Jim Forbes (pictured) is the last surviving Liberal Party MP from the 10th Menzies government ministry, which introduced national service into Australia in 1964. As minister for the army and a retired army officer with a Military Cross for bravery, he brought the policy to the cabinet table, overriding a recommendation from Defence’s chairman of the Chiefs of Staff. Fifty years on -- and almost 40 years since his last media interview -- he stands by his decision. He’s just turned 90, and family from all around the globe have returned to Adelaide for a week of celebrations that included Christmas. Some of his children were born after the national service decision, and the grandchildren and great-grandchildren would perhaps know little of the drama that surrounded Australia’s increasing commitment to the war in Vietnam and how the army would be resourced. Perhaps there was no better qualified person than Forbes to propose a national policy of conscription. The son of an army officer, he’d enlisted at age 16, graduated from Duntroon at age 19 and saw active service before he was old enough to vote. In the early 1940s he was in Darwin when it was still under attack from Japanese aircraft.

Forbes-at-war