A Living, Breathing Lone Pine Monument in Australia.

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Wattle Park’s Lone Pine grown from Gallipoli Lone Pine seedlings. Photo by Robert Horvat

The following article is a complimentary piece to this bloggers previous post entitled Gallipoli and Battle of Lone Pine (Australians at War). I recently visited one of the sights where pine seeds from an original pine cone from the battle of Lone Pine was planted here in Melbourne, Australia at Wattle Park (which is 3 kilometres from my residence). I must admit as a child we played quite often at Wattle Park, but only as an adult I have come to appreciate and admire this great tree.

The Lone Pine was a single standing tree on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey, which marked the site of the Battle of Lone Pine in 1915. The original ‘lone pine’ was the only tree left standing around that site after the Turkish soldiers had cut down the rest to use as logs to cover their trenches during the battle. Unfortunately, for the solitary pine tree that had stood there prior to the battle, it would be smashed to pieces during the campaign. (In the 1920’s, a solitary pine tree was planted at the Lone Pine Cemetry in Gallipoli to symbolize the original Lone Pine). Fortunately, from what remained of tree cuttings and branches from the Turkish trenches, pine cones were retrieved by two Australian soldiers and eventually brought home to Australia.

In a beautiful story retold many times, Sgt. Keith McDowell, an Australian solder of 24th Battalion, whilst in charge of  collecting wood during the campaign of ‘Lone Pine’, picked up a pine cone from the Lone Pine which he decided to keep as a souvenir. On returning to his trench he placed the cone in his kit bag for safe keeping, where it remained throughout the war and until he returned to Australia.

During a visit  to his favourite aunt, Mrs. Emma Gray of Grassmere near Warrnambool in Victoria’s west, he presented the cone to Mrs. Gray. At the time, Mrs. Gray’s son would later recall that he said to her “Here Aunty, you’ve got a green thumb, see if you can grow something out of this”.

It wasn’t until some ten years later that Mrs. Gray planted a number of seeds from the cone, in  which, five seedlings emerged, with four surviving. She would nurture these seeedlings in pots on her back verandah and before long they turned into small trees.

These small pine trees were planted in four different locations around Victoria. One at Wattle Park, in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne on May 8th, 1933. the second at the Shine of Remembrance on June 11, 1933, the third at the soldiers Memorial Hall at’ The Sisters’ near Terang on June18, 1933,  and finally last but not least at Warrnabool Botanic Gardens on January 23rd, 1934. (The Shrine pine tree in 2005 was removed due to severe fungus disease, but was replaced nearby with a ‘decendant tree’ in 2006.

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Wattle Park’s dedication plate. Photo by Robert Horvat

Lance Corporal Benjamin Charles Smith, the second Australian soldier of this story, of the 3rd Battalion, also collected several cones from the branches that were used to cover the trenches at Lone Pine.  He sent these cones home to his mother in Inverell, NSW. The seeds, apparently then sat in a drawer for over ten years before she finally sowed some of them. Only two survived were raised as seedlings, one of which was planted in Inverell and the second was planted at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra  in October 1934. It stands there today, some 20m tall despite suffering from severe winds that damaged two lower limbs in December 2008.

Thanks to these two great Australians as mentioned above we can all share in and be a part of their story.  More importantly, we can look at these trees that we have mentioned above and in particular the ‘Lone Pine’, as living breathing reminders of what all our brave men and women in our past did for us.

All Photos are by Robert Horvat and is copyright (C) 2013 and may not be used without permission.



Categories: Australian history, War history

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