Deputy commander of 3rd Brigade, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Sanders, speaks with media at Lavarack Barracks about the platoon of soldiers on standby for deployment to Vanuatu for disaster recovery efforts.
Deputy commander of 3rd Brigade, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Sanders, speaks with media at Lavarack Barracks about the platoon of soldiers on standby for deployment to Vanuatu for disaster recovery efforts.

Tributes flow for former CO and ‘top bloke’

A FORMER commanding officer of a Townsville unit has been remembered as an intelligent and caring man and leader.

Former CO of the Townsville based 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment Colonel Robert Andrew Sanders died at the age of 45. His funeral was held in Canberra at the Royal Military College Duntroon chapel on October 29 this year.

Tributes flowed on social media in various army groups for the colonel who was well respected and loved by former colleagues and soldiers under his command.

Many described him as a "top bloke" with a sharp sense of humour.

"I've had many COs in my career and I will always put Rob as my number one," a former unit member wrote.

"Rob had my back and supported me 100 per cent. He did that for every one of his soldiers.

"His name is often brought up in conversation still."

As his coffin was carried out of the chapel at the end of his funeral, the song Ice Ice Baby was played.

Col Sanders who was CO in 2012-13, helped lead a recovery effort in the Philippines that same year after the devastating typhoon Haiyan hit.

About 120 Townsville personnel departed on the HMAS Tobruk.

Close family friend Catherine Bassingthwaighte described Col Sanders as having a "commanding presence".

"He was always about others, always thinking of others, helping those in need and generally checking in on you. It was never about him," she said. "He also had a wicked sense of humour and dry, oh so dry! In the relaxed company of friends he would come out with classic one liners and we would be in tears of laughter!

"He was also a proud and loving family man.

"He loved Gail and adored Matty, and they were a great team. In our busy lives, he made time to spend quality time with both Gail and Matty, and treasured those times, be it washing the cars with Matty (a weekend ritual), playing computer games with Matty, or going for bike trips with Gail (something they were enjoying recently) or dinner and movies."

Col Sanders is survived by his wife Gail and son Matthew Sanders.


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