Ballarat Avenue of Honour
The Ballarat Avenue of Honour is famous for being the first avenue of its kind in Australia[Notes 1] (perhaps in the world) and the longest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. It incorporates the Ballarat Arch of Victory and extends for approximately 22 kilometres. In total, the trees represent 3912[Notes 2] Ballarat and district men and women who served in World War One - 528 of whom were killed in battle or died of wounds or disease.
The trees were planted in order of the soldiers enlistment along the Western Highway, consisting of 3,771 trees.
Popular writings suggest that the Ballarat Avenue of Honour was a catalyst for the planting of many similar avenues throughout Victoria, but records show that in 1917 the State Recruitment Committee of Victorian municipalities called for a planting of avenues of trees to represent all those serving in the war. Such memorials to the living (not only those killed in action) are apparently unknown in the United Kingdom, United States and New Zealand.
The Ballarat Avenue of Honour was envisioned as a symbol that "will last for all time, and their children and children's children will be able to point out how their parents made history for Australia and the Empire". The creation of the movement to build the avenue has been attributed to Tilly Thompson, the director and executive officer of the Lucas Clothing Factory. The planting of the trees was undertaken by 500 employees of that white works company, with the first planting of trees taking place in 1917. By 1919, 3771 trees extended 22km along both sides of the Western Highway from Ballarat to Burrumbeet. Each tree represented a Ballarat serviceman or nurse who enlisted during World War One, and included a bronze plate with the name, battalion and tree number. The names of those brave men and women who served were derived from enlistment records and called for by the Avenue's committee through a series of newspaper articles and word-of-mouth activities. This included the updating of the individual plaques to reflect if a service man or woman had been killed. Suggestion arose over time that this particular Avenue could connect Ballarat and Melbourne.
The first planting of 1000 trees occurred on Monday, 4 June 1917[Notes 3] in wet and windy weather. Although such circumstances may have been more conducive to an air of suffering rather than celebration the Lucas Girls are said to have "battled bravely" to plant the trees deep and firmly within the ground[Notes 4] - so that the line of trees extended 1 1/4 miles (approximately 2 kilometres) from Alfredton towards Burrumbeet. "The Premier, Sir Alexander Peacock, however, announced that more trees would be planted on some Saturday afternoon in the near future, and that he would be pleased to attend and deliver the speech he had purposed to deliver yesterday." This line of trees was then extended by a planting that took place on Saturday 18 August 1917 - with another 801 trees representing soldiers and 47 for nurses[Notes 5]. Again the weather was wet and windy; but the Avenue of Honour movement had gained so much support that a huge crowd turned out by rail, motor-car, horse buggy and on foot. The Avenue was again extended in poor weather on Saturday 1 September 1917 - with 73 trees planted commemorating the service of young district men in all branches of the land forces and 31 recognising the service of young district men in the Navy. At the time of planting each tree was surrounded by a protective timber barrier - to which the plates bearing the soldiers name, rank and unit was affixed. For Christmas 1917 laurel wreaths were place by the Lucas Girls on every tree guard in the Avenue.
THE AVENUE OF HONOR, 1937
[Dedicated to the patriotic young ladies of Lucas and Co's, 1917.]
One evening as I wandered forth
With weary steps and slow,
Methought I saw the Lucas girls
Of twenty years ago.
I pictured them in happy homes
Where love and truth abide;
Two virtues that will smooth our path
Across the Great Divide.
The magpies carolled forth their lays,
A skylark specked the blue,
While summer birds came skimming down
The long green Avenue.
I sat me down beneath a tree,
And thought with honest pride:
These grow for Austral's fighting men
Who for our freedom died.
Two blackbirds whistled overhead,
Their notes of music true;
I blessed the tender, loyal hearts
That planned the Avenue.
More fitting than a monument
In sculptured figures dres't;
These trees are live memorials
Of those we love the best.
The men who placed their country first,
And gave what gold can't buy,
While human pangs and passions last,
Their names shall never die.
The sword is rusted in its sheath,
Farms dot the battle plain,
And Peace triumphant sits enthroned
Above the noble slain.
Warmed by the breath of blue-eyed spring,
The trees in beauty grow,
A credit to the Lucas girls
Of twenty years ago.
- JAMES BARBOUR.[Notes 6]
Melrose Estate, Victoria.
Locally, the efforts of the Lucas Clothing Co. were held up as an example to be imitated by sporting bodies and other interest groups. The Ballarat Orphanage held an Arbor Day on Friday 3 August 1917 to plant their own avenue commemorating the contributions of past inmates to World War One. This avenue consisted of over 100 oak and elm trees. Added to this, the Orphanage planted an avenue of more than 1200 pine trees dedicated to past officials and subscribers of the organisation. In Ballarat North an Avenue of Honour was created on Beaufort Crescent. On the main Ballarat-Beaufort road the Ripon Shire Soldiers' Avenue of Honour was opened by a ceremony held on Monday 12 August 1918. In Sebastopol the "Birdwood Avenue"[Notes 7] was created and dedicated to those young men and women of Sebastopol who served in World War One.
On 1 June 1918 another planting occurred - with 500 trees planted. These included "pin oak, purple-leafed elm, tulip, honey-locust, Portugal oak, and Turkey oak". The sixth planting occurred on Saturday 17 August 1918 - with another 530 trees added to bring the total "close on 3300 trees". A special train ran from Ballarat to carry more than a thousand people to the event and the carnivalesque atmosphere was heightened by the provision of afternoon by the "ladies of the Windermere and Burrumbeet Red Cross". At this time a special souvenir booklet containing the name of everyone for whom a tree had been planted was issued. As a fundraising initiative for the maintenance of the Ballarat Avenue of Honour the Lucas Clothing Factory commissioned the publishing of these special edition booklets commemorating 'Lucas's Staffs Appreciation of Brave Men'. The booklets contained lists denoting: the tree number; the name of the soldier associated with the tree; their date of enlistment; and the name of the person who planted the tree. The third - and final - edition of June 1919 sold for a price of 2 shillings.
A novelty football match played on 28 September 1918 between the "Khaki Girls" (workers from the Commonwealth Clothing Factory) and the Lucas Girls raised about £530 for the building of the arch at the entrance of the Avenue. This event was preceded with an early morning motorcade of the Khaki Girls along the Avenue in cars provided by local residents and an early afternoon procession from the intersection of Armstrong Street and Sturt Street to the Eastern Oval - with a brief stop at the Soldiers' Statue.
A planting of 600 trees designated for Saturday 7 June 1919 was postponed to the following Saturday due to poor weather. The final planting of trees occurred on 16 August 1919. In total there had been 8 official plantings.
General Sir William Birdwood laid the foundation-stone for the Victory Arch on Saturday 7 February 1920[Notes 8] - also presenting a number of decorations to returned service men and women. Only four months later, on Wednesday 2 June, amidst heavy rain a dense crowd watched as the Arch was officially "opened" by the visiting Prince of Wales - the 600 Lucas Girls in pride of place on special tiers erected directly beside the Arch.
Lord Forster (Sir Henry William Forster, then Governor-General of Australia) travelled around Australia dedicating war memorials and during his visit to Ballarat on Wednesday 9 November 1921 was reported to have commented that the Ballarat Avenue was "the most eloquent war memorial [he had] seen in any part of the world". Unsurprisingly, the "fame of the Ballarat avenue of honour for soldiers ... reach Rhodesia" and the Rhodesia Comrades of the War contacted the Ballarat City Council for information concerning how they could go about creating their own living monument.
To the Editor of “The Courier.”
Sir.-Why is “Wattle” so critical of Lucas and Co.’s young ladies’ efforts in such a good cause as commemorating the bravery and heroism of our boys? Everyone should be very thankful to have, not only 500 trees planted, but the next also. What is to prevent “Wattle” and his confreres planting still further on after the first 1000? If steps were taken to bring them into the scheme, Beaufort, Ararat, Hamilton, Mount Gambier, &c., would co-operate, and we could have an avenue from Ballarat to Adelaide, and from Ballarat to Melbourne. (I notice the Forward Ballarat people contemplate planting an avenue on the Melbourne road.) Again, where is the boasted patriotism of our bowlers and other sports, of which we have seen so little. My friend, Monty McCallum, made a good suggestion in your columns the other day for the B.B.A. to consider, but what has been done? There are over 250 bowlers in Ballarat. Surely they could put in a Saturday afternoon, and each one dig two holes and the next Saturday plant the trees. The cost is not great, and could be easily met. I am a bowler, and can dig holes, and would be glad to do it; but look, Sir, one hears too much talk of patriotism from men who do nothing that one gets just about full up of it. One can, however, for a corrective, turn to the ladies, who, it seems to me, are doing the work for the boys, while we strapping, able-bodied men enjoy ourselves to our heart’s content, and allow our women folk to do the cooking for us as well as doing the patriotic work. Shame on the men and good luck to Lucas and Co.’s and the Red Cross and Trenches and the Comforts’ ladies. I reckon if these ladies took up the recruiting work instead of the men we would see far better results than we have. Hence I say let Lucas and Co. look after the next 500 trees, and “Wattle” and the A.N.A. and others do as much more as they can.-Yours, &c.,
Lucas and Co. and their employees continued to maintain the avenue with community support until 1931, when a committee was formed to take care of future maintenance, including the periodic replacement of trees. By 1934 the original guards around the trees had fallen into disrepair and action was taken to replace all of the name plates with bronze plaques - that were hand cast in gunmetal and affixed at the base of each tree, using bolts, to steel straps set in concrete footings. These bronze plaques were manufactured by Mann Bros.
Later developments included a memorial wall, with names and tree numbers inscribed, that was opened by Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop in 1993.  Also in 1993 a 5 kilometre section of the Avenue at the Burrumbeet end was 'disconnected' when the Ararat rail line was cut through during the construction of the Western Highway Bypass - leaving 26 trees between the bypass and the rail line inaccessible to the public.
All 3800 trees have now been reconnected to the Avenue by the building of an overpass during the latest Western Highway Upgrade works.
In 1934 the original Ballarat Avenue of Honour name plates fixed to the tree guards were replaced with the permanent bronze name plaques in the Avenue today after most of which were lost or missing. Manufactured by the Ballarat firm Mann Bros., the plaques were hand cast in gunmetal and bolted to mild steel straps set in concrete footings at the base of each tree.
Names of Those Honoured
The following list of names on Ballarat's Avenue of Honour is compiled from the third and final edition of Lucas and Co.'s booklet to commemorate the plantings along the avenue - in which it is known some errors occurred in the naming of the individuals. The Ballarat and District Industrial Heritage Wiki will endeavour to uncover and correct errors in this list, and will also list those who have not been designated a tree in the Ballarat Avenue of Honour.
Double asterisk (**) following a name indicates an individual who died as a result of their service.