Russell George BOSISTO

Poppy

BOSISTO, Russell George

Service Number: 1038
Enlisted: 15 March 1915, Beachport, South Australia
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 27th Infantry Battalion
Born: Hindmarsh, South Australia, 18 April 1893
Home Town: Hindmarsh, Charles Sturt, South Australia
Schooling: North Adelaide School
Occupation: Baker
Died: Killed in Action (during the capture of the Windmill, Pozieres), Pozieres, Picardie, France, 4 August 1916, aged 23 years
Cemetery: Courcelette British Cemetery
III. G. 29. Russell was listed as 'Missing in Action'. His remains lay in the soil of the slopes around the Windmill for 82 years, until disturbed by a farmer's plough in January 1998. Russell was afforded a military funeral to re-inter his remains at Courcellette Cemetery on 5th July 1998. His name remains on the Wall of Remembrance at Villers Bretoneaux
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour, Beachport Honour Roll WW1*, National War Memorial (South Australia), Prospect HB01 Prospect Methodist Church WW1*, Villers-Bretonneux Memorial (Australian National Memorial - France)*
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World War 1 Service

15 Mar 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 1038, 27th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
15 Mar 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Beachport, South Australia
31 May 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, HMAT Geelong
12 Sep 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 1038, 27th Infantry Battalion, ANZAC Gallipoli
23 Jul 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 1038, 27th Infantry Battalion, Pozières

The Late Private R.G. Bosisto


"News has been received by Mr. and Mrs. E. M. Bosisto, of Dutton-terrace, Medindie, that their only son, Private R. G. Bosisto, who was previously reported missing, was killed in action in France on August 4. He was in his 23rd year, and left Adelaide on May 31, 1915. He spent 16 weeks on Gallipoli, and left for France in March last, where he served till his death." - from the Adelaide Chronicle 11 Nov 1916

Missing in Action - no longer

Russell Bosisto didn’t win a Victoria Cross or a Military Medal. But he did manage to achieve some sort of fame long after his death on the 4th August 1916, in the assault which captured the famed ‘Windmill’ at Pozieres.

Russell was listed as ‘Missing in Action’ for 82 years. One of the 18,000 Australians with no known grave, he was one of the names on the wall of the Australian National Memorial at Villers Bretonneaux.

At 9.00 p.m in the twighlight of 4th August, 1916, the 27th Battalion as apart of the 2nd Australian Division launched an attack astride the Albert-Bapaume Road, as part of the continued push to seize the high ground above Pozieres to secure the flanks for a subsequent drive to outflank the German positions at Thiepval.

The 27th Battalion was on the extreme left of this attack, north of the road, and between the road and the track to Courcelette. This was the part of the attack which was aimed at capturing the ruins of The Windmill atop the high ground north east of Pozieres, beneath which the Germans had built a very strong machine-gun position. In front of the windmill were the Germans' two lines of trenches.

It was during this attack that Russell Bosisto was cut down, most probably by shellfire from the German guns near Courcellette. He was close to the objective at the Windmill, but fate had intervened.

Russell's body was most likely buried by subsequent explosions. He was not found after the battle and was listed as "Missing in Action".

He remained so for 82 years until in January 1998, a farmer engaged in winter ploughing, felt his plough drag on something in the soil. Upon investigation, that something was the remains of a WW I soldier. Russell Bosisto was no longer missing.

This work written by Steve Larkins for the "Our Other ANZAC Day 08" tour by Military History Tours Pty Ltd

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"One of the Boys"


Russell's body was not found after the battle or after the war. It wasn’t until January 1998 that Russell’s fate was confirmed at last.

The farmer contacted the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and in a well-practiced process, they made arrangements for the remains to be removed and, if possible identified.

Identification was easy, because Russell's remains were found intact with all of equipment and personal possessions. He was not blown to pieces by artillery fire like many of his colleagues. It is not known how he died, although a rent in his waterbottle suggests an artillery shell splinter may have cut him down. He may well have been buried by the shell that killed him or by subsequent shells falling nearby.

There was his rifle, bayonet fixed with a round of ammunition ‘up the spout’ and more in the magazine. Hand grenades, his ammunition bandolier, the remains of his pipe, his gas-mask, perished except for the glass eye-pieces, his penknife and a razor were all there. His ‘hook quillion’ bayonet marked him as a Gallipoli veteran.

There was even the remains of his fountain pen with which he wrote letters to his family, which are themselves still in possession of his descendants.

Most important of all there were his identity discs - still legible. They were not service issue discs but specially made and engraved and given to him by his family.

There was also some evidence that Russell was "one of the boys", who liked a good time and who knew how to go about having one. A quick glance at his service record confirmed that he probably spent a bit of time 'on the mat'.

He had in his hip pocket the rank insignia of a lieutenant. His conduct sheet shows more than the odd entry relating to being AWOL. He was “a bit of a lad” it seems and from the occasional remark in some of his letters home there is speculation that he may have ‘put up’ the badges of rank to impress the girls or get a ‘foot in the door’ to premises not otherwise accessible to ‘enlisted men’.

But that was in 1916. In 1998, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission was ready to change the lives of Russell's surviving relatives for ever, by telling them that their great uncle's body had been found by a French farmer preparing his fields for sowing.

On the 5th July 1998, Russell Bosisto’s remains were interred alongside nine other 27 Bn soldiers killed in the same attack, by an Australian Army Honour Guard from Adelaide’s Army Reserve 10th / 27th Battalion.

He rests in Courcellette cemetery, with direct line of sight to the remains of the Windmill.

Russell’s equipment and effects are now on display in the Army Museum of South Australia at Keswick Barracks Adelaide. Visit there sometime and pause to reflect on the life and times of Russell Bosisto, “one of the boys".

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Biography contributed by Kadina Memorial School

Private Russell George Bosisto, was born on the 18th August 1893 in Hindmarsh, South Australia. He and his family then later moved to Dutton Terrace, Medindie, South Australia. Russell's parents were Ernest and Annie Bosisto and he was the second child of five sisters, Gertrude, Dorothy, Evelyn, Marjory and Flora. Russell went to North Adelaide Public School for all of his schooling. When he finished school he got a job as a baker.

At the age of 21 and still employed as a baker, Russell enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Keswick Barracks on the 15th of March 1915. He was posted to "A" Company of the 27th Battalion in the Second Division.

The battalion embarked from Adelaide aboard HMAT Geelong on 31st of May, 1915, heading for Egypt. The first men to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) were sent not to Europe, as they had expected, but to Egypt for further training and to protect British interests in the Middle East and the Suez Canal.

On the 12th of September 1915, Russell's Battalion landed in Gallipoli. He served in a supporting role. At Gallipoli, the 7th Brigade, which included the 27th Battalion, reinforced the weary New Zealand and Australian Division. The 27th had a relatively quiet time at Gallipoli and the battalion departed the peninsula in December, having suffered only light casualties. They were evacuated and moved back to Egypt.

In late March 1916 Bosisto’s battalion then proceeded to France where he was to experience the frontline trenches for the first time. The battalion took part in its first major battle at Pozières between 28 July and 5 August. After a spell in a quieter sector of the front in Belgium, the 2nd Division returned to the south in October. The 27th Battalion took part in two attacks to the east of Flers in the Somme Valley, both of which floundered in the mud.

On the 12th August 1916 Bosisto was reported missing in action from the 4th of August. On 14 October this was revised to killed in action. He had died while fighting at Pozières. Until his body was found his name was put on the Villers-Bretonneux, France. That is where all soldiers that were killed in action, had their names as a memorial. 82 years later in 1988, a farmer was ploughing his paddock and uncovered the remains of Private Russell Bosisto. On the 5th of July 1988 Russell was awarded a full military funeral to re-inter his remains at Courcellette Cemetery.

Russell was awarded the 1914–15 Star which was authorised in 1918 and was awarded for service in specified theatres of war between 5 August 1914 and 31 December 1915. He was also awarded the British War Medal for entering theatres of war during specified periods or left places of residence and rendered approved service overseas. Finally the Victory Medal was authorised in 1919 to commemorate the victory of the Allied Forces over the Central Powers. Each of the Allied nations issued a ‘Victory Medal’ to their own nationals. Each nation used the standard ribbon but used different designs on the medal to reflect national identity and custom. Australians were awarded the medal issued by Great Britain. 

By Lachlan Jones

Year 9 student, Kadina Memorial School (2016)

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau, 2014-18, Russell George Bosisto, retrieved 23/6/16, https://sarcib.ww1.collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/story/russell-george-bosisto#https://sarcib.ww1.collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/sites/default/files/SRG76_1_1775_3.jpg

RSL Virtual War Memorial, Russell George Bosisto, retrieved 23/6/16, https://rslvirtualwarmemorial.org.au/explore/people/1039


UNSW Australia, The AIF Project, 2004-16, Russell George Bosisto, retrieved 23/6/16, https://www.aif.adfa.edu.au/showPerson?pid=27397

Australian Government, Department of Defence, Defence Honours and Awards, imperial awards, retrieved 23/6/16, defence.gov.au

Australian War Memorial. 2016. Australian War Memorial. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.awm.gov.au/unit/U51467/. [Accessed 23 June 2016].

 

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Biography

Russell George Bosisto

Russell George Bosisto was born on 18th April, 1893 at Hindmarsh, South Australia, the second child and only son of Ernest and Annie Bosisto. His five sisters were Gertrude, Dorothy, Evelyn, Marjory and Flora. The family later moved to Medindie, a suburb of Adelaide.

Russell was 21 years old and employed as a baker when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Keswick Barracks on 15th March, 1915.

He enlisted under an alias as "George Russell". His subterfuge didn't last long and the record was corrected before he embarked for overseas service. He was posted to "A" Company of the 27th Battalion in the Second Division and served in Egypt and then Gallipoli where the 27th Battalion landed on the 12th September 1915 to take part in the waning stages ofthe cmpaign.  Russell and his comrades returned to Egypt in December 1915 before arriving in France on 21st March, 1916.

After a long train trip (in cattle trucks) to the north of France, the 27th Battalion and the rest of the 2nd Division was cycled through a period around Fleurbaix and Fromelles in northern France, known as "The Nursery".  In june 1916, the Second Division headed south for the great Somme Offensive.

And so it was that Russell Bosisto found himslef in the ruins of a village called Pozieres.

His letters and what effects the family had were passed down through his sister’s families, and they provide a fascinating insight into the life of Russell Bosisto, ‘one of the boys’ an average knock-about bloke who formed the backbone of the Anzac force.

Russell had confided to his father in a letter that he requested not be read to the rest of the family as was normally the practice. In the letter he told his father that France was much worse than Gallipoli. It was written shortly before his death, presumably during the early fighting around Pozieres.

Russell said that they couldn’t get forward and that retreat wasn’t an option. He felt that he would not survive. Russell’s dark hair was said to have turned white during the course of the Pozieres campaign. He asked his father to prepare the family for what might happen. Then Russell disappeared.

As CEW Bean so famously cited, Australians fell more thickly around Pozieres than in any other battlefield anywhere in the world – and among them was Pte. Russell Bosisto of A Company 27 Bn AIF.

He was one of many who had come from the other side of the world, to die an unknown death near a small village ‘Somewhere in France’. It is said his father never recovered from the grief of his son’s loss.

 

Steve Larkins was the Honour Guard Commander from the 10th /27th Battalion which reinterred Russell Bosisto's remains on 5th July 1998.

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