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Bacchus Marsh
Avenue of Honour

Opening Ceremony, Bacchus Marsh Express, 17 Aug. 1918

Another interesting article was published the previous week.

(1918, August 17). The Bacchus Marsh Express (Vic. : 1866 - 1918), p. 3.
Retrieved October 8, 2017, from

Within the shadows of the old Woolpack Inn (which has added a chapter or two to the history of the district) there occurred on Saturday last a memorable gathering which added still another chapter to that history-a chapter of which any district might be proud- the planting of two miles of trees as a memorial to the brave soldier lads who have left their homes to go fight for their King & Country.

An image of the Opening of the Avenue
click to enlarge
Opening Ceremony
photo courtesy of Kate Cole

The movement was only taken up a few weeks ago and the enthusiasm grew as the people became better acquainted with what was expected of them, so much so that on Saturday a crowd of over 1000 persons assembled to witness and assist in the planting ceremony. The Woolpack was chosen as the meeting place, it being about the half-way point of the Avenue. The trees (Canadian elms) are planted on both sides of the main Melbourne-Ballarat road, commencing from the present avenue of trees at the east end of the town and extend to within sight of the Lerderderg River at Hopetoun, a distance of nearly two miles. Next season the Avenue may be extended to Anthony's Cutting.

Each tree stands as a silent sentry representing a gallant soldier, and the length of road so covered gives some faint idea of the district's magnificent contribution in men (the world's best soldiers) to the Empire's Army. The trees are protected by well-made timber guards, affixed to each of which is a neat sheet-copper embossed name plate, giving the soldier's number, rank, Battalion, &c.

The soldiers have been placed in alphabetical order and numbered-the odd on one side and the even on the other, thus placing the members of one family together. This explanation is given for those who may wonder at the interweaving of the names, as given on the list sheet.

To plant 281 trees in one afternoon seemed an almost impossible task, but so complete were the arrangements that the feat was accomplished without a single hitch, not only in the afternoon, but in about half-an-hour. The holes for the trees had already been prepared by a band of willing workers in the morning. A sight that will be long remembered. So keen were the men to assist that this part of the programme almost turned itself into a competition as to who would dig the most. As an instance of this patriotic spirit, the Darley Firebrick Company closed down its works and at about 8 a.m. 30 employees took up their positions in the Avenue, where several of their comrades are represented by...........short time they had 100 holes already. Work much appreciated by the committee. Other individual workers came from all quarters, and by 11 o'clock every hole had been sunk and by noon all the tree guards erected. Many workers who came later were disappointed because there were no holes left for them to dig.

It was now time for the planting supervisors to take charge, each being given a section of so many trees. The soil in the holes was properly prepared by them and the trees stood in position with roots spread out, ready for the afternoon planting. This work of the supervisors is also deserving of commendation, as it not only saved valuable time but will give the young trees every opportunity to thrive, which they should do as everything is in their favor.

Planting Supervisors who assisted -Messrs. Jas. Cowan, F.J Slack, H. G. Campbell, J.A. Loaper, T.W Campbell, N.C. Woodward, A. Cameron, H. Burbidge, H. Moffatt, H. Marchant, J.G. Wells, W.E. Spurr, W. West, Thos Cowan, M.Usher, W.C. Woodward, W.F. Woodward and Joseph Lodge (the latter states he assisted his late father to plant the trees in the vicinity of the Woolpack some 58 years ago-a case of history repeating itself). Now the afternoon ceremony came along. All roads led to the Woolpack, whether you went per foot, motor or horse vehicle, you must get there. And what a grand gathering it was. Cook's son-Duke's son-son of a belted Earl Son of a Lambeth publican - it's all the same today!

All of them there to do honor to those doing their country's work.

Major Baird, MLA, who has seen Active Service in the present war, came from Ballarat to pay homage to his comrades in arms, and, at the invitation of the Shire President Brown, planted the honor tree. The people were then asked to distribute themselves along the whole length of the avenue, the relatives or friends of the soldiers (many of whom came from a distance) taking up their positions at the trees they had been invited to plant. This instruction was accomplished by the kindness of various motor and vehicle owners conveying passengers with dexterity along the route-half went eastward and the other half westward. A bugle call was then sounded as the signal to commence the planting simultaneously. This again was a sight to be remembered. Tears were hung on every tree-tears of joy for the lad who had returned, of pride and anxiety for those still in the ranks and of sorrow for the one who had paid the supreme sacrifice; and of the latter there were quite a number, many wreaths, Battalion, colors, and other tributes of love and respect marking their places.

Of the 281 soldiers honored in this way, many had gained distinctions, including a Victoria Cross, the Military Cross, the Distinguished Conduct Medal, Military Medal, &c.

As already stated, the planting ceremony occupied but half-an-hour-a most pleasant surprise to all, as it prevented the proceedings dragging. The people were then conveyed back to the meeting place in the same manner as they were distributed.

The official ceremony opened with the singing of the National Anthem, after which Shire President Brown introduced Major Baird, and in doing so said the avenue was one of the splendid things they could do in honor of their soldiers. When the boys came back they would see they had not been forgotten. The next generation would also see by the trees what their forefathers had done for them.

Major Baird expressed his pleasure at being present, and having the honor of planting the first tree. Although Bacchus Marsh was looked upon as the hub of Victoria it was the first time that he had been here. He hoped they would be able to make room in this prosperous district for some of the gallant soldier lads to settle permanently. The avenue was a fitting memorial to these gallant men - it was one of the finest things they could do. It would some day be a feature between Melbourne and Ballarat, where the avenue idea originated, by 500 girls from one factory taking the matter up. Over 3000 trees had now been planted, covering some 10 miles of road. Whilst at the Front he had come in contact with one of their local lads- Captain Godfrey, who had given his life for his country, and one of the finest officers they had. He would always have a warm spot in his heart for him. But young Godfrey was only a representative of other gallant lads from this district, so was it any wonder that it raised the spirit within them-let that spirit grow and strengthen, so that they would not only honor their brave men today but each day of their lives. When he returned from the Front to Australia he met two classes of people; one said When are you going back? The other said You've done your bit, and up to you to have a spell. One class did not care a rap what had been done for them whilst others extended the helping hand. The latter was the way to honor their returned men. He was a Britisher to the backbone. Germany was not more mightier than us. The British race transcends them all. Their soldiers were representatives of that great race. When Germany threw the challenge down in this Great War she thought that the British race was done, she thought that the manhood of the Empire had been sapped by commercialism and luxury. But was she right? With Kitchener's call to arms the young men came to Britain's aid, and so the challenge of Germany was taken up in a way she never thought of. Germany thought she could walk through the contemptible little army and bring France to her knees. But before she was able to do that there were a million British soldiers there. So the same rebuff had been given to Germany in other places. In Mesopotamia (which would prove one of the richest parts of the world) Egypt and Palestine they had flung the Germans back and planted the banner of their Great Empire on the banks of the Jordan. These feats were equal to anything that Germany had done. In France the British army was holding the key to Paris, which was also the Key of France and the channel ports. If Germany got possession of these, things would be made hot for us. He asked them to think of that and they would recognise what the Empire and their gallant lads meant to them. He believed the Australians were the finest soldiers in the world. He did not say they were the only men who could fight, but the Australian soldier had the spirit, dash and head required in modern warfare. When they realised what these gallant lads had done for them, was it any wonder they assembled there that day to do honor to them. There would be great calls made on them repatriate these men. He would not criticise the authorities on what they had done but he believed they could have done more. No Government could do what was wanted unless it had the inspiration of the people behind it. He asked that they assist the Government to repatriate these lads, who belonged to the Greatest Empire upon which the sun ever shone. Major Baird then gave an instance of how the Australian's loved their officers, of how four men volunteered to go out into no man's land-every inch of which was raked by machine guns-in an attempt to bring in the body of an officer who had been killed, but the men also lost their lives- showing their last tribute to a beloved officer. Surely then, we here could do something which was no sacrifice at all. They were great men, these Australians, about whom some unkind things had been said-some deserved perhaps, as they were not all angels. He appealed to them to remember these gallant men each day through life and if they could do anything to help them back to civil life do so. (Applause)

Mr. P. Alkemade (of Melbourne and a representative of the State War Council) also spoke, and appealed to the eligible young men to get to it at once and get some documentary proof that they had taken their part in this Great War, and prove themselves worthy sons of the pioneers who had come here before them. He had just planted a tree for Sgt. Major O'Brien, one of their local men who had won the D.C.M. and proved himself a man. The deeds of these men shone throughout the Empire and would be handed down as a glorious heritage. The avenue would be an evergreen monument forever and he complimented the district for undertaking it.

President Brown apologised for the absence of Sargeant Lister, M.H.R., and Hon. A. R. Robertson, M.L.A., who were present at similar function at Macedon.

Cr. McMahon moved a vote of thanks to the ladies for providing the refreshments. He always noticed they toed the mark in a manly, noble manner when their assistance was required. He also mentioned that the men had put up a record that morning digging 200 holes for the trees in tree hours.

The National Anthem and God bless our splendid men also three hearty cheers for the Boys at the Front, closed the notable gathering.

The weather elements were kind-so kind that the ladies were able to set their refreshment tables in the open air. But to provide against any emergency, the commercial rooms of the old Woolpack had been prepared as a shelter pavilion - fortunately not needed. Thanks in profusion due to the ladies Sunshine Brigade (in charge of Red Cross President Anderson) who provided lunch for the workers and tasty refreshments later on for afternoon tea-all and sundry being provided for. Special thanks recorded to Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Slack and family for assistance in this same department and placing their house, grounds and everything they possessed at the disposal of the ladies. Thanks again to the members of the

Commonwealth Army (in charge of Lieut. Russell) who attended and formed a Guard of Honor when the official speeches were being made. This added the military tone necessary to the gathering.

Generalissimo Cr. W. Grant Mortan, J.P., has had many triumphs in displaying his organising power in making successes of local functions, but last Saturday's gathering (to which he acted as Hon. Organiser) can be classed as his super-triumph, and it must be very gratifying to him to know that the time which he devoted to this worthy object had such a successful climax. To organise a function without any previous work......difficult, but to have to cram it all into a limited space of time increases the task- a task which grew into considerable magnitude, as all the details of the soldiers had to be collected, placed in alphabetical and numerical order, which could not be done until the last moment, and see that a hundred and one other things were provided-if the odd one happened to be forgotten confusion may have resulted - but it didn't. The thanks of the community is therefore due to Mr. Mortan for his valuable services-not forgetting his motor service.

Now the work which the public did not see being carried out has to be recognised - the making of the 281 tree guards. Different proposals were put forward as to their supply, but Mr. H.E. Connor stepped into the breach and undertook to see that they were provided free of charge, if the timber was supplied him. Here again time was the essence of the contract, and timber being difficult to procure made the time shorter, which necessitated speeding-up on the part of Mr. Connor and his noble assistants, who, it must be remembered, worked in the night time after their usual day's toil was done. Mr. Connor says each and everyone is willing to do the same again if occasion arises. Too much prominence cannot be given to this patriotic work, therefore the names of those who participated in it and the hours worked are given:-H. E. Connor, 47 hours or 12 nights; W.T. Wittick, 15 hours or 7 nights; J. A. Morton, 11 hours or 5 nights; E. Brazier, 8 hours or 6 nights; H. Marchant, 6 hours or 3 nights; N. C. Woodward, 6 hours or 3 nights; A. J. Grant, 6 hours or 3 nights; W. E. Spurr, 4 hours or 2 nights; L. Dugdale, 4 hours or 2 nights; D. Barry, 3 hours or 2 nights; Ern Wittick, 2 hours or 1 night; E. Barry, 2 hours or 1 night; W. C. Woodward, 2 hours or 1 night; W. F. Woodward, 2 hours or 1 night. Mr. A. Newman can be added to the above band, as he rendered valuable assistance in free cartage of the timber for the guards. Messrs. R.H. Dugdale and J.G. Wells kindly attended to the delivery of the guards along the route.

Although the Bacchus Marsh Shire Council stood as guarantor for the work, it was relieved of much expense by almost the whole of the trees and guards being donated, and the various working bees also reduced the outlay. At Creswick we note that it cost the Shire 1 pound for each tree and the nameplate; at Bacchus Marsh the work has been well executed for half that amount-evidence of good management.

We have been requested to publish the names of the soldiers represented in the Avenue and the persons who planted the trees to their memory. The following is the list, as far as we have been possible to ascertain:- Tree List

Additional trees donated to Bacchus Marsh Avenue of Honor, making a total of 232: - Two each - A. Moon (Melbourne), James Smith (Rowsley), Employees Darley Firebrick Co. (making 7), J. D. Cameron. One each-Miss Ida Moore, Mrs. R. G. Lyle, Mrs. McPherson (Melton), S. Whelan, D. O'Keefe, jun., W. D. Hogan, H Love, E. Moss, M McLeod (Broadlands), W. Symington, H Dawson, C.F. Hegarty, Mrs. F. Brighton.