ANZAC Legends: Stanley Bisset

Wed, 21/04/2021, 06:00 am
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
Victorian Wallabies George Pearson, Andrew Barr, Macquarie Carpenter and Stanley Bisset (right)

Ahead of ANZAC Round, Rugby.com.au along with Honorary Statistician Matthew Alvarez has taken a look back at the incredible efforts by Wallabies who served. Today, we look at Stanley Bisset

Once thought to be the oldest living Wallaby at one time, Stanley Bisset’s battering playing style and baritone voice was a standout wherever he went.

Bisset was one of the four Victorians, Andy Barr, Max Carpenter and George Pearson, to be picked for the Wallaby team to the British Isles in 1939. As alluded to in our piece on Barr, this was the team that never played a game in England since war was called soon after their arrival.

Like Barr, A major change in Stan's life was when he was invited to join the Lord Somers Camp and Power House organisation.

In 1937 Stan was re-elected as Captain of the Power House Rugby Club for the third year and he would alternate from number eight to the second row.

During this year, he played for Victoria and an Australian XV against the touring Springboks, receiving rave reviews from legendary international Syd King despite the thrashing.

At the time, in 1939, the Power House formed its own military training unit, the 14th Militia Battalion, and Stan and his brother 'Butch’ signed up as privates and were trained in all aspects of war.

During this period, he had pushed up his weight to 91 kilograms and he was absolutely thrilled when his name was read out and he was selected for the ten-month Wallabies tour.

Australian team photograph on board ship to United Kingdom
Australian team photograph on board ship to United Kingdom

In late July that year, the team boarded the Mooltan for the tour and during the way over, Barr, who had taken his accordion with him, and Stan entertained the squad and passengers with their musical abilities, with everyone particularly taken aback by Stan's baritone voice.

The team management asked them to compose a team song on the way over, however, the song never saw the light of day.

War broke out almost the day the Wallabies landed and Stan and Andy Barr among others discussed joining up immediately.

However, the team, apart from the captain, was told by the manager that they should return home.

Instead of line-out and scrums, their time was spent filling sandbags until their voyage home to Australia was arranged on the Strathaird.

As Peter put it: “They spent two weeks at Torquay filling sandbags to place around the hotel and then travelled to London for the last week. Anti-aircraft balloons floated over the city and sandbags bolstered walls and stairways. The city was blacked out and everyone was carrying a gas mask.”

Donaldson does away with the tee to slot the drop goal conversion

They were all honored at Buckingham Palace by the King and Queen before departing as Stan was introduced as the choir leader and singer of the team.

In Bombay, a match was hastily arranged so that players could say they had played for Australia. That was Stan's sole game for Australia.

The disappointment over missing the world tour seemed to have an effect on Stan as he was disorientated for a time but when brother Butch joined up, so did Stan a few weeks later, as a private in the 2/14th Battalion of the AIF.

At the Kokoda track, they battled against the Japanese, forcing them back. It was here that his brother Butch, unfortunately, died in his arms.

They would then fight in the bloody beaches of Gona, with Stan being one of the few who came out alive.

Stan was awarded the Military Cross for his general leadership and courage at Gona, as well as during the Ramu and Markham River actions.

When he was 86, he was honored by the ARU and was thought to be the oldest living Wallaby, although it really belonged to Gordon Stone at the time.

He was capped and in acceptance sang his battalion's song, in a beautiful baritone voice as if he was touring once again.

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