Macedon Avenue of Honour.

On ANZAC Day we gather to remember those who served our country. We may attend a dawn service, go to a march, wear some precious family medals, or lay a wreath at a cenotaph. We may even follow with a cold frothy or two and a game of two-up at our local RSL.

But across Australia there are many silent and enduring war memorials we may pass every day, often without realising their significance.

Avenues of Honour might be trees lining a road or street, along a path through a park, or a magnificent lone specimen.

During and after World War One, these arboreal tributes were particularly popular, with some 325 planted throughout Victoria alone.

The Australian Government did not repatriate bodies of soldiers after the war so a tree, close to the family home or town, became an important way of remembrance.

But as the years wore on, many Avenues of Honour aged and declined, or sometimes disappeared completely. Some lost so many trees they were no longer recognisable.

In 2000, fewer than 200 Avenues of Honour were recorded across Australia – mostly in Victoria. In 2004 a non-profit organisation, TREENET, launched a program to document, preserve, promote and even reinstate the original Avenues of Honour.

Victoria’s best-known Avenues are probably at Bacchus Marsh and Ballarat.

But there is another significant Avenue of Honour at Macedon with 154 Scarlet Oaks* (Quercus coccinea), plus one English Oak (Quercus robur) at the abutting ends of each row.

The trees were planted 40 feet apart over half a mile stretch of road with funds raised by the community. The Avenue was opened by the Premier of Victoria, Harry Lawson, on 10 August 1918 at a ceremony attended by some 700 people, two months before the War ended.

Two of the commemorative trees were planted to recognise John Firth (tree # 39) and his younger brother William Firth (tree #139), who both served in the AIF. They were the sons of Joseph Firth, the well-regarded Superintendent of the Macedon State Nursery. It is also believed that Joseph raised and supplied the trees.

The Macedon Avenue of Honour was partially damaged in the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfire but remains magnificent in autumn. It is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.

* Its commonly reported that the trees are Pin Oaks Quercus palustris which are closely related.

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