Eulogy for Stan Bisset

Twenty years ago, we were interviewing veterans for a documentary on Kokoda. When Stan Bisset appeared, I distinctly remember thinking: someone’s called central casting and they’ve ordered a hero!

Stan didn’t think he was a hero but he was a hero to me and I know he was a hero to many others here today.

Stan had star quality: that indefinable amalgam of physical presence and character that sets the remarkable ones apart. He was a sporting hero who blossomed into an authentic hero in the cauldron of war.

Stan was an elegant man who carried himself with grace. He was a gentleman in the true sense of the word: one of those rare individuals who had both style and substance. He showed respect to others … and in turn he received respect. He had, and he lived by, a deep sense of duty and honour. He was a natural leader.

He lived his life true to his principles … a man of courage - both physical and moral - of compassion, loyalty and selflessness. He inspired many of his own generation … and many of those that have followed.

I know that barely a day went by that Stan didn’t think about his beloved brother Butch. He was determined to lead his life well so that Butch’s sacrifice was not in vain.

I was proud to have had Stan as a mentor and a friend. I learned so much from him and I’ve admired so much about him. I loved the way he refused to concede an inch to Father Time ... how he fought to the end, showing the courage for which he was famed.

I remember a couple of years ago, when he had some lingering leg sores, Stan heard that the Brisbane Broncos’ players had used a hyperbaric chamber to hasten their recovery. Stan checked it out on the web and arranged for the department of veterans’ affairs to take him to Brisbane to follow the Broncos’ example. He cured his sores and then started a new exercise regime. He was 96 at the time.

Stan loved and was deeply proud of his children, Tom, Holly, Sally, Jim and Ros. His world revolved around his beloved Gloria. I thank you all for sharing your Stan with us.

For more than 60 years Stan was the lifeblood of his battalion association. He helped countless old comrades. He worked tirelessly to keep the Kokoda story alive. He was unfailingly generous with his time and his energy to all who found their way to his door, inspired by his part in the Kokoda legend.

Who could forget Stan singing … in his beautiful baritone voice … his battalion song “Spearhead of the Army”

Who else but Stan could inspire awe and admiration with lyrics like “we’re fistical, ballistical and very much militaristical. We’re the boys for the scraps, just look at the tilt of our caps … we’re even very definitely most belligerent chaps.” When Stan sang it, it roared like a battle anthem … a sacred hymn of praise to a band of a special men.

Stan now joins Butch … and so many of his mates who have gone before him … Phil Rhoden, Don Duffy, Chas Butler, Bob Dougherty, Teddy bBar, Maurie Taafe, Alan Avery, Charlie McCallum, Bruce Kingsbury, Ralph Honner, John Metson, Claude Nye, Lefty Langridge and so many, many more.

Australia is a better nation for having a man like Stan Bisset as one of her sons … and we’re all better people for having had Stan in our lives.

Like the spirit of Kokoda, Stan’s spirit will live on.

Godspeed old friend.