Anzac Day 2018: Manilla honours veterans with flags installed on headstones

MARKED: The Manilla RSL Sub-branch has commemorated graves of ex-service people with Australian flags ahead of Anzac Day. Photo: Gareth Gardner 230418GGC001
MARKED: The Manilla RSL Sub-branch has commemorated graves of ex-service people with Australian flags ahead of Anzac Day. Photo: Gareth Gardner 230418GGC001

THE footprint of war in the nation’s small towns has been laid bare for close to a century.

Columns, cenotaphs, obelisks and gates stand solemn and stark in nearly every postcode, a reminder set in stone proclaiming the sacrifice of service.

The names listed might only be particularly poignant to their modern-day descendants; but, wittingly or not, the soldiers listed on your town’s monument subsequently shaped a legend historians have recently deemed more “culturally powerful” than Easter or Christmas to Australians.

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Recently, the Manilla RSL Sub-branch set about installing a small Australian flag on the headstones of ex-service people in the town’s cemetery.

It’s part of the nation-wide initiative, Honour Our Fallen, which has aimed to “ensure a flag is erected each Anzac Day from 2018, on every grave or memorial plaque in Australia to honour those who have served their country”.

Manilla RSL secretary Ian Bignall fashioned holders for the headstones and added the flags on the weekend.

He paused after he installed the 200-plus flags at the cemetery and said it illustrated the footprint of war, particularly in small towns.

He said 290 from Manilla went off to WWI. According to the town clock, in the main street, the town’s population in 1901 was only 780.

Among the graves commemorated was Cliff Hayden, who Mr Bignall said was the first Manilla-man to leave for WWI.

The young man served at Gallipoli and on the Western Front and returned home, wounded in 1917.

While Hayden escaped WWI with his life, he was subsequently felled by pneumonia on July 19, 1918 and buried in Manilla with a military funeral and 30-gun salute.

Mr Bignall said the sub-branch would hold a service, slightly more subdued than the original funeral, with the laying of wreath and sounding of the last post at Hayden’s grave to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his passing.

“He was a our first veteran buried in Manilla,” he said.

“It has been 100 years and it’s about going on and making sure it’s not forgotten.

“By remembering him, we’re remembering all that are buried there.”

Mr Bignall said the sub-branch would look to work with neighbouring towns, including Tamworth, Bendemeer, Somerton and Attunga, to carry out similar Honour Our Fallen projects.

Manilla will host an Anzac Day dawn service at the Memorial Hall, followed a march at 10.45am.

There will be a service at the Manilla Cemetery Cenotaph from noon with a luncheon planned at the service club from 1pm.

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