The Incredible Story Behind This Anzac Bridge Statue

For the Mance family, Anzac Day is one of the most important days on the calendar.

Four generations sharing a special morning of laughs, tears and memories, and paying tribute to their great-great-grandfather Charles Mance -- or “Old, Old Poppy” as they call him.

Mance enlisted for World War One when he was just 16, and a few months later found himself on the battlefields of France.

He fought in a series of battles, including Ville-sur-Ancre, Villers-Bretonneux, Mont St Quentin and Herleville Wood. He was gassed once, which left him deaf and blind for weeks, and was wounded by shrapnel at Helerville.

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Charles Mance joined the war at 16 years of age. Image: Supplied.

He returned to Australia in 1920 with a British bride and worked as a bricklayer in Victoria and Canberra.

Post-war, Charles Mance received many accolades. In 1998 he travelled to France and was awarded the Légion d'honneur, the country’s greatest decoration by the President.

The digger statue stands proudly on Sydney's Anzac Bridge. Image: Getty.

In 2000 he was the guest of honour at the unveiling of the digger statue at Sydney’s Anzac Bridge; the bronze sculpture is made in his image.

That statue still brings joy to his son Lionel, 96.

"When we go over the bridge, we say, 'How you you, Charlie?' as we drive past," Lionel told 10 News First.

Charles passed away in 2001. He was one of Australia’s last living WWI veterans.

Following his passing, Charles' family continue to attend the Dawn Service in his honour. Image: Supplied.

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Early Thursday morning, a long, long way from the Western Front, thousands gathered at Charles Mance Reserve in Merrylands in Sydney’s west for the Dawn Service.

In attendance were two of the youngest members of the family, cousins Eva Samcou and William Mance, both 4.

William -- whose middle name is Charles -- was named for his relative, and attended his first Dawn Service at just six weeks old.

While the gravity of the day is still a bit lost on the young ones, they know it’s a special day.

Explained Eva: “You have to stand very still and be quiet.”

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Featured image: Supplied.