Legerwood's Memorial Trees: Tasmania's WW1 Heritage
The Avenue of Memorial - Legerwood Tasmania
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
Finding the Carved Trees of Legerwood
Home of the carved trees commemorating the WW1 dead of the town
Legerwood's Converted Railyard
Lance Cpl John Ridgeley - Called to Arms
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
Private George Peddle
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
Private John McDougall
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
Robert "Bobby" Jenkins
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.
Bobby and Trippy's Love StoryClick thumbnail to view full-size
Private William Henry Hyde - Mill Hand
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
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
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
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.