ON THURSDAY, Manilla will pay tribute to the first veteran buried in the town’s cemetery, 100 years to the day since he was laid to rest.
Driver Clifford ‘Cliff’ Hayden was a fresh-faced 23-year-old when he signed up to the Australian 1st Light Horse in July, 1914. Less than a year later, he was serving in Gallipoli and in the thick of the fighting.
While he survived the war and returned home in April 1918, he contracted double pneumonia and passed away in his hometown just three months later in July.
Drv Hayden’s funeral procession was the largest Manilla had ever seen – hundreds turned out, and he was escorted by 23 motor cars, 51 horse vehicles, several horsemen and cyclists, while a number of returned soldiers formed catafalque party.
The Last Post was sounded over his grave and six soldiers gave him a three-volley salute as he was lowered.
Manilla RSL sub-branch secretary Ian Bignall was not surprised by the huge turnout for Drv Hayden’s funeral.
“This was the first chance the town’s folks had the chance to bury one of their ex-servicemen,” Mr Bignall said.
“For four years, they held memorial services without the body because the soldiers were buried overseas. Cliff was the first – he even pre-dated the Boer War vets, who outlived him.
“They were clearly very proud of him. He’s got a huge headstone; it’s almost two metres of black granite. You can see it from all over the cemetery.”
The Manilla RSL sub-branch will hold a small wreath-laying service at 11am on Thursday, to mark the 100 years since Drv Hayden was laid to rest.
Mr Bignall said the public was welcome to come along and remember the ex-serviceman.
“It’s a legacy that all of Australia should never forget,” Mr Bignall said.
“We live the lives we do because of the sacrifice these people made.
“When you look into these stories, you realise they aren’t just names on a wall. They’re people like Cliff.
“He’s become a Manilla man again, someone to be remembered again and someone who won’t be forgotten.”