Ben Roberts-Smith (Image: AAP/Joel Carrett)

The general public revered Ben Roberts-Smith to such an extent that some people would "fall into his arms" on meeting him, and share their own experiences, former defence minister Brendan Nelson told the federal court this morning.

Nelson, a former director of the Australian War Memorial (AWM), described Roberts-Smith as the "most respected, admired and revered Australian soldier in more than half a century -- since Keith Payne VC in the Vietnam War".

“Wherever (Roberts-Smith) went, he was the object of reverential mobs. Men and women would want to be with him, shake his hand and have their photographs taken with him. On some occasions I saw people fall into his arms as they described their experiences,” he said.