Local grazier Jim Treloar’s great-great-uncle served at Beersheba. (ABC News: Sofie Wainwright)
Hosting the only dawn service for 280 kilometres, the tiny South Australian country town of Manna Hill gets a tenfold population boost every Anzac Day, thanks to an influx of people paying their respects.
The service is the only one on the Barrier Highway between Peterborough and Broken Hill, meaning that Anzac Day forms an important event for Manna Hill’s population of six.
Ahead of today’s commemoration, more than 60 people made their way into the north-eastern township, with people travelling from nearby pastoral properties and as far away as Adelaide to gather around the cenotaph in the centre of town.
Every Anzac Day, Manna Hill’s population briefly swells as people come to pay their respects. (ABC News: Sofie Wainwright)
For grazier Jim Treloar, whose great-great-uncle was in the famous charge of the Light Horse at Beersheeba, Anzac Day holds special importance.
Almost every year he travels the 26 kilometres from his station to Manna Hill for the dawn service.
“It’s such an important focal part of the community. It’s a great catch up but beyond that, it’s great to pay respects,” Mr Treloar said.
“It’s taken off really in the last five or six years and certainly the numbers really jumped at the actual centenary.”
“It’s wonderful for such a sparsely populated area.”
Manna Hill brothers Richard and Frank O’Riley, whose father and grandfather both served. (ABC News: Sofie Wainwright)
Frank O’Riley, who grew up in Manna Hill and now lives in Adelaide, was visiting the country town for the first time in 37 years.
His father and grandfather served in the world wars, and his great uncle died on the battlefields of Villers-Bretonneux 100 years ago, so the service was particularly moving for him.
“Happy to be back and it’s also the first time I’ve been back here with my brother,” Mr O’Riley said.
“[I’m] sad because it’s a remembrance day for a start and probably sad because a lot of [the town] has gone.
“It’s fabulous that we’ve got it here and it’s fabulous that so many people attended.
“It just shows that the spirit is still alive particularly in the country.”
Cenotaph an important symbol
The memorial is one of the very few historical structures that remain in Manna Hill, and holds special significant for locals.
The community banded together almost a decade ago to restore it.
Mr Treloar said the cenotaph’s proximity to the highway and pub meant that the memorial was a very clear reminder to locals and visitors of the many Australians who lost their lives in war.
“It’s always driven past, it’s foremost in your mind and you always think of those who paid the price,” he said.
“Without some form of visual remembrance, I think the town would be a little poorer without it.”
Floral wreathes were laid at the base of the Manna Hill cenotaph. (ABC News: Sofie Wainwright)
For Mr O’Riley, the cenotaph also holds treasured memories of his childhood.
“We used to draw little pictures on there with the stones around so there’s a lot of childhood memories attached to this memorial,” Mr O’Riley said.
“Of all the things that might survive into the future of Manna Hill, I’m sure the cenotaph will certainly be one of them because it has a special place in our minds and our lives here.”