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The funeral of Private Russell Bosisto, Courcelette Commonwealth Cemetery, France, 5 July 1998: address.

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5 JULY 1998

More than a century has passed since Russell Bosisto was born.

For longer than most of us will aspire to live, he has lain alone with his glory, cradled in the rich French soil he died to defend.

Despite the passage of time,

we come here to bury this boy.

We come as understudies from another time, another world, to mourn the tragedy of young life lost.

We stand in the place of all those that knew and loved Russell and say the farewell to a son, a brother, a mate they were never able to say.

He was a fine young man.

The kind of son parents watch grow into manhood with a mixture of pride and disbelief at the wonder of their own creation.

We know he stood just under six foot tall, and had met the strict medical enlistment standards.

Clear skin, blue eyes described in contemporary records as being particularly bright,

eyes full of laughter, sometimes full of mischief.

And yet, I suspect that Russell hid a sensitivity behind the bluff self assurance that was the trademark of his kind. Although only 22, his black hair had begun to turn grey since his arrival on the Western Front.

He would have had the easy gait of a man at peace with himself and those around him for Russell felt he and his mates were the equal of any man.

And who would say they were wrong ?

They judged a man’s worth not by his birth, or his rank or race but by his own actions, by his capacity for courage and compassion.

Like his colleagues, he scorned discipline except where it mattered - on the battlefield when your mates depended on you.

He carried with him memories of a loving home in South Australia. His mother and father, Annie and Ernest clearly adored him. The only son amongst five girls, no doubt both a torment and a hero to his sisters.

After school in North Adelaide, as war clouds gathered half a world away, he began to learn a trade, as a baker.

Russell was never lost to the family that loved him.

At first, with the stubborn unshakeable faith of parental love, they refused to believe that he could really be gone.

In a sad and moving letter to the Red Cross seven months after his reported death, Annie Bosisto wrote that she had reason to believe her son was still alive - either somewhere unable to write or suffering from loss of memory.

Its heart wrenching postscript offered to pay the cost of the telegram if they discovered news of him alive.

And when the inevitable had to be faced, Russell’s memory was never far from those that loved him.

His photo, a young man in uniform, forever unchanged, became a family treasure.

His army mates, who called him Boss, would have missed him too although they had many to mourn after the attack on Pozieres.

So many dead, so many wounded.

They had all been through such times together. Enlistment at Adelaide, basic training at Oaklands. Entry into the 27 th Battalion, proudly South Australian. The sea voyage to exotic Egypt, the first experience of overseas travel for most of them.

And then launched in September 1915 against the Turks at Gallipoli, eager to prove themselves.

And that they did until ordered one dark night in December to the beach and the transports waiting to take them off.

After the barren slopes and scrub filled gullies of Gallipoli, Russell would have marvelled at the beauty of France in springtime. He and his battalion, cheered as they marched through Marseilles, must have felt that here was a country and a people worth fighting for.

They had the chance to do so in sight of this very cemetery. In their first major action on the Western front, the 27 th and West Australia’s 28 th Battalion flung themselves at a German strongpoint, built within a windmill and sited on the heights commanding the surrounding countryside.

Russell died in that charge.

Clarry Eglington, also a member of ‘A’ Company and destined to die himself within a year, recorded that Russell was only about 30 feet away when a German shell killed him, in his words, ‘straight out’.

And so he died.

A proud Australian Digger.

A beloved son and brother.

A young man who gave his future for each of us.

As we lay him to rest beside 9 mates, killed on the same day, in the same action, words written by warrior poet, Seigfried Sassoon, in 1916 - the year of Russell’s death - sum up all I would wish him to hear :-

I quote -

‘Yet, though my dreams that throng the darkened stair

Can bring me no report of how you fare,

Safe quit of wars, I speed you on your way

up lonely, glimmering fields to fin d new day.’

Godspeed, Russell Bosisto.

May You Rest In Peace.