Scone's First World War soldier-artist Ernest 'John' Dunbar to be honoured during special ceremony at Cheltenham Pioneer Cemetery

ONE of Scone's First World War soldiers will be honoured during a ceremony in Melbourne in 2020.

Exactly 95 years after his death, the commemoration of WWI soldier-artist Ernest "John" Dunbar, and the dedication of his official memorial, is scheduled to take place at Cheltenham Pioneer Cemetery, Victoria, on Saturday, January 25, from 10.30am.

About 10 descendants of his family, also from the Upper Hunter, will attend the service, as well as a related Dunbar family reunion.

In July, the Minister for Veterans Affairs gave approval for the erection - by the Office of Australian War Graves - of an official memorial over the Melbourne grave of Private John Dunbar, an Australian soldier of the Great War.

His remains had rested in an unmarked "dirt" grave following his premature death on January 25, 1925.

Erection of the memorial was made possible by a series of representations to persuade the Department of Veterans Affairs to properly commemorate Private Dunbar's wartime service as a soldier-artist.

Despite a couple of failed bids, a successful campaign was eventually led by Friends of Cheltenham and Regional Cemeteries Inc.

Private Dunbar was raised at Scone.

He served as an infantryman with the 13th Battalion at Gallipoli in 1915 and with the 34th Battalion in France and Flanders between 1916 and 1918.

He was also a highly-accomplished artist.

During the First World War, from the time he enlisted in January 1915 until his discharge from the army in January 1919, he produced an unknown number of very fine drawings, portraits, cartoons, and paintings, all recording his wartime experiences.

He gave most of his artworks away, but two sketchbooks containing about 40 items were recovered from the recipients - and eventually acquired by the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

His war service was unusual because he used three separate identities from 1915 almost until his death.

To his family in Scone, he was always known as Ernest Dunbar, and that is the name that appears on Scone's First World War memorials.

However, apparently as a personal preference, he enlisted in the AIF as "John" Dunbar, and in that name he was wounded at Gallipoli, and evacuated to a hospital at Alexandria, in Egypt.

While recuperating, he caught a VD and was shipped back to Australia in disgrace, to the army's medical isolation camp at Langwarrin, near Melbourne.

In December 1915, soon after he was discharged from Langwarrin fully-recovered, he deserted from the army and returned to Scone.

Some months later he re-enlisted in the AIF at Newcastle; but, to conceal the details of his first enlistment, he used the invented identity "John Beech".

In 1917, while serving on the Western Front as Private Beech, he was wounded and badly gassed in Flanders, and also contracted trench feet and shell shock.

In late 1918, because of these injuries, he was medically evacuated to Sydney.

Life after his discharge from the army in January 1919 was a struggle.

It was difficult for him to find work because of his crippled feet; and, due to his multiple identities, there were problems obtaining a war pension.

He worked in various menial jobs in NSW, then eventually made his way to Melbourne.

In 1924 he was admitted to the Cheltenham Benevolent Asylum, where he died in January 1925, aged 34, evidently of war-related diseases.