Updated date:

Legerwood's Memorial Trees: Tasmania's WW1 Heritage

Author:

Traveller, drinker of fine (cheap) wine, talker, lover of all things interesting ;-) Sharer of knowledge, seeker of history.

The Avenue of Memorial - Legerwood Tasmania

Legerwoods Memorial Trees

Legerwoods Memorial Trees

Legerwood's Memorial Trees Live On

As World War I drew to a close, many towns and cities in Australia chose to honor their homegrown fallen soldiers by planting trees to form avenues of remembrance.

Families of the dead soldiers were invited to elaborate ceremonies, and with much solemnity, a tree was placed in the ground as a permanent reminder of the sacrifice made by their loved one.

In the spirit of the time, the town of Legerwood (the town was only named Legerwood in 1936) planted nine trees, seven to honor the men from the town who had been killed in the conflict, one to remember the ANZACS who had given their lives and one to remember the sacrifice made at Gallipoli.

Fast forward 81 years and time has taken its toll on the memorial trees. The sacrifice of the fallen was but a distant memory and the trees had been declared unsafe. Legerwood options were limited, but one thing was certain, something had to be done to ensure a falling tree didn't cause any further tragedies.

Rather than do what Port Arthur has recently done (which was to cut down the original remembrance trees, wood chip them, then replant the trees and scatter the wood chip around them), Legerwood chose to rally as a community and preserve in some form the trees that stood as a reminder to the towns sacrifice.

After a swift round of successful fundraisers, chainsaw artist Eddie Freeman was engaged and the trees were transformed into a set of permanent memorials that were based on historical photos of the soldiers.

Legerwood took what could have been a permanent loss of a link with its past and made it into something which is not only unique, but should also continue to honor the memory of the fallen long into the future.

Legerwood's Anzac Memorial - The Lone Bugler

Legerwood's Anzac Memeorial - The Lone Bugler remembers a nations sacrifice

Legerwood's Anzac Memeorial - The Lone Bugler remembers a nations sacrifice

Finding the Carved Trees of Legerwood

Legerwood's Converted Railyard

legerwoods-memorial-trees-tasmanias-ww1-heritage

Lance Cpl John Ridgeley - Called to Arms

The memorial to Cpl John Ridgeley in Legerwood

The memorial to Cpl John Ridgeley in Legerwood

Lance Corporal John Charles Ernest Riseley: Legerwood's Unluckiest Soldier

Lance Corporal John Charles Ernest Riseley - 47th Australian Infantry

Born 8.9.1881 Shipwrights Point, Tasmania

Died 13.4.1917 Bullecourt, France

Corporal Riseley was sitting with a fatigue party in the cold of Bullecourt, taking shelter in a shell hole they gathered the abundant rubbish of the battlefield and lit a fire to keep warm. Unknown to Corporal Riseley, the fire had been set on top of an un-exploded bomb.

It didn't take long for the heat of the fire to cause the bomb to explode. The resulting blast immediately killed one soldier (Blackmore) and seriously injured Corporal Riseley.

John Riseley was evacuated to the 45th CC Station, but sadly died of his injuries 4 days later.

He was 35 years of age.

Whilst he was laying there dying of his wounds, John Riseley asked another soldier named Ridgeway to contact his wife and tell her what had happened to him. He also asked him to pass on his last messages.

Ridgeway transcribed John's last words and the events that led to his death and forwarded them to his grieving widow Alice.

The Trees of Legerwood

legerwoods-memorial-trees-tasmanias-ww1-heritage

Private George Peddle

Private Peddle - Memorialized as a sawman

Private Peddle - Memorialized as a sawman

Private George Peddle: Son of the Sawmill Owner

Private George Peddle - 40th Battalion

Born 4.4.1892 Launceston, Tasmania

Died 13.10.1917 Passendale, Belgium

Even though his father owned several sawmills and he was employed as the manager, this privileged position didn't stop George Peddle from signing up to serve his King and country.

It was during the fighting in the fields of Belgium that George Peddle became the victim of a snipers bullet. In the madness of war there was several conflicting reports as to what happened to the body of George Peddle after his death.

The most comforting is that he was given a christian burial and a wooden cross was erected to mark his grave, in what is now Ploegsteert Cemetery.

After the war, nothing remained of Private Peddles grave marker, so he now lies forever unknown, but always remembered, in the fields of Belgium.

The Ploegsteert Memorial

The Ploegsteert Memorial where the names of 11,447 men are inscribed to honor their sacrifice.

The Ploegsteert Memorial where the names of 11,447 men are inscribed to honor their sacrifice.

Private John McDougall

Private McDougall in Uniform

Private McDougall in Uniform

Private John Henry Gregg McDougall: The Railwayman

Private John Henry Gregg McDougall - 40th Battalion

Born 28.9.1897 Scottsdale, Tasmania

Died 13.10.1917 Passendale, Belgium

John McDougall was the second casualty from the town of Legerwood on the 13th of October 1917. This shouldn't come as a shock as the 40th Battalion suffered 248 casualties from a Battalion strength of 1,023 during the battle of Passendale (Passchendaele).

John McDougall worked as a porter at the Legerwood rail station, where by a quirk of fate, his memorial tree stands.

He was only 20 years of age when he was killed.

Private John McDougall

Immortalized as a Railway Porter outside the now disused Legerwood train station.

Immortalized as a Railway Porter outside the now disused Legerwood train station.

Robert "Bobby" Jenkins

legerwoods-memorial-trees-tasmanias-ww1-heritage

Private Robert James Jenkins: A Love Lost

Private Robert James Jenkins - 12th Battalion

Born 1889 Chancewater, Cornwall, England

Died 7.1.1917 France

The story of Robert Jenkins is both one of a love lost and a stark reminder on the effects of war on those left at home.

Prior to departing Australia, Private Jenkins proposed to Miss Amy Francis Forsyth, known by her nickname "Trippy". On hearing of the death of her "Bobby" she put her engagement ring back in its box and placed it on her dressing table next to a picture of Private Jenkins.

Trippy never married and passed away in 1968 (at the age of 76), still a spinster and still with her engagement ring sitting next to the photo of her beloved Bobby.

Their romance is now forever immortalized by Private Jenkins tree.

Private William Henry Hyde - Mill Hand

legerwoods-memorial-trees-tasmanias-ww1-heritage

Private William Henry Hyde

Private William Henry Hyde - 52nd Battalion

Born 1.5.1889 Longford, Tasmania

Died 7.7.1916 Armetieres, France

Another of the fallen who had a link to the local sawmill, Private Hyde worked as a mill hand prior to departing for the battlefields of France.

Upon hearing of his death and in recognition of his sacrifice, the sawmill lowered the flag to half mast and the mill ceased operation for the rest of the day.

Private Hyde was 27 years of age when he was killed.

The Mill Hand - William Hyde

legerwoods-memorial-trees-tasmanias-ww1-heritage
Thomas Edwards - Thinking of his Wife Florence till the end.

Thomas Edwards - Thinking of his Wife Florence till the end.

Private Thomas Edward Edwards: Caring Husband Till the End

Private Thomas Edward Edwards

Born 9.9.1883 Fingal, Tasmania

Died 19.2.1918 Belgium

Thomas Edwards was another sawmill employee who signed up to do his duty for King and Country. With the war in its final year, Private Edwards was killed whilst serving in Belgium.

As he was dying he turned to his friend and distant relative (through marriage), George (Tas) McDonald and asked him to look after his wife of almost ten years. Tas took his dying friends words to heart and on his return to Australia after the war, cared for and then married Thomas Edwards widow Florence on 21.5.1921.

Thomas's tree shows his final farewell to his loving wife Florence.

Thomas Edwards - The Last Farewell

Florence and Thomas in their last embrace

Florence and Thomas in their last embrace

The last embrace surrounded by images of the couples lives

The last embrace surrounded by images of the couples lives

Private Andrews in uniform

Private Andrews in uniform

Private Alan Robert Andrews

Private Alan Robert Andrews 12th Battalion

Born 9.5.1897 New River, Tasmania

Died 25.7.1916 Pozieres, France

Private Andrews was the first soldier to be born and raised in the town to lose his life in the conflict. He was also the youngest at the tender age of 19 years and 2 months.

His memorial tree depicts him waving farewell with his trusty hat whilst accompanied by his loyal dog.

The battle for Pozieres was so brutal that Australia historian Charles Bean described the area as "more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth."

Robert Andrews - Saying Goodbye

The Last Farewell

The Last Farewell

Lone Pine Tree

Lone Pine Tree

Conversion of the Railyard

With the success of the memorial, the residents set about invigorating the abandoned rail-yard where the sculptures stood. After much effort and community support the whole area was transformed into a memorial park.

Now as you visit the WW1 memorials you can take a walk through sculpted gardens where the local populace have planted flowers and installed bench seats in memory of their loved ones.

There is even a pine tree planted from a seed of the original Lone Pone in Gallipoli.

Legerwood has created a serene place to both ponder the lives of its citizens and honor the sacrifice of its fallen.

Have You Visited Legerwood?

tedbatchelor from Melbourne on April 22, 2020:

Another ANZAC day is upon us. Lest We Forget.

Ted (author) from The World on February 27, 2016:

I agree! A brilliant idea that keeps the memory and the stories of those that gave so much alive for future generations. Thank you for reading.

Mel Carriere from San Diego California on February 27, 2016:

What a fantastic solution to keep the memorial alive. Beautiful artwork, and a solemn remembrance to those who sacrificed themselves for us. Great hub!