You’ve most likely driven past one of these and not been aware of what you’re seeing:
an avenue of poplars or Gallipoli pines as you approach a country town; a row of intentionally planted trees in a nearby suburb…

Whether it’s celebrating ANZAC Day in April or commemorating the sacrifices of Australian soldiers who died in battle, we have found ways to show our respect and appreciation for our fallen soldiers.

But beyond simply dedicating certain days for honouring their show of valour and supreme sacrifice for our country, we have daily reminders of their acts of courage: avenues of honour.

Most country towns and highways across Australia have some kind of tree plantings to act as memorials to remember our war dead, particularly those of the Great War; soldiers whose bodies were never repatriated by the government. 

A similar practice is widespread in New Zealand, our compatriots alongside whom our soldiers fought in the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign of WW1.

Avenues of Honour and other tree plantings across Australia

Although the idea of honouring war heroes was conceived in Great Britain, the practice didn’t really take off there, but flourished in former British colonies. Even so, the idea of planting trees for soldiers was not entirely new, as Napoleon Bonaparte was credited for lining French roads with trees to serve as shade from the sun for his troops during manoeuvres.

Most noticeable are rows of poplars, long associated with WW1 European battlefields, although other trees like elm, jacaranda and various pine varieties are used. One such is the iconic Gallipoli pine from the famous battle of Lone Pine memorial in Turkey. 

Notable examples of Avenues of Honour 

Avenue of Honour and Arch of Victory in Ballarat, Victoria

In Australia, the prize for the longest memorial avenue goes to the 22-kilometre-long Avenue of Honour and Arch of Victory at Ballarat, created in honour of those from Ballarat and the surrounding districts who fought during World War I. Both memorials were opened officially in 1920 by the Prince of Wales.

Braidwood, NSW

While the handsome but ageing Lombardy poplars on the approach to Braidwood, NSW do not commemorate our war heroes, they constitute a memorial avenue. Planted originally to honour the 25th year of the reign of King George V, they are now being replaced with younger and more robust specimens.

Collaroy Avenue of Honour, Northern Beaches, NSW

The Collaroy Avenue of Honour commemorates the lives of soldiers who perished during WW1. This memorial established in 1925 consists of two rows of Norfolk Island pines planted along Pittwater Road.

Cowra, NSW, cherry trees

As part of a Bicentennial project, cherry trees were planted on the site of the former Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, famous for the largest prisoner breakout of modern military history. Sadly many cherry trees succumbed to the recent drought. They’re being replaced by hardier crab-apple trees.

Reinvigorating Avenues of Honour

Until a recent spate of interest by historical societies and writers, many Australian avenues and tree plantings were deteriorating. With renewed interest has come a public clamour to restore and preserve these important historical sites.

If you live in the Inner West, think about visiting a memorial tree planting close to you to remember our fallen and appreciate what we have due to their sacrifice.

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