to be of use, and ordered that he be killed. Dunlop stepped between Griffiths and the bayonet carrying guards, announcing: 'If you are going to do that you must go through me'. The guards moved off and Griffiths went on to lead a long and successful life.

Dunlop's approach was shaped by the belief that survival in captivity was 'enormously enhanced' by good leadership.4 As a leader, he valued discipline, believing it provided the men with a sense of purpose. In the early stages of captivity Dunlop worked with others to create a 'university' where classes and sporting activities were organised. Later, as conditions deteriorated, he insisted 'every member of my force all had to carry a book'.5 Dunlop also encouraged his men to show respect by saluting their commanders, including the Japanese – though many resisted this.

Dunlop survived the war and was released from captivity in August 1945 when Japan surrendered. Of the 13,000 Australians who served on the railway, more than 2700 died. After the war, Dunlop was chosen to testify at tribunals held to investigate Japanese war crimes. Many of his captors were tried and punished; some were hung. Despite this, over time Dunlop was able to forgive. In his post-war years, he publically promoted a deepening of relations between Australia and Asia, and in 1991 he met with a former captor to accept his apology.

After his death in 1993, some of Dunlop's ashes were returned to Thailand. One part was interred in a cutting next to the railway; another part was floated down a river in a Buddhist ceremony.

A painting depicting huts in a landscape with a mountain in the background.

Jack Chalker, View from fever huts, Chungkai Base Hospital Camp (1943, watercolour and pencil on paper, 6.9 x 9.9 cm, AWM ART91822)

Throughout his captivity, Dunlop treated patients in tropical environments. The 'hospitals' he worked in were often tents, which did not protect against heavy rain, insects or dirt. It was very challenging to control infections in these conditions.

FAST FACTS The Burma–Thailand railway

The Burma–Thailand railway was built between October 1942 and October 1943. Its purpose was to provide a supply line to assist with a Japanese attack on the British army in India. More than 60,000 Allied POWs and about 200,000 Asian labourers were forced to work on the project. The work was very challenging and – in an area now known as Hellfire Pass – included cutting 25 metres deep into rock, mainly by hand. When the construction was complete, workers continued to repair and maintain the track until the end of the war. Approximately 12,000 Allied soldiers and 90,000 Asian labourers died during the building of the railway, mainly of disease and injuries caused by beatings.

A rusty metal spike.

Railway spike : Hellfire Pass, Burma Thailand Railway. AWM REL_11872_004.

Did you know?

The Royal Australian Army Medical Corps was formed in 1902 and has provided medical support during all wars and conflicts involving Australia. Today the corps works alongside army dentists and nurses to provide all aspects of health care for army personnel.

An informal portrait of two male officers standing in front of a doorway.

Dunlop, on the right, is pictured here with another doctor in Thailand just a few weeks after the war ended and they were released from captivity. After returning to Australia, Dunlop established a successful medical practice in Melbourne. AWM 117362

What might Dunlop have been thinking around the time this photo was taken?

A crowd gathered at the doorway of a large stone building.
Edward 'Weary' Dunlop died on 2 July 1993. He was buried at a state funeral in Melbourne attended by more than ten thousand mourners. AWM P02949.002

Why do you think some of Dunlop's ashes were taken back to Thailand after his death?

A bronze statue of an elderly man in a suit.

Peter Corlett, Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop (1995, bronze, 260 x 80.3 x 50.5 cm, AWM ART90407)

Dunlop was knighted and received numerous awards throughout his life. He was named Australian of the Year in 1967 and the Canberra suburb of Dunlop is named in his honour. This statue of Dunlop is located at the Australian War Memorial.

Which of Dunlop's personal qualities do you think have been captured in this artwork?

Decisive action: Pilot Officer Rawdon Middleton

Rawdon Middleton enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) during the Second World War and, after training, was posted to a Royal Air Force (RAF) squadron in England. On 28 November 1942 he set out on a bombing raid over Italy. The story of this flight, his 29th operation over enemy territory, gives an insight into the crucial decisions leaders are required to make in wartime.

Even before Middleton and his crew reached their target in Italy, they realised that the climb over the Alps had used too much fuel. Middleton had to make a decision: follow his orders to bomb the Fiat factory in Turin or return to base in England. Middleton chose to continue with the bombing mission.

During the bombing run his aircraft was struck by anti-aircraft fire. A shell exploded in the cockpit between Middleton and his second pilot, and both men received serious injuries. Middleton lost consciousness and his co-pilot took control of the plane, preventing a crash and then releasing the bombs.

Middleton's right eye had been blown out and he had difficulty seeing, moving and speaking. Nonetheless, when he came to, he took back the controls. As they began the return flight, Middleton instructed the crew to jettison everything they could – including guns, ammunition, seats and the fire extinguisher – to reduce the weight of the plane and improve their chances of reaching England.

Middleton was an outstanding pilot but his injuries and the damage to his aircraft made the return flight both dangerous and slow. The aircraft was again hit by anti-aircraft fire over the French coast and, according to one of his crew, 'Middleton was an artist at throwing a bomber about, and we lost height from 6000 to 600 feet'.

After they flew clear of the gunfire, Middleton told the crew:

We will try to make our coast and you fellows can then bale out and save yourselves – I cannot get away with my wounds anyway

A studio portrait of a male military officer.

Flight Sergeant Rawdon Middleton was a quiet leader. A friend noted that 'Everyone had confidence in him. Strangely enough, he was the quietest and most unassuming chap I ever knew'. AWM 100641A

RAAF blue Other Ranks' woollen forage cap with oxidised brass RAAF badge on left hand side.

Middleton's RAAF cap that he wore during the Second World War, while posted to a RAF squadron in England. RELAWM34728.003

A painting of a man standing on a clifftop next to a fallen parachute and looking out to sea at a descending 1940s military plane and two parachutists.
David Smith, Incident In Which Flight Sergeant Rawdon Middleton [VC] Lost His Life, 1949, oil on canvas, 116 x 151.4cm, AWM ART27538
A male military pilot standing in front of a military plane.

Middleton whilest he was training in England in 1942. After completing his training, he flew Short Stirling bombers over Germany and Italy. AWM SUK10946

Flight Sergeant Rawdon Middleton was a quiet leader. A friend noted that 'Everyone had confidence in him. Strangely enough, he was the quietest and most unassuming chap I ever knew'.

What qualities do you value in a leader?

He then asked that his parachute be placed beside him. When they reached the English coast, with only enough fuel to fly for a further five minutes, Middleton instructed the crew to bail out before he flew back over the English Channel to avoid crash landing the plane in a populated area. Five of the crew landed in England, but the two who stayed on board to assist their pilot drowned after they jumped from the aircraft. Middleton remained in the cockpit and his body washed up on the English coast two months later.

The wireless operator on the flight, Norman Skinner, later recalled:

During the return home there were many opportunities for us to abandon the aircraft over France, and for Middleton to live. But he preferred that we, his crew, and the aircraft of which he was Captain, should not fall into enemy hands. That was the kind of man he was …

What is it that determines how we will respond when confronted by extreme danger? Not all service men and women demonstrate the strength necessary to take responsibility for the lives of others during the strain of battle. The decisions Middleton took during this flight demonstrate that he was an inspiring leader.

An informal group portrait of five male military officers.

Middleton (on the right) at the Elementary Flying Training School at Narromine NSW, with four other student pilots. Middleton completed his training with the Empire Air Training Scheme in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. AWM P01019.003

Why do you think that Middleton did some of his pilot training in Canada and England?

A winged cloth badge.

Qualification badge: RAAF Pilots Brevet. AWM REL29287.

A brown leather soft helmut.

Type C leather flying helmet. AWM REL33359


The Royal Australian Air Force was formed after the First World War, in recognition that aerial fighting would require its own force, distinct from the army and navy. By the end of the Second World War the RAAF had more than 182,000 service personnel and 6200 aircraft. Since then, members of the RAAF have served in conflicts in Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. They have also contributed to peacekeeping and disaster relief operations.

A row of medals attached to ribbons of various colours.

Middleton was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross (the highest military award in the British Empire) for his actions on 28–29 November 1942. Middleton was the first member of the RAAF to be awarded the Victoria Cross. AWM REL/03886.001

This is an extract from the citation for the award:

While all the crew displayed heroism of high order, the urge to do so came from Flight Sergeant Middleton whose fortitude and strength of will made possible completion of the mission.

Have you ever had to make a decision about the safety or welfare of other people?

Did you know?

Today, RAAF recruits wanting to become pilots go through a lengthy selection process, which includes psychological testing. They then do officer and basic flying training before gaining their wings. About a third of these graduates are also selected for further training to become fighter pilots. All jobs in the RAAF are open to women.

A military funeral on a road in the countryside.

Middleton was buried with full military honours in an English churchyard near his RAF base. Air Marshall Sir Arthur Harris, Commander-in-Chief of Bomber Command, sent the following message to Middleton's father:

In the annals of the RAF there has not yet been found a more gallant episode than that in which Flight Sgt. Middleton laid down his life deliberately to save some of his crew and, if possible, his aircraft ...

AWM SUK10498.

 Flying goggles with brown leather face mask and two-section glass lenses in adjustable grey steel frame. Elasticated khaki fabric head band.

Flying Goggles RAF Mark VIII. AWM REL25415.002

A lasting legacy: Colonel Annie Sage

As Matron-in-Chief of the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) during the Second World War, Annie Sage introduced significant changes to nursing practices and training. Her contribution continued after the war and resulted in significant improvements within the nursing profession.

Already a matron before the war, Annie Sage – known as 'Sammie' – joined the AANS in 1940 and sailed with the Australian troops to the Middle East. Her diary records that the rough seas left her 'not feeling so good'; but she responded to this with her customary sense of humour: 'Next time we go to a war we have decided to walk'.1 Sage went on to become a distinguished leader within the army.

Seasickness was just the first of many challenges that Sage needed to overcome. When she arrived in the Middle East she served at military hospitals in Palestine and Egypt. In the desert environment, the hospitals were surrounded by sand and the air was hot and dusty. Imagine the many skills that Sage must have needed to successfully administer a hospital in a foreign country under wartime conditions, while at the same time being responsible for the welfare of a group of Australian nurses.

Sage demonstrated outstanding administrative skills and great compassion, and in 1941 she became Matron-in-Chief of the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) in the Middle East. Her achievements were recognised when she was awarded the Royal Red Cross for the exceptional tact and administrative ability she demonstrated during this time.

Sage returned to Australia in 1942, and the following year she was promoted to Matron-in-Chief of the Australian Military Forces, responsible for nursing services in the Pacific region. It was in this role that she developed a new training scheme for army nurses to better prepare them for their wartime work. In doing so, she won the respect of the Deputy Director of Medical Services, who noted that she displayed:

… wisdom, courage and guidance in planning the future of the Royal Australian Nursing Services.

A studio portait painting of a female military officer.

Ivor Hele, Matron Annie Sage (1941, oil on canvas, 58.4 x 55.9 cm, AWM ART22203)

This portrait of Sage was painted when she was matron-in-chief of the AIF in the Middle East. How might the work of a nurse in a military hospital in the Middle East have been different to that of a regular nurse back in Australia?

A sealed cotton packet with instructions printed on top.

First aid field dressing. AWM REL30565

A march through a city street lined with people on either side.

Sage leading the AIF nurses in the Red Cross March in Melbourne before they sailed for the Middle East. AWM 001211

What do you think people in the crowd might have been thinking as they watched the nurses march? What might the nurses have been thinking?

Female military officers standing to attention during an inspection.

Sage and the Assistant Director of Medical Services inspect a parade of Australian sisters and volunteers in Palestine in 1942. AWM 023789

A crimson ribbon with a floral meda and crown decoration.

In 1951 Sage was awarded a Companion of the British Empire (Military Division) like this one – a rare honour for an Australian woman. AWM REL40985.001

In 1943, when all military nurses were given ranks as commissioned officers, Annie Sage was promoted to Colonel. At the time, nursing was a job performed only by women, but her elevation in rank required her to also lead men from lower ranks. It was a significant change for a female to command men, and Sage was aware that some men might feel challenged by her leadership. However, she was successful in her new role because she treated the men with the same dignity and respect that she had demonstrated to nurses throughout her career. An army colleague said of Sage:

She was a very understanding person who was very conscious of the welfare of those she was responsible for

Throughout her years of leading the AANS, Sage constantly demonstrated a concern for the welfare of others. At the end of the war she was particularly concerned about a group of Australian nurses who had been held as prisoners by Japanese forces for over two years. When the war ended in 1945, Sage travelled to the prison camp in Sumatra to meet the nurses and ensure their safe return to Australia. One of the twenty-four survivors remembered the compassion that Annie Sage showed when she arrived at the camp:

Matron Sagse tried to smile as she came closer, but she couldn't; she suddenly became distressed just looking at us …. She kept saying 'I am the mother of you all'.

After the war, Sage continued to make an important contribution to the development of the nursing profession. Her lasting legacy is the improvement of education standards for nurses. The Annie M. Sage scholarship, established by the Royal Victorian College of Nursing, still supports nurses doing further studies.

Sage died in 1969 and was buried with full military honours.

An informal group portrait of female nurses in uniform.

Sage sits among members of the 2nd Australian General Hospital at Gaza Ridge, November 1940. AWM 004103

a female military officer walking.

During her years as Matron-in-Chief of the AANS, Sage visited Australian military hospitals throughout the Pacific region; here she is arriving at a hospital in Papua in February 1944. AWM 070595

Why do you think Sage travelled to hospitals throughout the Pacific region?

A medal and ribbon inside a green display box.

Sage received a Florence Nightingale Medal like this one from the International Red Cross in 1947. This medal is for nurses 'who have distinguished themselves in the noble mission of caring for the sick and wounded'.AWM REL25108.006

Design a medal to commemorate the work of nurses who serve in contemporary armed conflicts.

Did you know?

Florence Nightingale volunteered as a British nurse during the Crimean War (1853–1856). After working long days tending to soldiers' injuries, she earned the name 'the lady with the lamp' for her habit of visiting patients during the night to cheer them up. After the war she successfully campaigned to reform nursing practices.

A pencil drawing of a building

Shizu Ueki, Hospital ward (1943, pencil on paper, 19.3 x 24.2 cm, AWM ART91544)

This drawing depicts a building in the grounds of an Australian military hospital in the Rabaul area of New Guinea.

A painting of  a female nurse.

Nora Heysen, Matron Annie Sage (1944, oil on canvas, 76.6 x 56.4 cm, AWM ART22218)

At the time this portrait was painted, Sage was matron-in-chief of the AANS.

Why do you think a veil was part of a nurse's uniform?

FAST FACTS Australian nurses in wartime

In over a century of wars and conflicts, nurses have travelled with Australian troops wherever they have served. During the First World War more than 2000 members of the AANS volunteered. A total of 5000 volunteered during the Second World War – serving with the AANS, the Royal Australian Navy or the Royal Australian Air Force. During the Korean War some 150 nurses served in hospitals in Japan and helped to transport patients; more than 50 served in Korea. Some 350 nurses, both military and civilian, served during the Vietnam War, with male nurses entering the service for the first time. Today, Australian Defence Force nurses contribute during conflicts, peacekeeping missions and humanitarian operations.

A doll dressed in a nursing uniform.

Red Cross fundraising 'Plaitoy' doll with handmade Australian Army Nursing uniform. AWM REL44412


Overcoming barriers: Captain Reginald Saunders

Serving Australia in two wars, Reg Saunders was the first Aboriginal serviceman to be commissioned as an officer in the Australian Army.

Saunders grew up on an Aboriginal reserve in Victoria hearing stories from his father and uncle about their service in the First World War. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in April 1940, and believed that:

… once a person undertakes to do something, no matter how big or how small, that person should do it to the best of his or her ability.

Saunders' leadership qualities were quickly recognised, even before he sailed for the Middle East five months after enlistment.

Saunders thrived in the army and went on to have a successful military career, serving in both the Second World War and the Korean War. He valued the discipline and structure that came with being in uniform. Always demanding high standards, Saunders quickly won the respect of his superiors and those he commanded.

While serving his country, Saunders enjoyed opportunities not available to him in civilian life, and in 1944 he was recommended for officer training. Nonetheless, his Aboriginality was still a factor. The chairman of the board that selected him noted:

We were conscious of the fact that if we recommended that he should be an officer, we were setting a tremendous precedent … If an Aboriginal was going to take charge of white troops, he'd need to be an exceptionally fine one. Saunders stood out.

Leadership came naturally to Saunders. From the early days of his officer training he developed a reputation for reliability and lack of fear. Lindsay Bear, who completed the training with him, recalled:

Reg was one of the outstanding members of the course. Whenever we had a stunt that required someone who wouldn't contemplate the possibility of defeat, Reg Saunders was the man.

A studio portrait painting of a male military officer.

Pamela Thalben-Ball, Captain Reg Saunders (1978, oil on canvas, 76.4 x 61.6 cm, AWM ART28159)

In 1944 when Saunders became an Army officer, Aboriginal Australians were not allowed to vote and they were only allowed to drink alcohol if they had been granted a permit. In the wider community, Saunders did not have the same rights as the non-Indigenous men he commanded.

What challenges might Saunders have faced when he was put in charge of soldiers?

Two smiling men in military jackets and slouch felt hats shake hands in front of a canvas military tent and corrugated iron building

Reg Saunders and Tom Derrick congratulate each other after graduating from the Officer Cadet Training Unit at Seymour, Victoria, on 25 November 1944. Reg wept when he heard the news of Tom's death in May 1945. AWM 083166

Cigarette case with matt gold coloured interior. The exterior surface of the case is stamped with a decorative waffle pattern.

Saunders scratched the names of places he served in the Middle East on the inside of this cigarette case. AWM REL/18642

A group of male soldiers waiting inside and outside of the train.

After returning from the Middle East, Saunders served in New Guinea. In the photo below, he and other troops wait for a train to take them south. AWM 057894

What does this image tell you about Saunders and his relationship with other soldiers?

A group of male soldiers sitting together outside.

Having already served during the Second World War, Saunders returned to the army at the start of the Korean War. He is shown here with a group of soldiers in Korea in 1950. AWM P01813.866

Did you know?

In 1967 a referendum was held to allow voters to decide whether to remove two references from the Australian Constitution that discriminated against Aboriginal people. Nearly 91% of Australians voted to accept the change – the highest 'yes' vote ever recorded in a federal referendum.

By the time he was serving as an officer in Korea, Saunders was a very experienced leader. As one member of his platoon commented in 1951, 'He knew the business, and was thoroughly in charge of things. We liked it that way'.

When Saunders returned to civilian life after both wars, he was unable to find the same opportunities or respect that he had enjoyed in service. In 1989 he reflected:

One of the problems that I found when the war did end, you may have been the most proficient killing machine that the country ever produced but … we needed to be trained to be civilians.

He felt that his war experience had made him a better person because it taught him 'to see the other man's point of view'. At home, however, employers and landlords discriminated against him as an Aboriginal person. For many years his family lived in slums while he worked in a series of low-paid jobs.

Despite these challenges, Saunders was able to find work and be active in the community. After the 1967 referendum, which ended constitutional discrimination against Aboriginal Australians, the federal government created the Office of Aboriginal Affairs. In 1969 Saunders was appointed as a liaison officer in this office, where he was finally able to use his leadership qualities in peacetime. He successfully established communication between Indigenous communities and the government during his years in this role.

After Reg Saunders' death in 1990, the RSL named a scholarship for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in his honour.

Triangular red wool felt souvenir pennant with dark brown felt reinforcing strip and two pairs of ties attached to the fly.

This banner is a souvenir of Saunders' war service. It displays the battle honours of the 2/7th Battalion and badges he collected in Korea, including the US Presidential Unit Citation. AWM REL32920

Why do you think Saunders kept this memorabilia from his years in the army?

A poster cover with a picture of an indigenous fighter pilot.

Unknown artist, Commemoration: Aboriginal People and Torres Strait Islanders (1995, offset lithograph, 41.8 x 29.7 cm, AWM ARTV09179)

Produced in 1995, this poster commemorates the role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the Second World War.

What are some of the reasons Saunders may have found life difficult when he returned to Australia after the Second World War?

FAST FACTS Indigenous service

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have served in all wars and conflicts involving Australia. Despite regulations that restricted the enlistment of non-Europeans for periods during both the First and Second World Wars, hundreds of Indigenous men were able to enlist in the AIF. The Australian Defence Force now provides equal opportunities for all Australians, and Indigenous men and women currently serve in the army, navy and air force.

A row of medals attached to ribbons of various colours.

Saunders was awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) in 1971 in recognition of his contribution to the Australian community. In 1985 Saunders joined the council of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. AWM REL/18641.001

A machine gun resting on its stand.

BREN Mk 1 Light Machine Gun. AWM REL10167

 transportation box made from wood and held together using four metal brackets and slotted head screws.

3 inch Mortar Bomb Transportation Box. AWM REL34731.

A final act: Chief Petty Officer Jonathan Rogers

In 1964 two Royal Australian Navy (RAN) vessels collided during a training exercise off the New South Wales coast. Eighty-two men lost their lives; one of them was Chief Petty Officer Jonathan Rogers.

Jonathan Rogers had served on a variety of British and RAN ships before joining the destroyer HMAS Voyager (II) in 1963. Rogers was not a commissioned officer, but as Chief Petty Officer held responsibility for the organisation and discipline of the crew. On the night of 10 February 1964 he was on Voyager as it took part in exercises off Jervis Bay with the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne (II). It was a moonless night; Melbourne was conducting night flying exercises while Voyager took the role of plane guard, responsible for rescuing airmen from the sea should the need arise.

For Rogers – nicknamed Buck – it was just another night at sea. He was in the cafeteria at the front of the ship with about sixty men who were playing a game of tombola. At 8.56 pm he and the others felt a sudden impact, which sent plates, tables, chairs and men flying around the café area. Within minutes, water began rushing into the compartment. Rogers immediately took control, attempting to stem the flooding and to open an escape hatch. When this failed, Rogers directed surviving men to an adjoining compartment with a hatch that opened. According to Radar Plotter Low:

He was telling everyone not to panic and we would all get out if we came through one at a time. He seemed very calm. I think he was more intent on getting the young chaps out first before going out himself.

Jonathan Rogers was a large man and it is unlikely that he could have escaped through the hatch. He must have been aware of this, as at one stage he said to Leading Seaman Rich, 'I can't get out. You get all the young fellows out of the hatch'.2 As the compartment he was in continued to fill with water, Rogers apparently accepted his fate, noting, 'Well, the waters beat us'.3 He led the remaining men to their deaths with a prayer and a hymn.

A studio portrait of a male military officer.

Rogers was born in Britain and served with the Royal Navy during the Second World War. He migrated to Australia in 1950 and joined the RAN, serving in the Korean War. AWM 135436

What are some of the different types of leadership you might find within the defence forces?

Three naval ships sailing side by side.

This image, taken a few years before the collision, shows the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne (II) between the destroyers HMA Ships Vendetta (II) and Voyager (II). AWM 301014

Why do you think these RAN ships are sailing in close proximity to each other?

A row of medals attached to ribbons of various colours.

During the Second World War, Rogers was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal for outstanding courage, skill and determination. He was awarded the George Cross posthumously for his actions on Voyager. AWM OL00222.001

Why do you think medals are sometimes awarded after a person's death?

A drawing of a map on a piece paper.

This sketch shows the courses of Melbourne and Voyager that led up to the collision. Two royal commissions looked into the causes of the incident and found that the Voyager bridge crew had lacked attention and awareness at the time. AWM 305871

Rogers was born in Britain and served with the Royal Navy during the Second World War. He migrated to Australia in 1950 and joined the RAN, serving in the Korean War.

During the Second World War, Rogers was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal for outstanding courage, skill and determination. He was awarded the George Cross posthumously for his actions on Voyager.

Three hundred and fourteen crew were on Voyager when Melbourne hit her side just behind the bridge, slicing Voyager in two. After impact, the ship's forward section sank within minutes. The after section stayed afloat for several hours, enabling many crew to be rescued by vessels and helicopters launched from the shore. The eighty-two men who lost their lives in the collision were all from Voyager.

Two royal commissions were held to inquire into the sinking of Voyager, and there was much public interest in the cause of the disaster. At the first commission, several witnesses spoke about the action taken by Rogers after the collision. One survivor, Able Seaman Matthews, commented, 'I think that he helped to save many of the young fellows who were in the café'.4 In March 1965, Rogers was posthumously awarded the George Cross. The citation for the award included the following:

… for maintaining the morale of junior ratings in great adversity, for organising the escape of as many as possible, and for supporting the spirits of those who could not escape and for encouraging them to meet death alongside himself with dignity and honour.

Jonathan Rogers did not hold officer rank, yet in his final minutes he displayed all the characteristics of good leadership. For his wife, this was not surprising. She said after his death, 'It was typical of him – he never thought of himself'.

A faint ship in the dark sinking.

This image shows Voyager after the collision. The forward section, where Rogers was located, sank in minutes.The after section, shown here, sank within three hours. AWM NAVY15894

Rogers was an older member of the Voyager crew. Do you think this influenced his behaviour after the collision?

Men sitting in an open boat.

These men from Voyager were wearing pyjamas when they were rescued and transported to safety in a whaler. AWM 305887

Did you know?

HMAS stands for 'Her (or His) Majesty's Australian Ship'. This precedes the name of all ships and shore establishments operated by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).

FAST FACTS Royal Australian Navy (RAN)

The first Australian naval forces were formed by the colonies in the 1850s to protect the coastline. After Federation in 1901, these forces combined as the Commonwealth Naval Forces, and in 1911 the Royal Australian Navy was born. The RAN has contributed during all wars and conflicts involving Australians since the Boer War, and today has nearly fifty commissioned vessels and more than 16,000 personnel.

Triangular blue felt pennant with two white suspension loops at hoist, one is damaged. Screen printed in yellow, and azure the ships badge shows a yellow kangaroo proper holding St. Edwards Crown with an azure background.

Souvenir pennant : HMAS Melbourne (II)

Men lying down and sitting in the hangar of a ship.

Survivors from Voyager rest in the hangar of Melbourne after the collision. AWM 305896

What emotions might these men have been feeling?

A brass bell attached with one screw.

HMAS Brisbane : Bell Type IC/B1S4 and cover assembly AWM REL33044

The hull of a badly damaged naval ship.

Melbourne was taken for repairs at Garden Island near Sydney before returning to sea three months after the collision. AWM NAVY15878

Against the odds: Lieutenant Colonel Harry Smith

Vietnam Veterans' Day is commemorated in Australia each year on 18 August, the anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan. Harry Smith was the commander of the Australian company that, outnumbered by more than ten to one, withstood the enemy attack that day in 1966.

What type of leader was this man who inspired his troops to hold on against the odds?

While Harry Smith has been described as a 'gruff and gutsy perfectionist',1 his own description of his leadership style reflected his expectations of his men:

I demanded a high standard of discipline and teamwork which I believe inspired mateship, loyalty, and confidence in individual and unit ability to perform under pressure.2

The men of Delta Company 6RAR (6th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment) benefited from that discipline and teamwork. Based at Nui Dat, they set out on patrol on the afternoon of 18 August in response to mortar attacks the previous day. Shortly after they entered the Long Tan rubber plantation, they came into contact with an estimated force of over 2000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops.

As Delta Company pursued a group of Viet Cong soldiers, one of the platoons became separated from the rest of the company. In an attempt to reach this group, which had come under heavy fire, Smith's men were scattered. Intense fighting continued for an hour in torrential rain before the survivors were able to regroup as a unit. Smith's company, united but still in great danger, faced wave after wave of attacks, which they only survived with support from artillery fire and fresh ammunition dropped from helicopters. Finally, after hours of fighting, armoured personnel carriers arrived with troop reinforcements. Smith remembers:

We were all so busy methodically doing what we had to do we did not have time for fear – until it was over. Everyone did what they were trained for – and did it so well we were able to repel and survive the enemy onslaughts.

An informal portrait of a male soldier.

This image of Harry Smith was taken in Vietnam in June 1966. Smith first saw active service with the 2nd Battalion between 1955–57, during the Malayan Emergency. AWM CUN/66/0516/VN

How might Smith's previous overseas service have influenced his leadership during the Battle of Long Tan?

Cartridge cases linked to a belt.

20 mm M61 Dummy Cartridges. AWM REL34016

A painting depicting soldiers shooting in a forest area, all except for one soldier is laying low on the ground

Reconstruction of the Battle of Long Tan on 18 August 1966, painted by official war artist Bruce Fletcher in 1970. Shows action between 'D' Company and Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army forces; events that happened at intervals during the battle are shown happening simultaneously. Oil on canvas, 152 x 175 cm. AWM ART40758

Male troops sitting on armoured vehicles.

Armoured personnel carriers were used to transport Australian soldiers during the Vietnam War. AWM P05389.013

Although the battle provided an important success for Australia and her allies and resulted in hundreds of enemy casualties, it was the most costly single engagement for Australia in the Vietnam War. Seventeen Delta Company soldiers were killed, another Australian died of his wounds after the battle and twenty-four were wounded. In recognition of his leadership during this battle, Smith was awarded the Military Cross. The citation for the award records that:

He exercised his command with calmness, determination and confidence, and demonstrated professional competence, leadership and inspiration to an exceptional degree.

Smith's company was awarded the United States Presidential Unit Citation for their skill and courage during the attack. They were also offered the South Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry Unit Citation.

Many of Smith's men were national servicemen, meaning they had been conscripted into the army rather than having volunteered. They had only been in the army for twelve months and had seen no major contact with the enemy until Long Tan.

Smith recommended twenty of the men from his company for gallantry awards. At the time, some of his recommendations were rejected and others were downgraded. Smith, however, believing that his men 'gave above and beyond what would have been expected of them',5 campaigned for decades for greater recognition for his troops. In 2015 he said:

I didn't withdraw at Long Tan and I won't withdraw from the fight to have my men properly recognised

In November 2016, fifty years after the Battle of Long Tan, ten of the soldiers were awarded a military honour or had their existing honour upgraded.

Major Harry Smith, Officer Commanding (OC) Delta Company 6RAR, holds a briefing in the field shortly before his company returned to Long Tan the day after the battle

Major Harry Smith from Queensland, Officer Commanding (OC) Delta Company 6RAR, holds a briefing in the field shortly before his company returned to Long Tan the day after the battle. Left to right: Maj Harry Smith; Second Lieutenant (2Lt) David Sabben, OC 12 Platoon; Corporal Phil Dobson, Company Medic; 2Lt Geoff Kendall, OC 10 Platoon; Sergeant (Sgt) Bob Buick (obscured by Kendall); Sgt Jack Thompson, Company Mortar Fire Controller, 161(NZ) Forward Battery; Pte Bill ‘Yank’ Arkell, Regimental Signaller; Lance Corporal Graham Smith, Regimental Signaller (with his back to the camera). AWM FOR/66/0676/VN

Major Harry Smith, Officer Commanding D Company 6RAR briefing foreign press representatives in Saigon on the battle of Long Tan

Major Harry Smith, Officer Commanding D Company 6RAR briefing foreign press representatives in Saigon on the Battle of Long Tan. AWM CUN/66/0709/VN

Did you know?

Many veterans felt that recognition of their service in Vietnam was slow in coming. In 1987, fifteen years after Australian combat troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, a welcome home parade was held in Sydney. In 1992 the Vietnam Forces National Memorial was dedicated on Anzac Parade in Canberra.

FAST FACTS Conscription

The Australian government introduced a national service scheme in 1964 whereby young men could be conscripted for overseas service. As more and more conscripts were sent to Vietnam, where many were killed or wounded, opposition to the scheme grew. During the later years of the Vietnam War, there was widespread and divisive community debate about Australia's role in the conflict and tens of thousands of people participated in mass protests across the country.

A group of elderly men visiting a war memorial.

A group of Vietnam veterans visit the Long Tan memorial in 2015. The inscription on the cross reads:

In memory of those members of D Coy 6 RAR and 3 Tp 1 APC Sqn who gave their lives near this spot during the Battle of Long Tan on 18th August 1966.7

What are some of the reasons veterans might visit a place where they have served?

Male soldiers standing to attention around a war memorial.

On the day before they were to leave Vietnam, members of Delta Company 6RAR attend a memorial service for comrades who had died during their tour of duty. AWM P04669.375

Leadership qualities: General Peter Cosgrove

Peter Cosgrove began his military career as a junior officer in 1968 and finished in 2005 as Chief of the Defence Force (CDF). He went on to become Australia's Governor-General.

Cosgrove was already a familiar face to many Australians when he was named Australian of the Year in 2001. He had gained a high profile while commanding the multinational peacekeeping force in East Timor from 1999–2000. The qualities he relied on during this challenging operation were recognised in his Australian of the Year award, which noted his display of:

… those characteristics we value most as Australians – strength, determination, intelligence, compassion and humour

These five qualities, so often found in leaders, are ones that Cosgrove has demonstrated throughout his long and successful career.

The first quality, strength, can be revealed through calm assurance as well as outward toughness. Cosgrove displayed a steely strength when he arrived in East Timor. As he prepared to leave his plane, he made the decision to remove the pistol from his belt. He also ordered his armed protection party to stay on board while he went outside to meet the leader of the Indonesian forces. His instinct told him:

If I did not display the appropriate respectful, diplomatic but firm demeanour, the chances were that we would get off to a bad start and this would increase the risks of the operation

Such strength was required throughout the entire peacekeeping mission.

The quality of determination came naturally to Cosgrove. He believes:

… there is only one way to do any job and that is absolutely flat out with every atom of your skill, focus and energy

Widespread violence had erupted when the East Timorese people voted to become independent of Indonesia. The peacekeepers' task of restoring order was difficult because both the Indonesian military and the local resistance forces often used random and deadly urban warfare tactics. Cosgrove's determination that the peacekeepers should establish control in a manner that did not escalate the violence has been credited for the success of the mission.

A portrait painting of a male soldier in uniform.

Tom Alberts, Major General Peter Cosgrove (2001, oil on linen, 91.8 x 81.5 cm, AWM ART91505)

This portrait depicts Cosgrove as commander of the Australian-led International Force in East Timor (INTERFET). After returning from East Timor, Cosgrove was appointed Chief of the Army, and two years later he was appointed CDF.

Why do you think the artist chose to paint Cosgrove in this setting, pose and dress?


An armed male soldier in front of another male soldier.

Due to the violent and unpredictable conditions in East Timor, Cosgrove was protected by armed bodyguards. AWM P04315.002

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of having bodyguards during a peacekeeping mission?

A flag with a red base and black triangle, upon which is surmounted a white five-pointed star, and yellow arrowhead, both on the left hand side.

This flag of the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste (East Timor) was signed to commemorate the nation's Independence Day on 20 May 2002. The signatures include those of Prime Minister John Howard and Lieutenant General Peter Cosgrove. AWM REL33219

Reflective white, rectangular aluminium number plate with a raised blue and raised lettering 'INTERFET'. Printed in blue at the bottom of the plate is further text which reads 'Australian Defence Force'.

This number plate was fitted to Cosgrove's vehicle during his time as commander of the International Force in East Timor. AWM REL31887

Cosgrove has often spoken of the value of intelligence, particularly during times of combat. For much of his military career, Australia was not at war. Yet he was keenly aware that 'battle is terrifying'4 and that this can affect the decision making of leaders. Speaking to a group of students in 2004, Cosgrove said:

I'll never be comfortable with the thought that young men and women might die because of a commander's 'damn fool decisions'.

Alongside intelligence, Cosgrove understands the importance of compassion. He feels this quality is particularly important for senior leaders because of the wide-reaching impact of their decisions. In 2003, one year after Cosgrove was appointed as CDF, he said:

I … have a very strong moral obligation to the mums and dads of Australia. Through my decisions and orders, I have to expose their sons and daughters to the inevitable risk of military action.

Cosgrove's own son was injured in a car bomb blast in Baghdad while serving in Iraq in 2005.

Humour has been a powerful tool for many leaders. Cosgrove has developed a reputation for self-deprecating humour, which he uses to reflect on his own shortcomings. He recalls that he gave himself 'a pretty big kick in the tail'7 after a poor leadership decision early in his career.

Since becoming Governor-General of Australia in 2014, Cosgrove has continued to display all these qualities as a national leader.

A man in a blue shirt surrounded by troops in uniform.

As Governor-General, Cosgrove is commander-in-chief of the Australian Defence Force. He is seen here visiting defence force personnel participating in a military exercise with the United States in 2016. Department of Defence 20160729raaf8161479_0120

Male dignitaries walking along a red carpet with armed soldiers on both sides.

The President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan escorts Cosgrove into the Presidential Palace on 30 April 2016. During the visit, Cosgrove acknowledged the service of Australian troops in Afghanistan. Department of Defence 20160430adf8214577_001

What might be the significance of the red carpet?

FAST FACTS Peacekeeping

Since the end of the Second World War, Australians have been part of many United Nations (UN) and other peacekeeping operations. Members from each of the services, along with police officers and civilians, have contributed to multinational forces various locations – including the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Central America and the Pacific region. They have worked to create stability, monitor elections and ceasefires, allow delivery of humanitarian aid, clear landmines, provide medical treatment and enforce UN imposed sanctions..

A painting depicting a group portrait of soldiers in combat uniform.

Lewis Miller, Peter Cosgrove addressing the SAS, Iraq (2003, watercolour and crayon on paper, 29.6 x 41.9 cm, AWM ART92016)

The official war artist recorded Cosgrove, as CDF, visiting soldiers in Iraq during the Second Gulf War.

Why do you think Cosgrove visited Australian troops serving overseas?

Dignitaries standing in front of a war memorial.

On Remembrance Day in 2015, the Governor-General and Lady Cosgrove laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall. The Governor-General is the Queen's representative in Australia. Department of Defence 20151111raaf8182497_0294

Why do you think the wreath was laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier?

Did you know?

Since 1901, Australia has had twenty-six Governors-General. Some of them have come from a military background and many have been former politicians. The first Australian to serve as Governor-General was appointed in 1931.

A man and woman dressed in green camouflage uniforms stand side by side, smiling for the camera, with the thatched roof of a hut and vehicles in the background.
F2809636 Lance Corporal Poppy Wenham (left), 142 Signal Squadron Royal Australian Signal Corps (RASIGS), and Lieutenant General Peter Cosgrove, Chief of the Australian Army. General Cosgrove, were photographed when Cosgrove was visiting members of the multinational Peace Monitoring Group (PMG) on 23 April 2000. AWM P03518.022

A courageous leader: Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith

The Victoria Cross for Australia (VCfA) is the highest military honour that can be awarded to Australian service men and women. In Afghanistan in 2010, Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith was awarded the VCfA for a courageous display of leadership during a grueling confrontation.

A member of the Special Air Services (SAS) Regiment, Roberts-Smith was completing his fifth tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2010. The action for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia took place in Kandahar Province on 11 June. Roberts-Smith was second-in-command of a patrol helping with an operation to capture or kill a senior member of the Taliban.

Throughout the day, Roberts-Smith took decisive action in a variety of life-threatening situations. At one stage, he and other patrol members were near a walled compound from which the enemy was launching a sustained attack. In describing the situation, Roberts-Smith said:

Dirt mounds, maybe 30 centimetres high, were scattered throughout the orchard and each of us hunkered down behind one. As I was wearing chest webbing, my head would have stuck above the mound if I'd lain on my gut to fire, so I lay on my back and returned fire upside down. Pretty unconventional, I know, but getting some bursts going back towards the enemy sure made me feel better

After crawling to within 20 metres of the compound, Roberts-Smith noticed a small building which posed a potential threat for the patrol. With his comrades providing cover, he sprinted to the building, and killed an insurgent just as he aimed his gun from the window. Roberts-Smith then exposed himself again, which allowed his patrol commander to throw a grenade and silence a machine gun. Using this moment of confusion, Roberts-Smith stormed the compound, killing another armed insurgent at close range.

The operation in which Roberts-Smith's patrol played a key role was highly successful – more than seventy insurgents were killed, including a number of high and medium value individuals. In January 2011 Roberts-Smith received the VCfA for his actions on that day. In accepting the award, he was quick to recognise the role played by others:

I am so very proud to have taken part in the action with my mates. This award also belongs to them and to the Regiment.

A studio portrait of a male soldier.

This portrait of Roberts-Smith was taken around the time he received his Victoria Cross for Australia, which was awarded by the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, on 23 January 2011 in Perth. AWM P09901.001

A male soldier walking away from a helicopter.

Roberts-Smith moves away from a helicopter in Tarin Kot, Afghanistan, in April 2010. AWM P09901.002

In what ways has technology changed warfare over the last century?

A cloth badge with 'THE AUSTRALIAN ARMY' embroidered in black cotton. AWM REL30576

Woven Rising Sun badge in DPDU fabric : Special Air Service Regiment

A painting showing Australian, Dutch, and American soldiers with Afghan traders in the desert.

Lyndell Brown and Charles Green, History painting: market, Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan province Afghanistan (April 2008, oil on linen, 121 x 121 cm, AWM ART93318)

This painting depicts Australian, Dutch and American soldiers with Afghan traders at a market. Painted in 2008, it provides an interesting perspective into daily life for those living in Afghanistan during a time of conflict.

How would the presence of international troops have impacted on the lives of locals in Afghanistan?

Two armed male soldiers crouched behind a wall with a third male soldier standing behind an adjacent wall.

Roberts-Smith joined the army in 1996 and early in his career served on two peacekeeping operations in East Timor. Private Roberts-Smith is shown here, second from right, in Dili in September 1999. AWM P04315.014

Roberts-Smith also recognised the importance of training. He believes it provides soldiers with the mental and physical sharpness required to be a leader during battle. In 2012, he described the skills that enable him to take the lead when under pressure:

… when I'm in contact now, I get a clarity, a real sharpening of my senses. I can see things happening that I couldn't in my early days. I can read the play, so to speak. I'm thinking, 'I'll bet this bloke, whether he's ours or theirs, will do this so I should be doing that'.

Having been an effective leader in battle, Roberts-Smith has since become a national figure. As a VCfA recipient Roberts-Smith received much attention – he was interviewed, photographed, painted, invited to speak at events and even appeared on a postage stamp. Since resigning from the full-time army in 2013 for a career in business, he has continued to use his public profile to speak out about a number of issues – one of these has been the welfare of recent war veterans. On Anzac Day in 2014 he said:

The war in Afghanistan may be coming to an end, but for those who were wounded there, it will never end. The physical scars inflicted will remain their curse and inspiration for life; the other, deeper, more complex, more insidious scars to hearts and minds will wreak havoc and pain over lifetimes

As well as raising awareness, Ben Roberts-Smith continues to help veterans by working with Wandering Warriors and Legacy, organisations which support returned soldiers and their families. He is also a patron of the White Cloud Foundation, which aims to assist people suffering depression.

Two men dressed in military uniforms and a third man dressed in a suit standing in a war memorial.

All Australian VC and VCfA recipients are honoured in the Hall of Valour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. This 2011 image shows Roberts-Smith in the hall with two other recipients, Keith Payne (VC) and Corporal Mark Donaldson (VCfA). AWM PAIU2011/005.05, photographer Steve Burton.

What skills do you need to be a leader in battle?

A military helmut with a camouflage pattern design.

Helmet Cover in DPDU fabric : Special Air Service Regiment AWM REL30739

Did you know?

The Victoria Cross was instituted by Queen Victoria in 1856 and is the highest military honour awarded to British and Commonwealth service men and women during wartime. Since 1991, Australia has used its own honours system to award the Victoria Cross, which is known as the Victoria Cross for Australia.

Two rows of armed male troops marching down a dirt road.

Australian soldiers on patrol in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan in 2010. AWM P09971.058

How might the landscape in Afghanistan have shaped the style of combat during engagements?

A row of medals attached to ribbons of various colours.

Before being awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia in 2011, Roberts-Smith was awarded the Medal for Gallantry for action during his first tour of Afghanistan in 2006. In 2014 he also received a Commendation for Distinguished Service for his conduct as a patrol commander in 2012. AWM OL00615.001

A man in a suit standing next to a portrait painting of himself.

After Roberts-Smith received the award he became a public figure and many Australians were interested in learning more about him. He is pictured here in front of a painting by Michael Zavros, who was commissioned by the Australian War Memorial to create the artwork. AWM PAIU2014/177.55, photographer Adam Kropinski-Myers

Before being awarded the Victoria Cross for Australia in 2011, Roberts-Smith was awarded the Medal for Gallantry for action during his first tour of Afghanistan in 2006. In 2014 he also received a Commendation for Distinguished Service for his conduct as a patrol commander in 2012.

In what ways did receiving the VCfA change Roberts-Smith's life?

FAST FACTS Australia in Afghanistan

In 2001 Australia joined the United States and other nations to invade Afghanistan. This 'War on Terror' aimed to reduce terrorism in the wake of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington DC. Australia's involvement in Afghanistan has continued in varying capacities since this time. The enemy in this new era of warfare is no longer a coordinated national force, but multiple insurgent groups aligned to either the Taliban, Al-Qaeda or, more recently, Islamic State.

Breaking waves: Captain Jenny Daetz

At the time Jenny Daetz joined the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), service women were not able to go to sea. Just over a decade later Daetz was appointed as Captain of HMAS Shepparton, becoming the first woman to command a ship of the RAN.

When Jenny Daetz wanted to run away and join the navy as soon as she turned fifteen, the recruiting officers convinced her to complete her schooling. She went on to join the RAN in 1986 when she was seventeen. Within months, a new navy policy gave women the opportunity to go to sea. Daetz was quick to take advantage of the change, and became one of the first six women chosen to train as seaman officers.

Having women on board ships provided huge challenges for the navy. Not only did basic facilities like bathrooms need to be changed, but also the attitudes held by some of the sailors. Many believed there was no place for a woman at sea.

There were personal challenges for Daetz and her female colleagues too. Imagine being the first, and only, woman on board a navy ship. Finding herself in this situation, Daetz listened uncomfortably as sailors shared jokes, many of which were disrespectful to women. In an effort to fit in, she laughed along with the men. Fortunately, Daetz had mentoring and support during this early stage of her career. With the help of her commanding officer in HMAS Shepparton, Daetz reflected on the situations she was placed in. She realised:

I did not have to compromise my personal values in order to fit in. I did not have to be one of the boys.

As well as mentoring Daetz, the captain ensured Shepparton became a place where inappropriate behaviour was not tolerated.

Freed from the need to 'fit in or fail', Daetz was able to focus on developing her skills and knowledge so she could 'show them that a woman can do it'.

Although she initially wanted to be a navigator, Daetz changed her plans and became a hydrographic surveyor, responsible for producing navigation charts.

From this point, she took charge of her own career path by mapping out a ten year plan to achieve her ambitions. In 1997, after completing the training courses and postings set out in the plan, Daetz became the first woman to command a Royal Australian Navy ship. On her initial voyage as captain, Daetz and the crew of HMAS Shepparton made charts of safe sea channels in the treacherous waters around Papua New Guinea. Since then, Daetz has commanded other ships and a naval base and is now a leader at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA).

A studio portrait of a female military officer.

Captain Jenny Daetz was the first woman to command a RAN ship. She now holds a senior position at the Australian Defence Force Academy. Department of Defence 20150121adfa3443372_0041 Captain Daetz, Jenny

A group portrait of military officers.

Daetz and fellow officers who completed the Royal Navy Hydrographic Course at HMS Drake in England in 1994. Image courtesy Jenny Daetz

What are some of the challenges Daetz may have faced as the only woman on this training course?

Two women standing on a wharf in front of a large ship.

Daetz and her grandmother in front of HMAS Moresby in Darwin, 1989. Image courtesy Jenny Daetz

Did you know?

In September 2015 the first female Minister for Defence in Australia was appointed. Marise Payne, a senator from NSW, said it was an honour and privilege to hold this important position.

Triangular navy felt souvenir with two suspension loops on the hoist. Screen printed in yellow with 'HMAS CRESWELL' .

Souvenir pennant : HMAS Creswell. AWM REL36713

A female military officer standing in front of more military officers in the background.

Daetz joined the Royal Australian Naval College at HMAS Creswell as an administration officer in 1986. Image courtesy Jenny Daetz

A military naval vessel moving on the water.

HMAS Shepparton (shown below), a ship used for hydrographic surveying, was the first RAN vessel commanded by a woman. Department of Defence 20120518ran8484535_042

Why do you think a female was not given command of a RAN ship until 1997?

Daetz is recognised as a pioneer for women's equality in the RAN. During her three decades of service, she has taken opportunities as they became available and challenged existing practices towards women. Many other women have since explored career paths within the service. By 2013, the Chief of Navy reflected that:

Today … women play vital roles in all parts of the Navy – they are an irreplaceable part of the team.

Daetz believes that an important part of leadership is being a mentor to others. She identifies with these words from the famous business executive Jack Welch:

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.

Having been supported at key points in her own career, Daetz values the opportunity to encourage others to set and achieve personal goals. At ADFA she is a role model and mentor to many young women, and she encourages them not to take the opportunities they have for granted.

At ADFA, recruits from the three services of the Australian Defence Force – Army, Navy and Air Force – undertake a university degree plus military and leadership training.

A navigation map and chart.

Hydrographic surveyors make charts to allow ships to travel safely from port to port. This chart shows the shipping channels in Sydney Harbour.

Why do you think that the Navy trains people to do hydrographic surveying?

A large navy vessel in Sydney harbour with the Sydney Opera House in the background.

HMAS Leeuwin leaving Sydney Harbour in 2006 under the command of Daetz. Daetz had been Executive Officer of Leeuwin between 2001 and 2003. Images courtesy Jenny Daetz

What are some of the emotions Daetz may have felt as she sailed out of Sydney Harbour in command of the Leeuwin?

FAST FACTS Gender equity in the RAN

Women today can apply for all roles in the RAN. Since the mid 1990s, women have been able to serve in war zones, and as pilots and on submarines. In 2013, the last RAN job category that had been restricted to men – clearance divers – was opened to women. By 2015, 18.6% of permanent RAN personnel were women, and 14.8% of Australian Defence Force members serving on overseas operations were women.

A painting depicting a female officer in training steering the ship HMAS Adelaide.

Peter Churcher, The bridge, HMAS Adelaide (2002, oil on hardboard, 17 x 26 cm, AWM ART91757)

A row of three military cadets walking, one female and two male.

At ADFA, recruits from the three services of the Australian Defence Force – Army, Navy and Air Force – undertake a university degree plus military and leadership training. Department of Defence ADFA Open Day.

What service does each of these recruits belong to?



Hardship, or a difficult situation.

after section

The back part of a ship.


The group of nations, including Australia which fought together against Germany and its allies in the First World War and against the Axis powers in the Second World War.


A group of nations that join force during times of conflict.


Historical records of events.


Mounted guns that fire ammunition over long distances. They can be moveable or stationary

bale out

To escape from an aeroplane, usually by parachute.


A thick burst of gunfire, often used as a barrier to protect advancing soldiers.

Battalion Pioneers

Soldiers who did engineering and construction tasks.


A stabbing weapon designed to fit on the end of a rifle.


The room or area from which the captain commands a ship.

British Empire

The group of nations or colonies with ties and allegiance to the United Kingdom.


An office established to do administrative tasks.


A written message transmitted by an electronic device. The message was carried along wires, and then the text was written out and delivered.


An order to stop fighting.

Chief of Defence Force

Commander of the Australian Defence Force and most senior military advisor to the Minister of Defence.


A serious disease of the gut caused by infected water.


A brief official statement explaining why a medal was awarded.

citizens' forces

A military force made up of part-time volunteer members.


A posting to a military role.


Members of the defence forces who serve together.


Something authorised by the constitution, or founding rules, of a nation.


Unjust treatment of a group of people based on factors such as their race, gender or age.


A disease that causes severe cramps and diarrhoea.


To join a force for military service.


An abrupt or blunt manner.


A peninsula located in Turkey where Australian soldiers fought in 1915.



humanitarian aid

Assistance to save lives and relieve suffering resulting from natural or man-made disasters.


Soldiers who are trained and equipped to fight on foot.


Something that can appear harmless but is damaging.


A rebel fighting against a government.


The biggest Indonesian island.


To drop something from an aircraft or ship.


To be awarded the title of 'Sir' or 'Dame' in recognition of exemplary service.


Something handed down to future generations.

liaison officer

Someone who develops a close working relationship between individuals or groups and an organisation.


A mosquito-borne infectious disease.


A senior nurse in a hospital responsible for staff, patient care, and the smooth running of hospital wards.

Member of the Order of the British Empire

The first of six ranks of the Order of the British Empire and the most common, awarded to recognise civilian achievement. Holders are allowed to put the letters MBE after their name.


A person who advises a younger or less experienced colleague.


A weapon to fire explosive bombs.


Consisting of people from many different nations.

offensive action

A military attack.


A fierce attack.


An official document that gives a person permission to do something.


A person who is the first to explore new ways of doing things.


After death.


A decision that may influence decisions made in similar conditions in the future.

Red Cross

An international humanitarian organisation, founded in 1863, which provides relief to victims of war or natural disasters.


An election where voters decide if a part of the Constitution should be changed.

royal commission

A formal inquiry into an issue.


Restrictions imposed on a nation as a penalty for it not complying with an international decision or rule.


The hygienic disposal of water, waste and sewage to limit the spread of disease.


Being critical of oneself, especially with humour.


A military unit consisting of two or more aircrew, army regiments or warships.


Identification of goals, and methods for achieving them.


A person who is good at planning the specific way to accomplish a goal.


Illegal use of violence for a political purpose.


A game of chance, similar to bingo.


A court of justice.


An open sore which does not heal.


Humble or reserved.

urban warfare

Combat in urban areas where civilians are living.

Victoria Cross

The highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy, awarded to members of British and Commonwealth Forces for actions performed during wartime.

Victoria Cross for Australia

Australia's highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy instituted in 1991.

Viet Cong

A Communist-led guerrilla force which, supported by North Vietnam, fought to overthrow the South Vietnamese government during the Vietnam War.


A vest with pockets and straps, worn to carry military equipment in battle.

Western Front

The central area of operations in Western Europe during the First World War.


A narrow open boat that is pointed at both ends.

A female fighter pilot standing in front of a fighter jet.

Flight Lieutenant Robyn Williams graduated from her flying course in 1988, to become one of Australia's first two female RAAF pilots. Williams went on to fill a number of leadership positions in the air force, being promoted to Squadron Leader, and then Wing Commander in 2000. This image was taken at the time of her graduation. 19881129raaf00000_0002

A few men had the stuff of leadership in them, they were like rafts to which all of the rest of humanity clung for support and for hope. Lord Moran

Lord Moran, The Anatomy of Courage, Constable, London, 1945, p. xiv


Permission is given by the Commonwealth for this publication to be copied royalty free within Australia solely for educational purposes. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced for commercial purposes.

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