The Benalla Avenue of Honour, comprising Silky Oak trees (Grevillea robusta), originally lined both sides of Barkly Street, from the Church Street intersection at the northern end and the Bridge Street intersection at the southern end – within the precinct of the former Benalla East School (founded in 1880) and the Benalla High School (founded in 1912).
The first two Silky Oak trees were planted on the 3rd August 1918, with the vision of establishing an honour avenue to commemorate the service and sacrifice of local soldiers during WW1.
Avenue of Honor.
The function of planting two trees as the opening performance in forming an Avenue of Honor In memory of fallen soldiers took place in Barkly street on Saturday afternoon under fine weather conditions. There was a large assemblage. From a raised platform adorned with flags and wattle blossom, improvised for the occasion, several addresses were delivered. Immediately in front was a square formed by returned soldiers and the local cadets about 100 strong, and the newly-formed branch of the W.A.A.C., under command of Lieut. Morgans.
Mr H. Guppy presided, and read an apology for the absence of Mr Leckie through an attack of Influenza.
The chairman, after the singing of the National Anthem, referred to the object of the gathering, and said the avenue was to be planted in memory of Benalla’s fallen soldiers, the boys who heard their country’s call and had paid the supreme sacrifice for the liberty of Australia and the whole world. The silky oak (native of New South Wales) had been selected as fitting to the memory of the Australian soldier.
The idea was to attach to each tree at a later date a memorial recording the facts of the heroic sacrifice. The influence for good in establishing a national sentiment among the children attending the adjacent schools by the presence of such an avenue would be great. As the trees grew so would the memory of those gallant lads be preserved evergreen. The avenue would be invested with a respect and pride that would be lasting. He took the opportunity of congratulating the ladies in the ranks of the W.A. A.C. on their appearance.
The president of the shire (Cr Dunlop) at this stage introduced a resolution, which he thought fitting to move at that gathering seeing that no other celebration had been arranged for, supporting the declaration of determination on the fourth anniversary of the war to continue to a victorious issue, as follows :
That on this the fourth anniversary of the declaration of a righteous war, this meeting if the citizens of Benalla records its inflexible determination to continue to a victorious end the struggle in the maintenance of those ideals of liberty and justice which are the common and sacred cause of the Allies.
Cr Burness seconded the resolution. He expressed the hope, please God, that it would never de volve upon him to record another such resolution. Before the next anniversary came along he hoped that they would have beaten and crushed the Germans as they would any other reptile. They wanted to see this terrible war brought to a successful finish. They could determine to assist in bringing this about by sending all the necessary reinforcements for the brave men who were away fighting; also forwarding comforts and money. When the men came back it would be their duty to do all they could for them, and to those who did not come back they would hold their memory in honour. They must, fight on until peace with victory was assured, otherwise if the Germans were left with any strength at all it would mean a worse condition of things than ever. He had pleasure in seconding the resolution, which was then carried, three cheers being given for the King and Empire.
Rev. A. C. McConnan, in an introductory to his remarks, congratulated Mr Guppy on his elevation to the local magistracy. In this district Arbor Day for years past had become a big day for the schools. The planting of trees was fraught with important meaning in that the children in years to come would feel some satisfaction in being able to say they had taken part in tree planting. To-day it was not an ordinary Arbor Day, but they were engaged in tree planting of a very superior kind. There was no need to labour the point, but he desired to emphasise the fact that in planting the trees to the memory of the brave boys who had fallen they wished to not only keep their memory green but evergreen. They should never forget those who had fought and died for them. There had never been such a function as this with all it signified. By this they were showing their undying affection for those who had fallen in the great fight. He was more than ordinarily pleased that that street had been selected for the planting. As chairman of the East School committee and the High School council he felt no better site in the town could have been chosen for an avenue of honour. The children attending the schools would be able to grow up as it were under the shade of those trees. The avenue would remain as a living reminder to the children of future generations of the tremendous sacrifices that had been made in order that their freedom should be assured.
The trees would be a silent yet visible token of those sacrifices of our boys. Like the other speakers he hoped the war would soon come to an end, but the memory of it would abide. The avenue would be a very pleasing memorial of the supreme sacrifice made for all. (Applause.) The president of the shire then planted the first tree in the east corner of Barkly Street and Mr Guppy the west corner.
A rousing cheer was given the W.A..A.C. as they were marched off in true military style to the Drill Hall.
Independent (Benalla) (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), Friday 9 August 1918, page 3
The Avenue of 30 Silky Oaks, was completed in 1934 and the new concrete monument heralding the Avenue, was unveiled during an official ceremony.
AVENUE OF HONOUR
OFFICIAL CEREMONY ON SATURDAY.
The official ceremony in connection with the Avenue of Honor in Barkley Street was completed on Saturday in the presence of a large attendance and took the form of the planting of trees and the unveiling of a memorial tablet. The Benalla Band led by Drum-major W. Davis, led the band from Bridge Street to the intersection of Bridge and Church Streets, where a temporary platform had been erected for the occasion. The afternoon was presided over by the shire president ( Cr. T.F. Harrison) and on the platform were Messrs H. J. Guppy (Dads’ Association), Mr Garson (acting president of the R.S.S.I.L.A.) and Mrs G. T. Say (Women’s Auxiliary of R.S.L.)
In opening the proceedings, Mr Garson said that the avenue had been commenced 17 years ago and it was felt that it should be completed and the Women’s Auxiliary took the first move in the matter. It was soon felt that those concerned in the movement had the hearty co-operation of townspeople and various organisations. Mr W. Heywood also took an interest in the movement and he collected £11/2/ in contributions and the Diggers voted £30 also. The Shire Council also rendered assistance by supplying the trees and memorial tablet. He said that it had been a great pleasure to all to find that they had not to go begging and that they had had the co-operation of all. He then called on the Shire President to plant the first tree. In doing so, Cr. Harrison said that it gave him much pleasure to be present that afternoon to complete the avenue, which was first started by Mr Clive Waters 17 years ago. He said that the trees would be a memento for the children and hoped that they would be looked after.
Trees were then planted in honor of deceased soldiers by the persons and organisations named as follows: -N. Richardson (father), Mrs A Walker (Lieut. F. Walker), Mrs W.R. Phillips (son), Jean Reid (father), Mr A Mason (father), Mrs Bourke (brother), Mr R. Walker (father), Mrs V. Say (Lieut. H. Mathieson), Mr Garson (Benalla branch R.S.L.), Mr A. Munro (founders Benalla branch R.S.L. ) Sister Chambers (Army Nur-sing Services), Mrs N. Richardson (Women’s Auxiliary), Mrs Ladson (Red Cross Society), Mrs Fawckner (C.W.A.), Miss C. Goulding (C.W.A Younger Set), Mrs S. Smith (High School Welfare Club), Mrs R. Dean (Benalla East Mothers’ Club), Mrs Magee (Benalla West Mothers’ Club), Mr W. Heywood (Barkly Street contributors), Mrs A. Munro (Benalla Rangers), Mr R. Meadows, Mr J. Reid, Mr S. Crockett (brother), A. Munro jun. (uncle), Mr J Leak, Master Kemp, Benalla High School (prefects), Con-vent F. C. J. , Benalla West School senior pupils, and children of members of Benalla branch R.S.S.I.L.A. (K. Jardine, A. Say, B. Kemp, Mary Hossack, Margaret Garson, Beryl Murray, Aileen Fawckner, Joy Nicholls, Graham Roberts, Kenneth Wood, Mirlwyn Cross and Frank Kay).
Headed by the Band, the people marched to the Tablet at the intersection of Bridge and Church Streets where it was unveiled by the Shire President, after which the Last Post was sounded. This was followed by “Lest We Forget” by those present and singing of the National Anthem brought the proceedings to a close.
North Eastern Ensign (Benalla, Vic. : 1872 – 1938), Friday 28 September 1934, page 1
Sadly the Avenue no longer exists. The bold monument marking the Avenue at the Bridge Street and Barkly Street intersection was relocated to the Benalla Botanical Gardens in 1995; finding its current resting place within the war memorial section of the Gardens (Bridge Street west entrance adjacent the Lake Benalla bridge crossing), in 2007.