Soldiers Avenue to get major refurbishment

On the 100-year anniversary of Anzac Day, local groups come together to support the Soldiers Avenue of Honour.

As we respect and observe the Centenary of Anzac on Saturday, April 25, communities across Australia will be commemorating with marches, remembrances, re-enactments and ceremonies.

In our own backyard, community groups have been collaborating in an attempt to revive the Soldiers Avenue of Honour Living Memorial in Freshwater. These support groups include the Harbord RSL Sub Branch, the Harbord Literary Institute, Freshwater Surf Life Saving Club, Harbord Public School and Warringah Council. All of these groups were in existence in 1923 when the Avenue of Honour Memorial was first conceived and implemented. A century later, they are still working together.

A long local street called Mathieson Street was renamed on application by Warringah Council to be called Soldiers Avenue, and it was to be considered an Avenue of Honour along with others that had been established throughout Australia.

With so many young men killed and interred in the battlefields of Turkey, France and Belgium without burial, local families wanted a living memorial as a measure of closure.

A common stock of trees was planted (primarily long living Queensland Brush Box) with tree guards to assist their growth. Plaques were placed by families alongside these trees and once
a year (traditionally on the weekend before Anzac Day), a Commemoration March would be held down the length of the Avenue.

Wreaths made by the Harbord Literary Institute are placed on the tree guards, along with poppies made by the Harbord Public School students. With the cessation of World War 2, a new phase of tree plantings occurred in the upper level of Soldiers Avenue. Today, amazingly, Soldiers Avenue is one of the last in tact Avenues of Honour in NSW that is still used as a suburban road. Its trees, some of them more than 80 years old, still remain, despite having been lopped annually for many decades and having footpaths placed around their root systems. Sixty-six of these trees now have local heritage status, as do the remaining plaques and memorials. A recent tree study revealed that most of these trees were in good health and had decades more life in them.

With support from State, Federal and Local Governments, our community groups are working to refurbish and reinstall the plaques and plinths, and develop family histories of those who served in the 1914-1918 World War. Collaboration has also begun with Ausgrid, to under ground the overhead high voltage cabling serving the Avenue in order to preserve the long-term health of the trees. In December 2014, Ausgrid placed this cabling under the pavement of Upper Soldiers Avenue, and there is hope the lower Soldiers Avenue will be completed this year.

A fabulous turn=out on Saturday 18th April 2015