John Cantwell (general)

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John Patrick Cantwell
Major-General John Cantwell.jpg
Major General John Cantwell on 25 April 2012
Born (1956-10-09) 9 October 1956 (age 60)
Ipswich, Queensland
Allegiance Australia
Service/branch Australian Army
Years of service 1974–2012
Rank Major General
Commands held Joint Task Force 633 (2010–11)
Deputy Chief of Army (2007–08)
1st Brigade (2004–05)
Royal Military College, Duntroon (1996)
Battles/wars Gulf War
Iraq War
War in Afghanistan
Awards Officer of the Order of Australia
Distinguished Service Cross
Officer of the Legion of Merit (United States)

Major General John Patrick Cantwell, AO, DSC (born 9 October 1956) is a retired senior Australian Army officer.

Early life[edit]

Cantwell was born in Ipswich, Queensland, on 9 October 1956 to Cecily Mary (née McInnerney) and Daniel Cantwell. Growing up in Toowoomba, he was educated at Downlands College and St. Mary's College.[1]

Military career[edit]

Cantwell was a member of the Australian Army Cadets prior to joining the Australian Army in 1974 as a regular soldier with the rank of private.

He attended officer training at Officer Cadet School, Portsea in 1981, and was commissioned into the Royal Australian Armoured Corps.[2] As a major, Cantwell commanded A Sqn 4/7RDG, a British tank squadron as an exchange officer with the British in Germany. As a result of that posting, he served in Operation Desert Storm with the Coalition forces in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait (1990–1991).[3]

Cantwell was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 1989 in recognition of service to the Australian Army as Adjutant of the Armoured Centre.

In August 1996 Cantwell became Commanding Officer and Chief Instructor at the Royal Military College, Duntroon. In January 1999 he took up an appointment as an instructor at the British Joint Services Command and Staff College in the United Kingdom, returning to Australia as the Director of the Force Development Group, Land Warfare Development Centre, on promotion to colonel in December 2000.

Cantwell was promoted to brigadier in January 2003, and appointed Director General of Capability and Plans in Australian Defence Headquarters. Following command of the 1st Brigade (2004–2005), in early 2006 he deployed to Iraq as the Director Strategic Operations, Headquarters Multi National Forces Iraq. He was promoted in the field to the rank of major general on 4 December 2006, the first time in 60 years that an Australian was promoted to major general while on operations. He was promoted by General George W. Casey Jr. and Major General David Fastabend of the United States Army. During this ceremony he was also appointed an Officer of the Legion of Merit.[4] He assumed the appointment of Deputy Chief of Army on 29 January 2007.

Cantwell was advanced to Officer of the Order of Australia in 2007 for distinguished service as the Director of Strategic Operations for the Multi-National Force – Iraq.

In February 2008 Cantwell was selected by then Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, to be the senior military member of the team working on a new Defence White Paper,[5] the paramount Australian security and defence policy document commissioned by the Australian Government.

Following the Victorian bushfires disaster of 7 February 2009, Cantwell was attached to the Office of the Premier of Victoria as the Interim Head (and later, Chief of Operations) of the Victorian Bushfires Reconstruction and Recovery Authority[6] responsible for coordinating all Commonwealth, State and non-government efforts to recover from the effects of the fires.

In 2010 he served a twelve-month tour as Commander of Australian Forces in the Middle East Area of Operations (Joint Task Force 633). As a result of Cantwell's "inspired leadership, deep commitment to his people and superior performance on operations" in the Middle East, he was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross in the 2012 Australia Day Honours List, for distinguished command and leadership in action as the Commander Joint Task Force 633 on Operations SLIPPER and KRUGER.[7] He retired from the Australian Army on 7 February 2012 after 38 years of service.

Later life[edit]

Cantwell and his wife Jane, who met while she was also serving in the Australian Army, moved to the Sunshine Coast, Queensland in September 2011 before he announced his retirement from the Australian Army in February 2012.[8]

Cantwell is an occasional television commentator on military affairs and contributes articles to various newspapers and magazines in Australia. He is a nationally recognised advocate for better mental health care for Australian veterans, and is Patron or Ambassador of several organisations promoting veterans' mental health.[citation needed]

He has published two books: Exit Wounds: One Australian's War On Terror (Melbourne University Press, 2012); and Leadership in Action (Melbourne University Press, 2015).


  1. ^ "Major General John Patrick Cantwell". Who's Who in Australia Online. ConnectWeb. Retrieved 3 August 2014. 
  2. ^ "Major General John Cantwell Biography". Department of Defence. Archived from the original on 8 September 2014. Retrieved 30 December 2012. 
  3. ^ Horner 2011, p. 425.
  4. ^ "Maj-Gen rises to occasion". Army – The Soldiers Newspaper. Retrieved 7 October 2012. 
  5. ^ Defence White Paper, 2008,
  6. ^ Victorian Bushfires Reconstruction and Recovery Authority Archived 30 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine.,
  7. ^ "Distinguished Service Cross (DSC)" (PDF). Australia Day 2012 Honours Lists. Website of the Governor-General of Australia. Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  8. ^ "Past Issues 2012" (URL). Community News Paper. Cooroy Rag. Retrieved 11 March 2012. 


External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Major General Mark Kelly
Commander Joint Task Force 633
Succeeded by
Major General Angus Campbell
Preceded by
Major General Ian Gordon
Deputy Chief of Army
Succeeded by
Major General David Morrison