A ceremony to install the correct gravestone of a former member of the AIF (Australian Imperial Force) will be held at the Walcha Catholic Cemetery tomorrow at 11am.
New England RSL District president Gordon Taylor said he hoped as many people as possible would attend the service, which will be addressed by the Member for New England Barnaby Joyce.
Sydney George Wortley died at his camp at Mainey’s Creek in Walcha on March 27, 1949, aged 64.
The Guyra Argus reported at the time that Mr Wortley’s body had been found in a reclining position near his hut after a search conducted by Sergeant Ashcroft and Constable Riordon.
It is thought he died while resting after a trip to Walcha for groceries.
At his burial, the coffin was draped with the Union Jack, and members of the Walcha Returned Services League (RSL) acted as pallbearers.
However, at some stage the headstone was incorrectly marked with the name Sydney Wattling. Nearly 70 years later this has now been corrected thanks to a distant relative by marriage.
Margaret Porter married into the Wortley family and became passionate about researching the Wortley relations so her children would know their family connections.
During this research, she met Keith Douglass - Sydney Wortley’s nephew.
“I was part of the stolen generation and only found out I was related to Sydney Wortley three years ago at the Historical Society in Coonabarabran when I was searching for my Aboriginal connections,” Mr Douglass said.
“I could not believe the passion Margaret had – she spent every spare moment she had researching the family history, and it is because of her we are having this ceremony.
“It is a great shame that, after all that work, she is unable to attend the service owing to ill health.”
Mrs Greenaway came across the incorrect headstone in the Walcha Catholic Cemetery during her research on Sydney Wortley’s life.
After checking the death register for a Sydney Wattling, she found no one of that name had existed.
“Thinking this grave may be where Sid is buried I checked with Vic Galvin of the Walcha Historical Society, Piddingtons and Ken Michell from the New England RSL,” she wrote in her document ‘Soldier, found at last – the Sid Wortley story’.
“Documentation was produced that confirmed this gravesite was where Sid was laid to rest.”
After seven months of negotiation, Mrs Greenaway received confirmation that a new memorial plaque had been made and paid for by the New South Wales RSL.
“Sidney Wortley has at last been found and will now be recognised as one of the many Aboriginal men who fought a war, not of their making, but who were proud to do so,” she wrote.
“May he rest in peace.”