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Bill Robertson, 2008

Paul Gosney

type C photograph (sheet: 40.5 cm x 30.2 cm, image: 38.5 cm x 28.2 cm)
Image not available (NC)

Bill Robertson CBE MC (1917-2011), public servant, was educated at Melbourne Grammar and Oxford, where he graduated from the school of Natural Philosophy in 1939. In the AIF he served in the Western Desert, Crete and Greece, where he won the Military Cross in 1941. Having served in New Guinea from 1942 to 1944, he was appointed one of thirteen officers to assist the British Army in the liberation of Europe; fighting with the 50th Division he was awarded the OBE for his good conduct. Returning to Australia in 1947, he joined the Department of Defence three years later. From its formation in 1952, he played a senior role in the Australian Security Intelligence Service (ASIS). In 1962 he attended the Imperial Defence College in London. In 1968 he was appointed director-general of ASIS, charged with sustaining relations with the British Secret Intelligence and building relations with the CIA and regional intelligence services. On October 21 1975, for complex reasons that the key players long disputed, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam dismissed Robertson. (A few days later, Whitlam himself was ousted from office.) Robertson later made a personal deposition at the National Archives of Australia giving his own account of the business. In 1976 he was made CBE; he later headed the Protective Services Coordination Centre. In 2004, when Robertson joined an official party representing Australia to commemorate the D Day landings, he was awarded the Legion of Honour; he reflected that it was a 'nice way to round off his military career'.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2011

Accession number: 2011.116

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

Paul Gosney

Bill Robertson CBE MC (age 91 in 2008)

Subject professions

Military

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