The Soldiers Avenue of Honour in Freshwater was created by Warringah Council in 1919 when it renamed the former Matheson Street to Soldiers Avenue. Council also voted to provide money to purchase and plant trees in honour of fallen soldiers from the local area, as a living memorial to those who died in service and did not return. This Avenue’s living memorials originally comprised a mixed planting of Brush Box (Lophostemon confertus) and Camphor Laurel (Cinnamomum camphora) with a number of associated memorial plaques.
Soldiers Avenue became a focus for local Anzac Day ceremonies after the Great War and at least two more trees were planted in 1922-23 in memory of local servicemen. The existing plantation of 67 trees has strong cultural and social links with the local community and continues to honour local soldiers who served in WWI and WWII as well as in more recent conflicts. A larger memorial at the ‘Heroes Tree’ has also been retained within the avenue. ANZAC Day celebrations ceased in Soldiers Avenue in the 1970s, but renewed interest and its long standing tradition as an avenue of honour now support the significance of this living memorial.
Warringah Council conserves a number of WWI and WWII commemorative plantations but only this street has individual memorials linked to an avenue plantation.
It is one of the last Avenues of Honour in metropolitan Sydney as many have succumbed to Sydney’s growth and traffic requirements.
In 1985, many of the plaques that had stood beside their tree for more than sixty years were relocated to a Wall of Remembrance in nearby Jacka Park. This park is named after Private Lesley Jacka who was killed at Gallipoli. The Wall of Remembrance contains the names of all those local service personnel who served in the First and Second World Wars.
In 2015 as part of the Centenary of Anzac Commemorations both the Wall of Remembrance and the Avenue of Honour were refurbished. With government support, wall plaques were repolished to ensure readability, and the first phase of the Soldiers Avenue Refurbishment Project was implemented. This included the installation of an information plinth; footpath memorial plaques beside the relevant trees; new footpaths and street signage; and compilation of the individual and family histories of those soldiers from the local area who served in the First World War. As part of this project, the Harbord RSL Sub-Branch also established a website and archive repository. https://www.harbordrslsubbranch.org/history
Source: Adapted from a State Heritage Nomination 2014 and New South Wales War Memorial Register – Freshwater ANZAC Precinct
Other links: Friends of Freshwater