Members from the Castle Hill RSL Pipe Band have paid a musical tribute to local Hills brothers and World War One soldiers, Arthur and William Russell, ahead of the Centenary of Armistice commemoration at Bella Vista Farm on Sunday November 11.
The musicians have returned home to Australia after touring the Western Front – one of the most important battlegrounds during WWI – as part of the Combined RSL Centenary of ANZAC Pipes and Drums Band.
As part of the tour, the band performed a Last Post Service at the Menin Gate in Ieper, Belgium and held services at Tyne Cot Cemetery, also in Belgium, and High Tree Cemetery, in France.
They also paid tribute to the Russell siblings’, visiting their individual grave sites.
Chairman of the Combined RSL Centenary of ANZAC Pipes and Drums Band and Patron of the Castle Hill RSL Pipe Band, Dave Wood said the local band wanted to show their respects to the Russell brothers.
“We found the grave of Arthur Russell, who after 95 years was found in a massed grave and after DNA testing, he was reinterred in the Pheasant Wood Cemetery [in Fromelles in France],” Mr Wood said.
“The members of Castle Hill RSL Pipe Band supported and paid homage. Piper Jodie Macgregor played the Lament and she was supported by John Tate, the drum sergeant and bass drummer Max Gribble.
“I recited The Ode, and the wives and mothers of some of the band members placed the Australian flag on 10 graves, including Arthur Russell and nine other recently discovered and identified Australian soldiers,” Mr Wood added.
Days after paying their respects to Arthur, the band travelled to the Menin Gate to pay their respects to William.
“The Castle Hill RSL Band Members located Sergeant William Russell’s name under the 54th Battalion AIF Missing in Action List and we held a service and placed a poppy beside his name on the plaque,” Mr Wood said.
Mr Wood said the Russell brothers were enlisted in the 1st Battalion, 13th Reinforcement, and were sent to the Battle of Fromelles on 20 December 1915.
“Arthur died in Battle of Fromelles at the age of 20. However, his brother William was wounded and evacuated to England to recover,” Mr Wood said.
“He then re-joined his battalion in France in the Somme Valley. On the eve of the Battle of Polygon Wood in September 1917, William was killed in action.”
In memory of the brothers, a local park in Rouse Hill, called Russell Reserve, was named in their honour.
To add to the commemorations, the Castle Hill RSL Pipe Band will perform on Sunday as part of the Centenary of Armistice celebrations at Bella Vista Farm.
They will join a mass gathering of pipers as part of an international commemoration which will see 1000 lone pipers playing at sites around the UK at 6am, joined at the same time from pipers from around the world – all playing the traditional 19th century battle retreat song composed by Pipe Major William Robb.
At Bella Vista, pipers and drummers from Castle Hill RSL Pipe Band will be joined by pipers and drummers from the Parramatta RSL Caledonian Pipe Band, the Hills District Pipe Band and members from The Combined RSL Centenary of ANZAC Pipes & Drums.
The time has been chosen to mark the exact time (Greenwich Mean Time) when the Armistice of Compiegne was actually signed, signalling the end of the WWI. The 11am minute’s silence marks when it came into force.
Families are urged to come and join the free event and be a part of history.
To add to the day’s events, the Lancer Band (Regimental Band of the 1st/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers) will perform until 6.30pm when MC Gareth McCray will take to the stage.
There will be a presentation by the 16 young Centenary of ANZAC Ambassadors who will present the stories of Victoria Cross recipients.
Mr McCray will then read a speech by the then Prime Minister Billy Hughes at end of the Great War.
This will be followed by a performance from the Castle Hill RSL Youth Wind Orchestra who will play Tchaikovsky’s famous 1812 Overture accompanied by the Australian Army’s “big guns”.
The event is free, but it is advised to book your ticket in advance so that numbers can be catered for.