Rear Admiral John Arthur Basil Cotsell

John Cotsell was born in Leigh-on-Sea, England on 19 May 1916. He completed his medical training at Kings College Hospital, London in 1939 and then worked there, and at Horton War Hospital at Epsom, until joining the Royal Navy in August 1942 as a Surgeon Lieutenant, RNVR. His first ship was the elderly destroyer HMS Burwell operating in the Atlantic Ocean on convoy escort duties during 1942-43. He then spent a year at HMS Gladwell the Royal Naval Air Station in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

In 1944 he joined the aircraft carrier HMS Indefatigable and served in her during the ships deployment as part of the British Pacific Fleet. He was on board when she was struck by a kamikaze aircraft on 1 April 1945, near Taiwan, with 30 personnel killed and many more wounded. Following the Japanese surrender in September 1945, Surgeon Lieutenant Cotsell was based at Nagasaki and involved in the repatriation of Allied Prisoners of War. He was demobilised from the Royal Navy in mid-1946, and returned to Kings College Hospital but in 1947 took up a private practice as a general practitioner, in Hinchley Wood, London.

John Cotsell joined the RAN as a Surgeon Lieutenant from the United Kingdom on 17 February 1951. He, his wife Pat, and children emigrated to Australia and Cotsell took up his first posting to the Sydney shore depot HMAS Rushcutter in mid-1951. His promotion to Surgeon Lieutenant Commander was later back-dated to June 1951. During his time at Rushcutter he also served briefly in the cruiser Australia and the destroyer Tobruk. In January 1954 he joined the cruiser Australia as an Acting Surgeon Commander for her final year of service. During his time on board the cruiser escorted the royal yacht HMY Gothic with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II embarked.

Australia was decommissioned in September 1954 and Cotsell was briefly appointed to the shore depot HMAS Penguin for the remainder of 1954. In early 1955 he joined Navy Office in Melbourne as the deputy to the Director of Naval Medicine Services (DNMS), Rear Admiral Dennis Pritchard. However, Pritchard died in March of that year and Surgeon Captain Lionel Lockwood became DNMS. In 1956 Cotsell was appointed Honorary Surgeon to his Excellency the Governor-General. After two years in Navy Office, John Cotsell returned to sea, still as an Acting Surgeon Commander, in the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne with deployments to New Zealand and Southeast Asia in 1957 and Southeast Asia and Pearl Harbor in 1958. He departed the carrier in early 1959 and joined HMAS Penguin as a Surgeon Commander and worked at Balmoral Naval Hospital.

John Cotsell was promoted Surgeon Captain at the end of 1962, and appointed to HMAS Cerberus in early 1963 as the Medical Officer in Charge (MOIC) of the hospital. This was a position of some significance with well over 1500 personnel serving at Cerberus during this period and the need for high quality medical care for staff and trainees alike. He returned to Penguin in late 1967 as MOIC of Balmoral Naval Hospital and also as the command medical officer for the Eastern Australian Area. In 1967 he was also appointed as an Honorary Physician to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. While serving at Penguin he was chairman of the Medical Stores Committee that oversaw the complete revision and update of all medical stores for emergency kits for resuscitation, emergency operating spaces, burns packs, transfusion packs and submarine disasters.

In 1970 he was appointed to the staff of the Medical Director General (Rear Admiral Coplans). The RAN Medical Division of Navy Office still resided in Melbourne and did so until 1976. He was promoted Surgeon Commodore in 1971, became the Medical Director General and was subsequently promoted Surgeon Rear Admiral on 31 October 1972. In 1975 his title was changed to Director General Naval Health Services. Rear Admiral Cotsell was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in January 1976 for service to the medical branch of the Royal Australian Navy and retired in May of that year.

Rear Admiral John Cotsell passed away in Canberra on 16 November 2006.