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Kevin William Latchford (1927–2013)

by Mark Latchford and Alan Stewart

Kevin Latchford, n.d.

Kevin Latchford, n.d.

photo privately sourced

Kevin Latchford belonged to a generation of military officers who enlisted in the intensity of World War II and went on to serve their country in peacetime. He worked around the world for Australia, then after retiring was on the Remembrance Driveway Committee that revitalised the road between Sydney and Canberra.

He was an energising force on the committee and oversaw construction of more than 25 roadside rest stops commemorating Australian VC winners.

Kevin William Latchford was born in Sydney on January 21, 1927, son of Ernest Latchford, a career army officer, and his wife, Linda (nee Dehnert). The family moved often and Kevin's schooling included Maroubra Public, Cleveland Street High, Sydney Boys High and Albury High.

He entered the Royal Military College Duntroon in 1945, graduated with distinction in 1947 and joined the Armoured Corps.

He was soon posted to Japan, first to Kure and later to Shikoku, where, he recalled, a small group of 21-year-old lieutenants ''governed'' Japan's fourth largest island with only rice farmers and black marketeers for company.

Soon after returning to Australia, in 1949, Latchford was seconded to the British Army on the Rhine. He loved the discipline and experience of the British Army and also the relevance of facing the might of the Soviet Union only kilometres away, although he never actually saw the potential enemy.

Returning to Australia in late 1950, Latchford was posted to Puckapunyal and the Armoured School. It was here that Latchford became friends with an Armoured colleague, Mark Bradbury, and his wife, Norma. Latchford also met Norma's sister Marlene Kelly, and romance followed.

Marlene and Kevin were married in 1954 and set off for a honeymoon in Western Australia, where he had been posted, first to remote Northam and then to Perth.

Latchford then returned to Victoria and held positions at the 1st Armoured Regiment and Staff College at Queenscliff. When the Defence Department moved to Canberra in 1959, the family followed.

At the beginning of 1962, Latchford took the chance to rejoin the British Army on the Rhine, on exchange with the 10th Royal Hussars (Prince of Wales Own), a tank regiment, in northern West Germany. He returned to army headquarters in Canberra in 1964 and in 1966 was posted to Sydney then, in 1968, Vietnam.

He was mentioned in dispatches for his leadership of the 1st Civil Affairs Unit, and received an unusual honour. The North Vietnamese forces offered a price for Latchford's head, a rare threat to an Australian officer at the time. But he returned to Australia in 1969 and took up the role of Commanding Officer of the 1st Armoured Regiment, in Puckapunyal.

In late 1970, Latchford returned to Eastern Command in Sydney. Although consumed with military work and running his four boys from one sports event to another, he took up sailing and went on the 1972 Sydney to Hobart race.

In late 1973 Latchford took command of 6th Task Force based in Enoggera, Brisbane and Latchford soon led the army response to the 1974 Brisbane floods.

In early 1975, a final return to Canberra was triggered by Latchford's appointment as director general of defence recruiting. In 1978, he was made an officer of the Order of Australia (Military Division). In 1981, Latchford, now a major general, took on the role of director general of the National Disaster Organisation. After Latchford retired in 1984, he and Marlene travelled extensively.

Latchford was honorary colonel of the 2nd Cavalry regiment for six years and also patron and participant in the Royal Australian Armoured Corps Association and the Civil Affairs Unit Association. He continued to lead the corps during the Anzac Day march until less than a year before his death.

Kevin Latchford is survived by his sons Tim, Andrew, Mark and Chris and 10 grandchildren. Marlene died in 2008.

Original publication

Additional Resources

Citation details

Mark Latchford and Alan Stewart, 'Latchford, Kevin William (1927–2013)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 20 May 2024.

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