John RussellBorn:              9 April 1918
Enlisted:       13 June 1940
Died:             22 January 1942
Rank:            Lance Sergeant,  2/22 AIF

John Russell was born in 1918, the oldest of three children.  His sister, Nancy was born in 1919 and his younger brother Robert in 1920.

They were an extremely close and loving family. Jack (as he was known) was educated at Essendon Grammar and became an analytical chemist.  This was a reserved occupation and he could have avoided army service, but felt it was his duty to defend Australia.  He married Wilma, nee Halling in 1940.

He trained at Balcome, Trawool, then Bonegilla before arriving at Rabaul.  The posting to Rabaul was considered to be a garrison appointment and [it was believed that] the preparations for actual war, as far as the Australian Government was concerned, were limited.

He wrote weekly letters. They were well expressed and showed a protective nature, often writing with humour so the family wouldn’t worry.

“It’s not the best life in the world this soldiering business.  Still the job’s here and here we stay to do it…”

Sergeant Jack Russell was in charge of a Mortar Section at Praed Point which was heavily bombed by Japanese aircraft the day before Rabaul fell. The final raid before the invasion was on 22 January 1942 at about 7.30 in the morning.  During this last massive attack John and Lance Corporal Thomas Pilkington of A Coy and from Middle Park, were the first soldiers of the battalion to die.

Differing accounts exist as to whether John was formally buried by Padre May, or John’s platoon commander.  John’s father, William Russell wrote a poem that expresses the pain he must have felt, especially knowing he had another son in that same battalion (who was to eventually perish on the Montevideo Maru.)

Farewell Son
Peace be yours now duty’s done,
Son of Mine.

Rest in peace

Forgive me that I wish you here,
But you will know and understand
You were too dear for me to let you go
Nor shed a tear, nor shake a hand
And see you on your way.

Farewell son
Farewell son and brother.

(Farewell Dad, I am with God:
Walk with Him too, and know we walk together)

By William Russell

A Memorial Window was erected at the Aberfeldie Methodist Church in 1948 and a cross in memory of the two brothers was donated to the little chapel in the Methodist Church at Rabaul in 1953.