A tireless advocate for marking the duty and sacrifice of Australian servicemen and women, Brigadier Keith Rossi died on 20 January in Melbourne at the age of 94.
His death is mourned not only by veterans and their families, and the RSL of which he was a member for more than 70 years, but by Australia’s Greek community who have lost a true friend and supporter.
Despite the fact that he did not serve in Greece during WWII, Brigadier Rossi was a regular attendee on behalf of the RSL at commemorative events marking the WWII Greece and Crete campaigns. He played an important role in the creation of the Australian Hellenic Memorial in Melbourne’s Domain Gardens as a member of the Memorial’s committee from 1995.
Keith Rossi enrolled as a cadet in the militia in 1937 at the age of 15. His service record showing his date of birth as 13 October 1919 is incorrect; he was told to say he was 17 by the recruiting officer. He transferred to the Australian Imperial Force in March 1941, where he first served as a wireless operator. His operational service began in Egypt six months later where he undertook artillery training before joining the 2/2 Australian Field Regiment.
Postings to Ceylon (1942) and New Guinea (1943/1944) followed, before he saw out WWII in Morotai and Borneo. After the war he remained a professional soldier and in 1970 served in Vietnam.
A member of the Citizen Military Forces until 1976, following his Army career Brigadier Rossi devoted his life to the RSL which he had joined in 1943, and became a volunteer historian working five days a week at ANZAC House in Melbourne. Direct and insightful, there his assistance to those seeking his deep knowledge and robust advice became legend.
Joining the many tributes to the brigadier, Steve Kyritsis OAM, president of the Hellenic RSL sub branch Victoria, said: “Keith was a Philhellene and supporter of the Hellenic RSL. His knowledge as a historian was always helpful to matters relating to Australian and its Allies’ military history.
“We have lost a great soldier, veteran, and historian who devoted his whole life for the RSL.”
Brigadier Rossi was given an honorary life membership of the Pancretan Association of Melbourne in 2012, which described him as “a stern supporter of the Greek community and the Cretan fraternity”.
Victoria RSL state president, Major General David McLachlan, said his former colleague would be greatly missed.
“Keith received an OBE (Military) in 1964 and was recognised with an AM in 1999 for his service to veterans and their families. He held a wealth of military history knowledge and, with a sharp mind, was a significant contributor to ANZAC House.”
Brigadier Rossi was predeceased by his wife Nan and two sons.
RIP Keith Vincent Rossi. AM. OBE. RFD ED (Ret’d). Born: 13 October 1921. Died: 20 January 2016