MIKE Dennis MBE, a Rabaul-born former senior officer of the Australian Defence Force, died in South Australia this week.
He was raised near Rabaul where his father, Peter, was a well-known identity, plantation manager and RSL stalwart.
He had several postings in PNG, the last as deputy head of the Australian Defence Staff during the Bougainville crisis.
He received his MBE from PNG for his service with the Pacific Islands Regiment. He was also keenly involved in PNG rugby league for many years, including a stint as manager and coach of the Kumuls team, as well as with Australian and Fijian national teams.
“He was one of those rare Australian Army personnel whose regimental number began with 8, like everyone else recruited from The Territories,’’ recalled another Australian Army veteran who had links with PNG, Ross Eastgate.
“It was a rare distinction he carried with pride. He went to primary school in Rabaul with Sam Nuakona and Paul Tohian and spoke Pidgin before he spoke English.
“We are privileged to have known him and served with him.’’
Lieutenant Colonel Mike Dennis joined the regular Army in 1967 after two years in the Papua New Guinea Volunteer Rifles.
After serving as a Section Commander in 9 RAR he was selected to attend OCS Portsea, graduating to the Infantry Corps in 1969.
In 1982 he was promoted to Major and Operations Officer 1PIR PNG and was awarded an MBE primarily for the planning and conduct of operations on the PNG/Indonesian border. This was followed by a posting as Officer Commanding 3 Brigade Headquarters ODF.
Lt Col Dennis had extensive Special Forces training and was a navy diving instructor, demolition instructor, foreign weapons instructor, small craft instructor, unconventional warfare instructor, linguist and marksman.
A major change of direction occurred when he was posted to the Defence Intelligence Organisation as the senior desk officer PNG/SWP. Following involvement in the 1987 Fiji Coup and Operation Morrisdance he was promoted to Lt Col and posted as a Defence Adviser PNG and Solomon Islands in 1988.
This position was primarily an intelligence collection role and he served on Bougainville in 1989 to 1990 in the early stages of the Bougainville civil war in a plain clothes role. He was awarded a Chief of Army Commendation and Australia Day Award for actions on Bougainville.
In 1995 Lt Col Dennis resigned from the ADF on completion of a posting in Fiji and took up a position of general manager Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. This was followed by a senior position in sports management in the planning and conducts of the Sydney Olympics and other Olympics and Commonwealth games.
He retired to Adelaide and was the Honorary Consul for Fiji in South Australia at the time of his death.