Centennial Australian Memorial Avenue at Pozières, France
A TREENET Project
The project will create a Centennial Australian 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.
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:
- Heritage – Shared Franco-Australian history, commemoration and culture from 1916.
- Landscape – Restoring the treed landscape to commemorate history.
- Environment – Value of trees to improve the functional, economic and ecologic outcomes.
- Tourism – International historical tourism is a major economic and cultural factor.
- 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 been identified:
- 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. Each tree will have a plaque identifying each battalion and its state(s) of origin.
- 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 is 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.
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
- Help implement concept with Australian and French stakeholders
- Provide technical assistance
- Raise capital to finance trees and plaques
- Overview/assist in pruning and 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
- Nigel Wells, TREENET Advisory Board member based in France
- 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:
- Providing land – the D929 belongs to the Département of the Somme, which is responsible for maintenance, signage and safety.
- Tree planting – French local government to provide tree planting and protection-support, installation of plaques, concept, to be confirmed.
- 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.
- 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.
TREENET will provide administration without cost. Implementation costs will include plaque design, media, promotional, translation and other direct project costs. Project management is included separately. Funds collected will only be used directly related to the project and will be held in a dedicated account and independently audited.
Fund raising approaches currently envisaged are a community mix of:
- Foster benefactors: A public appeal to ‘foster a centennial memorial ANZAC tree in France’ by individuals, families, clubs, companies, etc. Each tree would be numbered and the fosterer identified on the commemorative plaque.
- Other benefactors: People may also make a contribution of any size, or group together as a syndicate to foster a tree, or finance the colour flash that will appear below the plaque.
- States and Territories: For the International Centennial Avenue where each tree will be dedicated to one of the 100 largest cities and towns from Australia’s 8 states/territories.
- Corporate benefactors: This programme is ideally suited to Corporate Social Responsibility and benefactors will be identified in signage and communications. Different levels of business involvement will be recognised on the plaques of trees concerned, e.g.
- Environmental investment that translates into a monetary value the benefits of trees over their planned 100 years life cycle including carbon sequestration, filtering air, water retention, etc.
- Heritage sponsor of plaques and their support.
Outline Project Timing
Planting will begin with the Battalion Avenue, followed by the Centennial Avenue. It will be determined by fund raising, authorisation of French local authorities and the weather for planting.
September/October: Secure high level Australian patron. Contacts with key Australian institution influencers. Discussions with French administrations.
November 11, 2018 — Armistice centenary: TREENET visit to Poziéres and Amiens, Attend Allées-Avenues conference — review planning with French partners. Project plan B re-defined by TREENET.
April 25, 2019 — ANZAC Day: Re-launch project during celebrations in France and Australia.
November 11, 2019 — Armistice: Dedication/Planting of Avenues.
April 25, 2020 — ANZAC Day: Dedication and opening of avenue(s).