After more than 50 years lying in an unmarked grave, Sebastopol soldier Private Joseph Mannion’s resting place has finally been acknowledged.
The Creswick Light Horse led a procession to the grave in the Ballarat New Cemetary just two days out from the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba, where Pvt Mannion had fought.
An emotional crowd of about 100 people listened to the story of the former Redan State School student who was attached to the 4th Light Horse Regiment which took part in the successful charge in what is now southern Israel.
Pvt Mannion was among the soldiers who returned home from the battle, working as a cleaner at Redan Primary School before dying in 1951 at just 59.
Pvt Mannion’s great grandson Brendan Mannion was among the crowd who gathered to remember the sacrifice of those who lost their lives in the battle against Turkish forces.
He said the ceremony was humbling for the family given they previously unaware of where their relative was buried.
Fellow family members Wayne, Carmen, Nathan, Katherine, Rylee, Lachy, Sophia, Caylar, Taylah and Chayse also made the trip to witness the momentous occasion.
“I’d been doing a bit of research myself on Joseph but I never even knew his grave was here and when we first found it there was just a stick in the ground,” Mr Mannion said. “It’s great not only for him but also for my great grandmother Margaret, who we didn’t know was buried here either.”
I never even knew his grave was here and when we first found it there was just a stick in the ground.Brendan Mannion - Joseph Mannion's great grandson
The unveiling capped off almost a year of effort from the Sebastopol RSL to restore the grave of the soldier after prominent Ballarat war historian Gary Snowden first made contact with the family to inform them of Pvt Mannion’s resting place.
All up about $6000 was raised to construct the new headstone, well above the initial $5000 target.
Event MC and Ballarat Cemetery Trust member Paul Jenkins said the huge community response was testament to the value placed on recognising those who served in armed conflict.
“Gary put the challenge to the Sepastopol RSL to raise the funds at the last Anzac Day service, so since Anzac to now this is the result,” Mr Jenkins said. “Respect for people who served in World War I and World War II and all other wars is increasing, and Anzac Day and Remembrance Day are proving that with the crowds which are coming.”