One of Australia’s most recognised and respected military leaders, General Peter Cosgrove AC MC, took to the stage at the MCC War Veterans Group lunch on June 23 and he didn’t disappoint.
The 2001 Australian of the Year and former Defence Force chief addressed more than 300 members and their guests in the Olympic Room on a range of topics, including the role our troops are now playing in Afghanistan, his plans to walk the Kokoda Track and a family link to Richmond Football Club.
“My uncle, Billy Cosgrove, played for Richmond and served the RAAF in World War II,” General Cosgrove boasted proudly, adding that Billy was killed in action in New Guinea in 1943.
Showing his loyalty to the Tigers, Billy was known to decorate his planes with the Richmond logo and the slogan "Eat 'em alive".
"Bill always put the tiger's head on the nose of his aeroplanes - and 'Eat 'em alive' was under the tiger's head,” said General Cosgrove. “Jack Dyer would have loved it.”
The list of the general's achievements is impressive, but his service in East Timor made him an instantly recognisable figure to most Australians. In 1999, as Commander of the Deployable Joint Force Headquarters, he assumed command of the International Forces in East Timor (INTERFET) until the force was withdrawn in February 2000.
On his return to Australia after this successful mission, he was appointed Chief of Army. In July 2002 General Cosgrove assumed the profile position of Chief of the Defence Force, a position he held until July 2005.
At the luncheon, General Cosgrove spoke of his admiration for the 99 Australians who died at The Lost Battlefield at Eora Creek in 1942. It is now hoped those soldiers listed as Missing Presumed Killed in Action will be identified and returned home for burial.
Cosgrove, who visited the site in May this year with a Channel 7 television crew, described this particular event as a “tremendously Australian part of World War II history.”
His next challenge, though, is to walk the famous 96-kilometre Kokoda Track in October, a task he admits will be formidable for a man of his burly stature.
Find out more about the MCC War Veterans Group