Private Victor Hilton Hardaker, who died from wounds sustained in the First World War.
Private Victor Hilton Hardaker, who died from wounds sustained in the First World War. CONTRIBUTED

Recognition for WWI Digger

HE FOUGHT and died for his country in the Great War and now, more than 90 years on, Victor Hardaker will finally get the recognition he deserves.

He sustained shocking injuries on the Western Front and was admitted to hospital at Kempsey on his return home, where he succumbed to his wounds in 1918 at the age of 23.

Earlier this year - thanks to exhaustive efforts from the Macksville RSL sub-branch - Private Hardaker was officially accepted as having died from his war service and a moving ceremony is planned by his graveside at Eungai Creek on November 18.

"I think it's great. It keeps my great uncle in the minds of the local community who are very proud of him," said Lynda Knight, who lives at Middle Boambee.

"I was involved in this project for my mum and my aunt who are no longer with us and so future generations could appreciate what he did.

"I'm pleased he has finally been accepted. He deserved it and I think they all deserved it; those who haven't been recognised for what they did for us."

Pte Hardaker's supreme sacrifice for his nation remained known only to his family and locals until 2009 when it was discovered he had been overlooked in the official recognition of those who had served and died.

His run-down grave was brought to the attention of the Macksville RSL sub-branch, whose members began searching official listings to find references to the Digger.

"They came up empty-handed and it became apparent he had 'slipped through the cracks'."

Sub-branch president Barry McDonald launched the project to have Pte Hardaker officially recognised as a "war dead" and his first step was to have the death certifi- cate examined by a local doctor, who concluded Pte Hardaker's injuries had caused his death.

Mr McDonald sought out relatives and all information he could and because Pte Hardaker had served in the AIF, Mr McDonald contacted the National Archives of Australia, which released Pte Hardaker's service records.

"Then we had to get him officially accepted as war dead, which has now happened," Mr McDonald said.

"It's been a long, slow road but we're there now."

The sub-branch has been busily tidying the original grave and embedding the official fine cast bronze plaque supplied by the Department of War Graves, ready for next week's re-dedication ceremony.

A guard of honour will be supplied from Coffs Harbour, local firearm enthusiasts will have a firing party of period rifles, a piper will play the lament and an army chaplain will conduct the service.

Eungai Public School will place a tribute and family members will attend.

Pte Hardaker's great-great-nephew, 13-year-old Brenton Knight (Lynda's son), will sound The Last Post.

Replicas of Pte Hardaker's medals were given to the family this week.

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