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The Soldiers Avenue of Honour at Freshwater, is a living memorial and part of the Freshwater Anzac Precinct, along with the nearby Jacka Park Memorial. It is a registered Community War Memorial and is an excellent example of the 1920’s Avenue of Honour movement where more than 500 Avenues around Australia were lined with trees as living memorials to those who did not return from service in World War 1 and later World War 2.  Sadly, the Soldiers Avenue of Honour is now one of the few such Avenues that still exists on a suburban roadway.

The first Queensland Brush Box trees in the Avenue of Honour at Freshwater were planted about 1922 or 1923 along what was formerly called Matheson Street. This street had been renamed Soldiers Avenue in 1919 by Warringah Shire Council as a result of community representations. The first tree was planted near the corner of Oliver Street to honour members of Freshwater SLSC who had died in the War. It still thrives today.  Each tree planted thereafter was assigned to an individual who was killed on active service in World War One. The trees always had a timber guard and a plaque affixed to the guard. The bulk of trees were planted in the decades after World War One and, again, after World War Two.

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There are numerous mentions of the Avenue of Honour Memorial in the Minutes of Warringah Shire Council meetings throughout the 1920s and 1930s, particularly regarding requests from individuals and organisations for missing or dead trees to be replaced, or for tree guards to be repainted. Over time, the trees often outgrew their tree guards. In order to ensure their continuing protection, Warringah Council gave them local heritage status along with their memorials and plinths.

During the century-long history of the Avenue, commemorative events have been regularly held to mark both Anzac Day and Armistice Day. Often with marches down the Avenue or at the Jacka Park Memorial. In 1964, to mark 50 years since the commencement of World War One, the Harbord RSL Sub Branch re-established a Heroes tree and it was placed in the Avenue with a memorial plinth around it. Other trees were also planted nearby to mark the occasion. By 1985, with the gradual passing of the bulk of the WW1 service personnel and the deterioration of the tree guards, the Avenue declined and a decision was made to relocate the Memorial to a more enduring and fixed situation in Jacka Park. Some families sought to have their trees retained and a small number of memorials remained.

Since 2014, a group of organisations known as the Soldiers Avenue Stakeholders Group, comprising the Harbord RSL Sub Branch, Freshwater SLSC, the Friends of Freshwater and the Harbord Literary Institute, has combined to rejuvenate the Avenue. A master plan was devised and approved by Council which would permit the reinstatement of plaques with designated trees.  Footpath memorial plaques were designed to be inserted adjacent to trees to reduce the cemetery look of the Avenue.  The entrance to the Avenue was recast from the traffic busy Oliver Street to the less frenetic Albert Street opening.  Information plinths, a wall mural and new tree plantings were established.

A series of Centenaries was held for Anzac Day in 2015, Armistice Day in 2018 and for Soldiers Avenue in 2019 and these occasions were used to enlist the support of the three tiers of government to fund upgrades of the memorials, footpaths, art work, and amenities. Much emphasis was placed on gathering the detailed histories of the service personnel from World War One so as to give due recognition to our past but also gain understanding of its importance and its lessons for our future.

On 10 November 2019, a major event, organised by the Soldiers Avenue Stakeholders Group was held at Jacka park and Soldiers Avenue.  A memorial Ceremony in the presence of Her Excellency the Governor, Margaret Beazley AO QC, was followed by a traditional walk down Soldiers Avenue behind the full contingent of the Manly Warringah Pipe Band.  Along the way, a plaque was unveiled for the Surf Club Tree on the corner of Soldiers Avenue and Oliver Street to mark the large number of Surf Club members killed in WW1.  The Governor also planted a tree to mark the Centenary and unveiled a Plaque in honour of Rohan Tapfield who was killed in the European sector of the War. She also unveiled plaques to honour the Holloway brothers (Eric and Cyril) for their service, as well as for Sapper Fred Reynolds, who was killed at Gallipoli.  These plaques were installed in the newly laid footpath and bring to 14 the number that have been installed since the Centenary of Anzac in 2015.

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       Excellency, the Governor,  Margaret Beazley, AO QC.

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