Remembrance Day: Plaques at Kings Park honour fallen soldiers

Honour Avenue Group's Robin Slater and Ken Jones at the last surviving oak from the first honour avenue in Kings Park. Picture: Andrew Ritchie. www.communitypix.com.au d487835
Honour Avenue Group's Robin Slater and Ken Jones at the last surviving oak from the first honour avenue in Kings Park. Picture: Andrew Ritchie. www.communitypix.com.au d487835

PLAQUES at 1265 trees along Kings Park’s Honour Avenues act as a reminder to the public of the soldiers, sailors and airmen who died overseas or who have no known grave.

“I often have comments from people saying ‘we walk about the park, we look at the plaques’ and they have significance for them, particularly if it’s a young man who is remembered,” Honour Avenues Group secretary Robin Slater (82) said.

There is only one oak tree left from the first planting along May Drive in 1919.

Three years later, members of the 14-strong Highgate RSL-based volunteer group started tending the 1700 plaques each week.

“Every one of us gets a great deal of pride from it and the significance of the plaques is great to us, as we are ex-servicemen and they remember the guys who went before us,” Mr Slater said.

While most plaques are from World War I and World War II, some tell of the service by those in conflicts as late as Borneo in the mid-1960s.

“Some days you come up here and there’s a flower on a tree and it could be the day that person died,” group president Ken Jones (86)said.

Honour Avenues started in Victoria in 1917, before founding Kings Park board member Arthur Lovekin dedicated the trees on May Drive to 404 soldiers in 1919.

After World War II, 300 sugar gums were planted on Lovekin Avenue in 1948, and Marri Walk near the Rio Tinto Naturescape dedicated in 1999.

With age and storms taking their toll on the giant trees, the Kings Park Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority is replacing the non-WA species with indigenous types, including marri.

“It’s the character of the avenues, with that cathedral-like light, their presence, with mist on their damp trunks, that strikes you,” arboriculture curator for the group Jeremy Thomas said.

“You stop, look at the plaque, and it actually paints a bigger picture that these trees are our living monuments; our living assets to our fallen soldiers.”