Review: Stan Bisset: Kokoda Wallaby


THERE has been much written about the heroes of the Kokoda Track, but there would be few who could tell the story that Stan Bisset had to tell.

Bisset was a Victorian who through determination and drive won the highest accolade in Australian rugby union - he was named in a touring Wallaby squad.

Sadly, his team arrived in England in late 1939 just as the "phoney war" prior to the Battle of Britain was at its height.

The tour was cancelled and the team set sail back to Australia, playing a game against South Africa on the way. The game was later declared a "Test" and the members of the touring party could claim the Wallaby tag.

The Wallaby tour was an adventure of a lifetime and Stan's selection was all the more commendable as the game was overshadowed in Victoria by Australian Rules football.

The Victorians had to fight hard to win a spot in the Australian squad.

After the Second World War, the game failed to recover and the significance and strength of rugby union in Victoria ended.

Bisset's story of course doesn't end with a failed Wallaby tour.

Back in Australia, he joined the army and headed to the Middle East with crack Australian army divisions taking on the Italians, Germans and Vichy French.

Stan ended up in Lebanon and Palestine chasing the French in a little known chapter of the Second World War.

Stan and his mates were then sent to New Guinea where the Japanese had landed near Kokoda.

The Japanese push was unstoppable and the AIF and militia units fought a strategic fighting withdrawal along the track. It was in one of these skirmishes that Stan's brother Hal was mortally wounded.

Andrew James, himself a former soldier, has produced a well written account of a remarkable story. It is a tale of how a man could overcome the disappointments and adversities that life threw at him and carry on without complaint.

Stan Bisset is a great example to all Australians. As the publisher rightly says, "This is a truly inspiring book that crosses generations."

Topics:  book review

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