This Avenue of Elms was planted in honour of those men connected with Digby and District, who, in response to Britain's call to arms, enlisted for active service in The Great War.
The Planting Ceremony
Strangers to war and all its horrors, yet recognising the "glorious right" of the cause, they forsook the familiar pursuits of peaceful times, bade good-bye to home and loved ones, and sailed across the seas, to fight in distant lands in the great struggle to make the world "safe for democracy" and " conduct it at last to freedom."
When tried by the fiery ordeal of battle they failed not. By their valiant deeds, the citizen soldiers of the Commonwealth made the name of Australia to shine with an added lustre, and filled with pride the breasts of their fellow countrymen.
In the included lists are given the names of the men in whose honour these trees were planted.
The founders regard as a sacred trust the maintenance of this avenue in a condition worthy of Australia's heroes. May this trust be faithfully kept from generation to generation!
The formal ceremony of planting this Avenue took place on Saturday, August 11th, 1917, in the presence of a large and representative gathering of people.
Newspaper Articles : Digby Avenue of Honour
The Glenelg Shire was represented by President Alfred Mitchell, Councillors J. W. Murrell and L. Koch; the Portland Shire by Councillors Gavin Shaw and J. R. Philip. Apologies for unavoidable absence were received from the President of the Portland Shire (Councillor F. W. Cope), Councillors John Smith and Samuel Malseed; the Rev. Father Lowtham (Roman Catholic), Rev. John Meers (Presbyterian), Rev. F. Stilwell (Church of England); Mr. A. S. Rodgers, M.H.R.; and Mr. H. J. M. Campbell, M.L.A.
The churches were represented by the Rev. T. F. C. Reynolds (Church of England) and by Mr. R. Dunstan (Methodist Missionary).
At 2 o'clock p.m. Councillor Gavin Shaw extended a hearty welcome to the visitors, and the National Anthem was sung by the assemblage.
At 3.30 p.m., the work of tree planting being completed, an adjournment was made to the State School, where afternoon tea was dispensed by the ladies in such a beautiful manner as to evoke hearty and sincere compliments from the visitors.
Adresses suitable to the occasion were delivered by Councillor Mitchell, the visiting heads of churches, and the Head Teacher (Mr. G. T. Graham).
A pleasing feature of the program was the singing of several patriotic songs by the school children, for which they were heartily applauded.
The singing of the National Anthem terminated proceedings.
1916 : Photographs of Digby Soldiers at Digby State School
"The Casterton News" (Vic.), Thursday, 29th June 1916.
School Functions at Digby.--A large crowd assembled at the State school on the afternoon of Friday last, when in addition to the celebration of Arbor Day other important ceremonies took place. At the outset of the proceedings the children and visitors assembled round the flag pole. At the request of the head teacher, Mr G. Graham, a new Union Jack was hoisted by Mrs Alice Burgess, correspondent of the school committee. This was saluted by, the children, who repeated the customary pledge of fidelity. The National Anthem was then sung by all present, and three ringing cheers followed. In the schoolroom, Mr Graham explained to the gathering that some time ago he had suggested that he would like to see on the school walls photographs of all local volunteers who had gone on active service. The proposal met with solid support, and photographs of soldiers were freely presented to the school. The school committee opened a subscription list to provide funds towards the cost of mounting and framing the photographs and the cost of the new flag. Mrs Burgess had done splendid service in canvassing for subscriptions and for photographs, and deserved great credit for the fine result. The hymn, "O God, our help in ages past," was then rendered by the children, after which an address was delivered by Rev. F. T. C. Reynolds, who expressed his pleasure at being present at such a gathering. Too much honour could not be given to the heroes who had gone out to fight for honour, freedom, justice and for Australia. he thought it splendid to have their pictures on the school walls. Those faces must have an inspiring effect on the rising and on future generations. He congratulated the school on the number of ex-pupil soldiers. (Cheers). Mr Graham apologised for the absence of the Rev. Mr Buchan (Presbyterian) and Mr Dunstan (Methodist). Kipling's "Lest we Forget" was next rendered by the children, and during their singing of this and of other appropriate songs the pictures were hung in position by Mr G. L. Simkin, president of the school Committee, assisted by Mr A. R Burgess. The photographs were arranged in two frames, each 42 by 37 inches, and capable of holding upwards of 30 pictures, about 62 in all. Afternoon ten was served by the ladies, whose efforts were much ap. pointed. Under the superintendence of Messrs A. Voege, W. S. Clarke, W. Waters, A. R. Burgess and S. Outtram, a number of trees, comprising oaks, eucalypts, cypress, as well as several shrubs, were planted to further commemorate the occasion. Lollies donated by Mrs Heazlewood were distributed amongst the young folks who wound up the afternoon by playing a number of games before dispersing.
1917 : Planting the Digby Avenue on 11th August 1917
"The Hamilton Spectator" (Vic.) Saturday, 18th August 1917.
DIGBY AVENUE OF HONOUR. Digby, Wednesday.
Saturday last saw one of the most animated scenes ever witnessed here. It was the occasion of the planting of the Avenue of Honour, consisting of 71 elms, set out to honour the names of that number of district men who have responded to the Empire's call to duty. The morning turned out wet and altogether unpropitious for this function, but the afternoon saw somewhat improved weather conditions, and the resulting fine attendance caused gratificatioin to the committee of management. Visitors from all round the district were present, and all were loud in their praise of the organisation characterising the proceedings. Just before 2 o'clock, a general move was made to the entrance to the proposed avenue, where Cr. Shaw extended a hearty welcome to the visitors, after which the assemblage joined in singing the National Anthem. Then the hon. secretary, Mr. Graham, asked all the appointed planters of trees to take up their stations, informing them that on a given bell signal planting was to begin. The tree sites had all been numbered to avoid confusion and loss of time, and therefore the planters were all quickly at their tree sites. The work of planting and guarding the trees was carried out with system and such resulting expedition that the 71 trees were planted and guarded in an hour and a half. By half-past three, all present were assembled in the State school, where a generous afternoon tea was provided by the ladies, and much appreciated by everyone. Looking along the double row of trees planted, visitors noted that 19 name-plates had attached to them purple badges, which indicated that 19 of the men honoured had made the supreme sacrifice.
The trees are a fine grown lot of elms, each about 8 feet high, the guards, triangular in shape, present a neat and workmanlike appearance. Every detail must have been well conceived and considered before hand, otherwise the noticeable swing and absence of hitch would not have been so prominent.
At afternoon tea in the school Mr. G T. Graham read the roll of names of the men that day honoured, 19 of them had fallen ; one, Private Eric M'Lean, was a prisoner of war in Hanover, Germany, and his mother had that day been informed by him that he had had his right leg amputated. There were on the school wall the photographs of 50 of these 71 men, and it was hoped that all 71 photographs would yet be obtained. The school children sang the "Intercession," for those at the front, and the Rev. T. F. C. Reynolds then nicely addressed the gathering. Mr. Graham read a lengthy list of apologies from representative men, including Messrs. Rodgers, N.H.R, Mr. Campbell, M.L.A., from heads of churches and others.
Fine addresses were delivered by Cr. Mitchell, president of the Glenelg Shire ; Mr. Dunstan, Methodist missionary of Merino. The children further rendered musical items in Kipling's "Recessional" and "Keep the home fires burning." The National Anthem terminated the proceedings.
By 4.30 p.m. the visitors had all left on their homeward journey, pleased that they had been privileged to take part in one of the most successful and laudable functions yet carried out in this district.
In conclusion, it should be said that a great many persons are entitled to credit for the fine result of the effort. All members of the committee, the carpenters who made and erected the guards, those who assisted with teams for carting timber and soil, all who assisted these, the ladies who undertook the catering, for such a large gathering, are all worthy of special mention, bit the list is too long to particularise.
Following is a list of soldiers honoured (f indicates those heroes who have fallen) :--East side--J. P. Kilkelly (f), E. T. Philip (f), Thos. Waters, Cecil Storer, W. F. Gibson, H. R. Cameron (f), H. Peters (f), A. Millard, J. S. Gull, John Biggin, Val. G. Thomas, Dr. W. A. Morton, Eric E. M'Lean, Geo. C. Voege, Robin Sharp, Robert A. Haworth, J. T. Walsh (f), Frank Thomas, Wm. Cotter, Bert Mabbitt (f), W. H. M'Donald, Wm. Brunton, Kenneth Grant, James R. M'Clintock (f), Syd. A. Simkin, F. J. Lawton, Geo. Povey, Martin Waters, Chas. A. Dougheney, W. S. Philip, Chas. Lee (f), Leslie Storer, J. D. Reid (f), Les. Thomas, Herb White, Mark Kerr (f), James Smith (f). West side :--W. M'K. Shaw, Wm. M'Intosh, Wm. A. Gull, Andrew M'Donald, Albert Beeson (f), Jno. J. Clarke. Mat. T, Turner, Jno M'Clintock (f), Robin M'Donald, Jno. Lawton, J. J. Allardice, Eoin L Smith (f), Geof. Salmon, Chas. Nesbitt (f), Herb. Hancock, J. L. Dougheney, Llewelyn Lewis (f), Wm. G. Heazlewood, Jas. Simkin (f), Ed. H. Waters (f), Fred. C. Burgess, J. B. Kilkelly, A. W. Broben, A.A. M'Donald, Nat. B. Mabbitt (f), Albert M'Clintock, J. C. Simkin, Wm. Outtram (f), Ed. J. Waters, Hector M'Donald (f), Chas. M'Callum, Wm. Waters, David Lee, John A. Cameron.
1918 : Extending the Digby Avenue in 1918
"The Portland Guardian" (Vic.) Friday, 14th June 1918.
At a public meeting held on Saturday to consider the matter of extending the Digby Soldiers' Avenue it was decided to plant the trees at the southern end of the present avenue. Upwards of 20 trees will be planted. A working bee will be held a week before planting day to prepare the cites of the trees. Meanwhile carpenters will be employed to construct the necessary guards. Of the 70 odd trees planted last year there was not a single failure. In planting this avenue in recognition of the district Soldiers, Digby, though comprising but a handful of people, has set an example to larger centres.
"The Portland Guardian" (Vic.) Friday, 19th July 1918.
AVENUE OF HONOR.--On Saturday afternoon, July 27. the Digby Avenue of Honor will be extended by the addition of 21 trees, making the total 92. The Committee cordially invites the district public to be present at the ceremony, Afternoon tea will be dispensed by the ladies free of charge.
"The Hamilton Spectator" (Vic.) Thursday, 1st August 1918.
SOLDIERS' MEMORIALS --- DIGBY AVENUE OF HONOUR.--In all parts of the Wannon electorate various movements to perpetuate the memory of the men who have gone forth to play their part in the great world war are being carried out. In no part of the electorate does greater enthusiasm prevail than in the little hamlet of Digby, situated six miles south of Merino. Digby has decided that every one of its soldiers shall have a tree planted to his memory, and not only to Digby soldiers is this honour restricted, as the committee has decided that a tree may be planted to any soldier, whether he was formerly a resident or otherwise. Two conditions only are insisted upon--not hard conditions, but extremely wise ones. Firstly, the person planting the tree must look after such tree until such time as the tree has firmly established itself, and secondly, that all trees must be the same. The tree selected is the Canadian Elm tree, which has proved itself at home in this district. The site for the avenue is on the rising ground on the Digby to Portland road, and a more suitable site it would be impossible to find. On August 11th, 1917, 87 trees were planted, and owing to the great interest and care taken in the trees by those who planted them, backed up by the assistance, and knowledge, of the tree planting committee, every one has made splendid growth. In the cool of the evenings during last summer the trees received every attention. At one tree could be seen an aged couple, watering the tree which was so dear to them, because it stood for their dear boy "somewhere" in France. At another tree an even more touching picture could be seen for those gently tending it knew that within the past few months their boy had given his life for the Empire. It is not, however, all sadness, for further along the avenue is seen a happy little group and their happiness is caused by the fact that, they are this evening showing their soldier lad the tree planted in his honour. The soldier, as he gazes at the tree, feels that it is good to have been spared to return, but as he casts his eyes along the avenue he feels the sadness for those whose dear ones will never return, but as he casts his eyes along the avenue he feels sadness for those whose dear ones will never return. Looking upon such pictures, it is impossible to imagine a more appropriate manner in which to honour the memory of our lads. Every tree is protected by a strong guard, upon which on a metal plate is printed in large letters the soldier's name. To those soldiers who pay the supreme sacrifice a small black cross is placed on the plate. It is greatly regretted that about 27 per cent, have already the cross on the plate. A small souvenir of the Digby soldiers contains the names of all soldiers and of those who planted the trees. On Saturday, July 27, the second tree planting took place in the presence of between two and three hundred people. Complete arrangements were made by the committee. In Mr. G. T. Graham the committee has a most enthusiastic worker, whose heart is thoroughly in the movement. The visitors were welcomed by Cr. Gavin Shaw, and after the tree planting all present were entertained by the ladies of Digby at afternoon tea. Short addresses suitable to the occasion were delivered by Crs. Murrell and Rhodes (Glenelg), Mr. S. L. Officer (Hamilton), Rev. J. P. Schussler, and Mr. Dunstan. The singing of several patriotic songs by the school children was heartily applauded. At the conclusion Mr. G. T. Graham proposed a vote of thanks to the ladies for their kindly hospitality, and this was carried by hearty acclamation, and the proceedings terminated with the National Anthem. Apologies for unavoidable absence were read from Mr. A. S. Rodgers, M.H.R., Mr. H. J. M. Campbell, M.L.A., Mr. Jno. Little (president Glenelg shire), and Cr. Malseed (of the Portland shire).
1930 : Maintaining the Digby Avenue in 1930
"The Portland Guardian" (Vic.) Monday, 16th June 1930.
KING'S BIRTHDAY AT DIGBY. (From our Own Correspondent.)
Digby is possessed of one of the finest War Memorials in the State of Victoria in the form of an avenue of elms. It extends for half a mile on both sides of the Portland road, commencing at the Church of England and stretching towards Portland. It was planted in 1917, and since then has been cared for by the residents of the town. For the last year or two, the work has been done on King's Birthday, and on Monday last most of the men folk of the village gathered at a working bee to give the trees the attention they needed. There is a tree for every man who enlisted from the Digby district, or who at some time had been a Digby man. Most of the trees are in splendid condition as regards growth, and in a few years it is safe to say that it will hold its own with any in the State.
The local association of the Girl Guides and Rangers conceived the idea of making King's Birthday one day of the year at least that would be set aside for attention to the trees and kindly co-operated with the bee in making it a very enjoyable day. When all the work in connection with the avenue was completed, a splendid afternoon tea was provided by the Association, and later in the evening a social, was given by the same organisation. Dancing and games, together with other items, provided a very enjoyable evening for the large gathering. Mrs. W. McK. Shaw, District Commissioner, was present, and the manner in which the Rangers and Guides carried out their various duties spoke highly for the efficiency of the movement.
During the evening the following items were given-Highland Fling, Misses Delma, Sylvia, and Edna McDonald ; action song by Girl Guides (10 little nigger boys), encored ; recitation, Mr. C. Dougheney ; Highland dance, Misses McDonald ; recitation, Miss Booth ; Sailor's hornpipe, Misses McDonald. Pipe music for the dancing was played by Pipers R. Lane and Jock McPherson, the latter also contributing to the programme with selections on the pipes.
Mr. W. McK. Shaw thanked the Association and Rangers for the splendid help given, and his remarks were endorsed by Mr. Booth, of the Presbyterian Church, and supplemented by Mr Percy Thomas, who was one of the founders of the avenue. A good supper was provided by the Rangers, and at midnight the singing of the National Anthem brought to a close one of
the most enjoyable evenings spent in Digby for some time.
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