The grave of a WWI soldier in Wingham Cemetery will be formally recognised at an Anzac Ceremony

Studio portrait of 1063 Private (Pte) John William Hoad, No. 2 Section, 3rd Divisional Signal Company, of Knorritt Flat via Wingham, NSW. Photo from Australian War Memorial/DA09379

Studio portrait of 1063 Private (Pte) John William Hoad, No. 2 Section, 3rd Divisional Signal Company, of Knorritt Flat via Wingham, NSW. Photo from Australian War Memorial/DA09379

The body of the Upper Manning's highest decorated returned World War I soldier has lain in an unmarked grave in Wingham Cemetery for 67 years.

That is until earlier this year when, thanks to the tireless and dogged efforts of Wherrol Flat resident Allen Valentine, a headstone and plaque was installed on the grave of Sgt John William Hoad.

Every year the Wingham RSL Sub-branch holds a sunset service on the eve of Anzac Day at Wingham Cemetery. Usually the service is held at the rotunda, but this year, the service will be held at John Hoad's grave to commemorate his military service and dedicate his grave.

Sgt John William Hoad, October 3, 1917

Sgt John William Hoad, October 3, 1917

John Hoad enlisted on April 17, 1915 and embarked from Melbourne aboard HMAT Port Macquarie on June 4, 1915. He later served as a sergeant and was awarded the Military Medal (MM) on July 18, 1917. On December 12, 1917 he was awarded a Bar to the MM. He returned to Australia on April 5, 1918 as a member of the 2nd Divisional Signal Company. (awm.gov.au)

For the past four years, Allen Valentine has been researching John Hoad's military history and applying numerous times to the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) to have a grave stone constructed where Hoad is buried.

"To get a bloke a DVA grave for free, he had to have had war related injuries at death. Hoad committed suicide," Allen explained.

Allen maintains that John Hoad suffered PTSD, having been through two horrendous battles - both of which earned him MMs - the third battle of Ypres, and the second battle of Bullecourt, where he was actually recommended for a Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM), which was downgraded to a MM.

On Allen's fourth attempt, DVA finally agreed to constructing John Hoad's grave.

To get a bloke a DVA grave for free, he had to have had war related injuries at death. Hoad committed suicide.

Allen Valentine

"I got the letter in November/December last year that it was accepted, and that's good, but it wasn't until January 2019 that I got the letter saying 'yes, we're going to build it'. And then while I was in WA (earlier this year) I got a telephone call from Edsteins that the grave had been installed with the plaque," Allen said.

Why did Allen go to so much trouble for the grave of someone who was unrelated to him?

"Because Guy Watts asked me to," is his answer.

"He was in the RSL and he was a good bloke. And Hoad was a WWI soldier with two medals for bravery, and he deserved a grave," Allen said.

Nearly 70 years after being buried, Sgt John Hoad finally gets his gravestone. Photo courtesy Allen Valentine

Nearly 70 years after being buried, Sgt John Hoad finally gets his gravestone. Photo courtesy Allen Valentine

With the help of Guy Watts' friend Arthur Hoad, John Hoad's uncle, the grave was eventually able to be positively identified as John Hoad's grave. Sadly, both Guy Watts and Arthur Hoad died before they were able to see John Hoad's gave given its due honours.

"There is more to Hoad's military story," Allen said, "but you'll have to come to the War Graves Service at Wingham Cemetery to hear the full story!"

The Sunset Anzac ceremony will take place in the Anglican section (second gate on the right and down the path) of Wingham Cemetery at 4pm on Wednesday, April 24. All are invited.