The Ballarat Arch of Victory - Sturt Street, Alfredton
Almost 4,000 men and women from the Ballarat district enlisted to serve during the Great War of 1914 – 1918. Of that number, 528 (approximately one in every eight) were either killed in action or died as a result of their wounds.
In 1917, the idea for a Ballarat Avenue of Honour was suggested by Mrs. W. D. (Tilly) Thompson, a director of a local clothing manufacturer, E. Lucas & Co. Commencing on King George V’s birthday, June 4th 1917, the first 1,000 trees in the Avenue were planted by female staff from the local textile mill E. Lucas & Co. Just over two years later the final planting took place on 16 August 1919, with a total of 3,771 trees extending over a distance of approximately 14 miles along the Ballarat-Burrumbeet Road. There were eight plantings in all, which took place sometime between June and August each year and usually consisted of around 500 trees. The trees were planted in single lines along either side of the road at a regular spacing of 35 – 40 feet apart, and set back from the edge of the carriageway approximately 15 – 20 feet. Each newly planted tree was protected by a substantial timber guard, to which a plate bearing each soldiers name, rank and unit was attached.
Originally twenty-three different species of trees were planted in the Avenue including American Ash, English Ash, Mountain Ash, North American Maple, Scarlet Oak, Norway Maple, Broadleaf Maple, English Maple, Alder Trees, Lime Trees, Ontaria Poplars, Silver Birch, Deciduous Cypress, Oaks (Sailors), Purple Leaf Elm, New Silver Poplars, Tulip trees, Huntingdon Elms, Canadian Giant Elms, Oriental Planes, Black Italian Poplars, Sugar Maple and Chestnut Oak. Individual species were usually planted in blocks of about fifty trees (twenty-five either side), however during the last two sections of the Avenue a slight change was made and two different species were used alternately and planted in blocks of around one hundred trees). Many of the original species used in the Avenue did not flourish and were soon replaced by several different species of Elm and Poplar.
The Avenue begins at the Arch of Victory in Alfredton. The Arch of Victory was the result of a great deal of work by the women employed by E. Lucas & Co., who raised the money required to build the Arch. The Arch cost a total of £2,105. The foundation stone was laid on the 7th February 1920 by General Sir William Birdwood and the Arch was opened on the 2nd of June 1920 by the then Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII). The Arch is made of bricks, which were then cement rendered. On Sunday 13th March 1938, Mr S. Walker, President of the Ballarat RSSIA unveiled the Temple of Remembrance which is situated at the entrance of the Avenue of Honour. The temple houses a Book of Remembrance which contains a number of steel sheets upon which have been inscribed the names of every person in whose honour a tree has been planted in the Avenue. On the 7th of November 1954, Lieutenant General Sir Leslie Morshead unveiled two tablets to acknowledge the services of the men and women from Ballarat in the 1939 - 1945 war.
The Ballarat Avenue of Honour is significant as the earliest known memorial avenue to have been planted in Victoria, and appears to have stimulated similar plantings throughout Victoria in the years 1917 to 1921. They predominate in Victoria with the greatest concentration in the Central Highlands around Ballarat. These avenues represent a new egalitarian approach in the commemoration of soldiers where service rank was not a consideration and are illustrative of a peculiarly Australian, populist and vernacular response to the experience of the First World War. The Ballarat Avenue is the longest avenue of honour in Australia and, composed of exotic trees planted along a major road, is a dominant landscape feature in the low farming country with a powerful social message.