LSC&PH has had a long and storied connection with the ANZAC’s and the Australian Military. This year, we want to share a little of the story of the Bisset brothers.
Stan Bisset, alongside his brother Hal, was an integral part of the Power House Rugby Club in the 1930s. In 1939, Stan was poised to captain the Australian Rugby team on a tour of England. Merely one day after they disembarked from their 6-week sea voyage however, they turned around and headed home to Australia. World War 2 had been declared that morning, the 3rd of September 1939.
Instead of fifteen-a-side for 80 minutes stretches, Stan would enlist as a private in the global fight which would last six years and decimate millions of people.
Back at home, the 14th Militia Battalion – C Rifle Company was a training unit made up entirely of Power House members. In Stan’s words, “my older brother, Hal, had already joined. He was known throughout the battalion as Butch. We were both pretty good marksmen. We grew up mostly in Melbourne, but we spent a couple of years at Warrandyte in the Victorian countryside. We used to build rafts and raft down the Yarra River for miles and miles. We had .22 rifles and we learned to shoot a flame out at 25 metres. We could also shoot rabbits on the run”.
Stan and Butch first saw action together in the rugged mountains of Syria, Lebanon and Beirut before returning home in 1942.
Their next posting was at a place seared into Australian history and lore – Kokoda.
They were a part of the 2,500 strong Maroubra Force charged with relieving the few hundred soldiers standing on treacherous, muddy ground – between Australia and thousands of enemy troops.
For five months, the Kokoda Track was home to raging battles, loss of life and heartbreak. Butch was killed in action on the 29th August. He was in command of 35 men who held vital high ground for 4 days; repelling eleven front-on assaults, each of 100 men. While distributing hand-grenades to his men, Butch was mortally wounded by a burst of machine gun fire which caught him across the stomach.
It was hours before Stan heard what had happened and could find Butch.
“I sat with him for six hours. He was quite conscious at times. We talked about Mum and Dad, our good times and bad times, what we did as kids. I sat with him until about 4am, when he finally left us. We buried him beside the track.”
At our Somers Campsite, the honour board which rests high above our Mess Hut commemorates the scores of men who served in the Power House battalion and never made it home. Hal Bisset’s name among them and occupies a special place in the memories of many.
Stan was awarded the Military Cross for his efforts in Kokoda. Historian W B Russell reckons Stan earned his MC ‘several times over’; as a private who rose through the ranks to Captain with outstanding leadership and courage. When Stan passed on the 5th October 2010 aged 98 years, he was the oldest surviving Wallaby Rugby international.
In 2020, LSC&PH will commemorate ANZAC Day with a traditional ANZAC eve service – held online to adapt to our current situation.