A TREENET Project

The project will create a Centennial ANZAC Memorial Avenue along a public road in the Somme to commemorate Australians who died in France during WWI. The Avenue will represent a significant affirmation of the historic alliance between France and Australia during and after WWI and will commemorate the centennial of the end of the conflict.

Australian soldiers having their lunch by the side of the road with French children in 1916. Memorial alleys were widespread community initiatives that became popular in Australia as a fitting ANZAC memorial structure. Soldiers’ recollections of marching along tree-lined avenues in France reinforced this idea. They were always the result of local, largely voluntary endeavour, led by community groups and returned servicemen. Photo Australian War Memorial EZ0110.

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Vision & Strategic Intent

During WWI, 46 000 Australians gave their lives fighting in France and Belgium. At the centenary of the end of the conflict, in remembrance of their sacrifice and the historic alliance between France and Australia, this bi-national project proposes the creation of a Memorial Avenues along a public road in Northern France. Tree avenues represent a powerful message about peace and sacrifice. For that reason, it is also appropriate to consider an international memorial avenue. The TREENET project comprises two themes: the Australian Memorial Avenue and an International Centennial Avenue.

The strategic intent of the project is to go beyond conventional memorial avenues by integrating other aspects to generate broad community interest in France and Australia:

  1. Heritage – Shared Franco-Australian history, commemoration and culture from 1916.
  2. Landscape – Restoring the treed landscape to commemorate history.
  3. Environment – Value of trees to improve the functional, economic and ecologic outcomes.
  4. Tourism – International historical tourism is a major economic and cultural factor.
  5. Education – The avenues and their trees offer educational benefits to all ages.

Context & Background

At the outbreak of the First World War about 3 million trees lined the roads of France. These avenues, standing like soldiers on parade, channelled fresh troops towards the front lines. As the distance to the front diminished, so did the avenues, increasingly shattered and gap-toothed, foretell the grizzly horrors that lay ahead. They were also readily identifiable targets. Where they survived they exhaled hope and were a reminder of the existence of order before the chaos. While France lost a large portion of its avenues in the war zones there was a surge of planting memorial avenues in Australia and New Zealand, Canada, UK and Italy. Chantal Pradines, ‘Tree Avenues — from War to Peace’.

In Australia, the arboreal Avenue of Honour is an enduring form of public commemoration of military service. More than any other nation, Australians have chosen to recognise service and sacrifice through community plantings of about 60 000 trees in around 600 avenues as a living war memorial.

What to Commemorate?

Two complementary commemorative concepts have initially been identified:

  1. Battalion Avenue: The infantry battalion was the key WW1 organisational unit. The Australian War Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux commemorates the soldiers with no graves grouped by the 60 Australian infantry battalions in France. The proposed Battalion Avenue will become the complementary living arboreal memorial. Each tree will have a plaque identifying a battalion and its state(s) of origin. Other active units will also be represented — artillery, engineers, medical, etc.
  2. International Centennial Avenue: There is now a far more inclusive approach toward German participation in commemorations in France. The concept of an international centennial peace avenue was the subject of the November 2018 conference ‘Tree Avenues — from War to Peace’. The initial concept is to plant 100 trees from different nations to mark the centenary of the end of the war. Each tree will represent a location that will link the tree to a geographic point in the country it represents identified on plaques next to trees.

Where to Commemorate?

A suitable site needs to be of WWI significance to Australia; have a roadway suitable to plant trees on each side; with strong local interest and a ‘champion’ to support the project. Only Pozières meets all criteria.

The Australian Remembrance Trail spans much of the nearly 200 kilometres of the Western Front where Australians served. Source: Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

It is an emblematic WW1 site for Australians because it was their first victory on the Western Front with the country’s highest single battle casualties in any war. The village is built along the D929, a major road from Amiens to Bapaume that was originally lined by trees but very few are still standing after post WWI re-planting. The road is straight with verges sufficiently wide to allow tree set-back from the road along with pedestrian access. Pozières is grouped with the communities of Pays du Coquelicot (Poppy Country) in the Albert canton, within the Somme Département. It is frequently visited by Australians following the WWI Remembrance Trail.

The Mayor, Bernard Delattre, is active in promoting Franco-Australian relations. He favourably views the CAMA project because it would support the village’s established tourism and cultural interest, becoming part of a coherent town scheme that currently includes projects for the Charles Bean French-Australian bilingual school and to rebuild the Windmill to its pre-WWI state “to reunite French, Australian and Germans around this ambitious memory project.” The proposed D929 avenue sites are:

  • East of Pozières – the Battalion Memorial Alley of about 70 trees to link the Windmill battle site to the village and integrate it as a first stage within the Windmill project.
  • West of Pozières – entry to village from Albert, the Centenary Memorial Avenue of 100 trees to link the Military Cemetery with the 1st Divisional War Memorial.

Participation & Responsibilities

Australia: TREENET.

  1. Help implement concept with Australian and French stakeholders
  2. Provide technical assistance
  3. Raise capital to finance trees and plaques
  4. Overview/assist in post-planting maintenance.

TREENET is an incorporated body with a solid governance structure with a DGR (tax deductible gift recipient) status to manage public donations. TREENET CAMA project team members include:

  • Glenn Williams, Director of TREENET since 2013
  • David Lawry OAM, founded ‘Avenues of Honour 1915-2015’ project. Co-founder of TREENET
  • Chantal Pradines, Managing director of Allées-Avenue association and independent expert to the Council of Europe for the European Landscape Convention, is providing advice.

French Administration: There are three linked levels of local government with diverse responsibilities:

  1. Providing land – the D929 belongs to the Département of the Somme, which is responsible for maintenance, signage and safety.
  2. Tree planting – French local government to provide tree planting and protection-support, installation of plaques, concept, to be confirmed.
  3. Maintenance – mostly Département of Somme, the type of tree and its planting will influence lifetime health and maintenance; therefore, tree species selection will be local.
  4. Shared pruning to shape – Pozières to cut grass pathway and water trees in dry periods.

The Mayor of Pozières fully supports the project and will help address administration issues. The project is relevant to the Département of the Somme, which actively promotes WWI tourism and cultural exchanges and is applying for the Western Front battlefields to become a UNESCO heritage site.

Costs & Budget

Commemorative avenues in Australia were almost always planned, organised and paid for by local community groups in association with local government. This project is partly based on this approach. Capital cost sharing (assumptions to be confirmed):

  • Australia – 100% of tree, plaques or signage and 50% of 10-year pruning cost and implementation, the total cost is estimated at $1200 per tree.
  • France – provides land, site preparation, support and planting, plaques installation and maintenance.

Implementation costs will include some administrative costs related to overall project management, interpretive signage and plaque design, media, promotional, international language translation and other direct project costs. Funds collected will be dedicated entirely to the project and held in a dedicated account and independently audited.

Funding

A standard approach to fund raising is likely to included targeted solicitation within the corporate sector and a community-based public appeal to  individuals, syndicates, families, clubs, businesses and other sympathetic organisations.
The current Crowd Funding site is one example of these approaches.

Outline Project Timing

Planting will begin with the Battalion Avenue and determined by a range of factors, principally agreement and authorisation of the local French authorities;  tree species determination and nursery program to produce the tree stock; optimal season for planting and the all important fund raising efforts by TREENET.

The Centennial Avenue concept is yet to be refined by the relevant Australian and international authorities and will be pursued as and when appropriate.

November 11, 2018 — Armistice centenary: TREENET visit to Poziéres, Amiens and other key Western Front sites.
Attend Allées-Avenues conference ‘Tree Avenues — from War to Peace’.  A project review  with French partners will occur and relevant project plans will be subsequently re-defined by TREENET.

As with all TREENET Avenues of Honour projects, project promotion can take advantage of key, annual commemorative events, most notably 25th April  — ANZAC Day and 11th of November – Armistice Day: .

It is envisaged initial tree planting can occur at an optimal time in 2020/2021 — determined by seasonal factors and or key ceremonial dates.