Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries
Military Heroes of the Forest

Author: Beth Robertson

As you take a leisurely walk through the serene grounds of Frenchs Forest Bushland Cemetery (FFBC), you'll discover that every resting soul beneath these tranquil canopies has a tale to share. Among them lie the silent heroes of our past – veterans who served their nation in times of conflict alongside their families who bore the weight of wartime hardships. With just a few Vietnam servicemen repatriated, this sacred ground holds the memories of many who became our 'Heroes of the Forest,' a theme continued in the Friends of Frenchs Forest Bushland Cemetery's military history tours.

Dedicated history enthusiasts Beth Robertson and Ross Downie have uncovered a treasure trove of captivating stories hidden within the crypts of the FFBC. While they understand that, for many in the community, the cemetery remains an unfamiliar ground, they are committed to inspiring everyone to embrace its intriguing past during Remembrance Day week.

Every war hero carries their own set of accomplishments, achievements, and unwavering patriotism, each holding a special place in history that will forever remain etched in our hearts. While there are countless stories to explore, today, we'll shine a spotlight on a select few.


COLE, Dr Alan Ernest DFM OAM, [1920-2001] Distinguished Flying Medal- RAAF WW2, BV.Sc, MACV.Sc. 

On Cole’s return to Australia, he served as a distinguished Veterinarian, teacher and Anglican Minister. In WW2, he and his war colleagues were wounded, having been hit by shrapnel while on the ground after his second plane crash. Being a qualified veterinarian and without medical instruments or anaesthetic available, he removed the metal fragments from all the wounded with a screwdriver. His OAM was awarded in 2007 for service to the community of Cardinia through environmental and aged care organisations. His Distinguished Flying Medal [DFM] was awarded on 13 August 1943 at 4 Squadron RAAF. When he returned, he was appointed to the Board of the Bendigo Bank. 

BOISSIER, Phyllis MBE Blog Tile

Image Credit: Our ANZAC Flags: Bayside | Mirage News

BOISSIER, Phyllis MBE [1886- 1976] 

Boissier trained as a nurse and joined WW1 nursing services and worked on ships on the beach at Gallipoli with little or no equipment or necessities for survival. Phyllis was one of many young nurses who held the hands of dying teenage soldiers stretchered off the battlefield. She was mentioned in despatches for her work in the war, earning an MBE and the King’s Jubilee Medal for her heroic role as Matron for the rest of her career in Australia at Manly and RPA Hospitals. She was the first female Justice of the Peace in New South Wales. 

TREVOR, Terry Blog Tile

Image Credit: Sole survivor of wartime execution mourned | Daily Telegraph

TREVOR, Terry [POW WW2] [1916-2016] 

When Mr Trevor enlisted in WW2 he was by early 1942 fighting the Japanese on the Malayan peninsula as part of the 2/30 Battalion. He was captured by Japanese soldiers as a Prisoner of War [POW], bound at the wrists and lined up in front of a firing squad with other Australian infantry men. Incredibly, none of the bullets struck Mr Trevor, but he was dragged to the ground by the men to whom he was bound. He shrewdly feigned death until he heard the Japanese leave. He escaped briefly but then was forced to work on the notorious Thai-Burma Railway. He lived locally until he was 99 years old. 

MURRAY, Major General John Joseph Blog Tile

Image Credit:  John Murray (Australian Army general) - Wikipedia

MURRAY, Major General John Joseph [1892-1951] DSO MC VD.

John was a WW1 officer, Brigade Commander at Tobruk WW2, Trade Commissioner to New Zealand [1946-1949] and Ceylon [1949+].  He served in both WW1 and WW2, fighting in the Battle of Fromelles when he was awarded the Military Cross for bravery. In WW1, John was also awarded the Distinguished Service Order [DSO]. He was twice mentioned in dispatches. In 1938, he joined the AIF in April and was appointed commander of the 20th Brigade, which sailed for the Middle East in October and trained in Palestine. After the successful withdrawal to Tobruk, the brigade repelled Rommel's attack on 14 April, a disastrous day for the Germans. For his leadership, Murray was awarded a Bar to his DSO.