On the 25th April 2015 we marked the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) landings at Gallipoli. Over 8,000 of our brave young Australian soldiers were lost during the Battle of Gallipoli as they fought the Turkish defenders back from the beach of the Peninsula and into the hills. It was here that the Holly Oaks, more recently known as Gallipoli Oaks, were found.
To honour the service men who gave their lives during that battle, The National Trust of Victoria decided to reproduce 2,000 Gallipoli Oak trees so primary schools could plant them during their 2015 ANZAC Centenary services. And so, the Gallipoli Oaks Project was born.
Hundreds of Victorian primary schools were linked with their local RSL sub branch and given their seedling. They were sent a commemorative plaque to place with the tree to mark its significance along with information about our heroic diggers, horticultural advice and an e-book of The Gallipoli Oaks Story: How the trees came to grow here. Primary schools now have their own Gallipoli Oaks to hold ceremonies at for future ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day memorials; allowing thousands of children to have their chance to connect with our courageous soldiers of the past.
“The Gallipoli Oaks Project will provide all primary schools in Victoria with a Gallipoli Oak seedling to plant as an ongoing commemoration of Australia’s participation in World War I,” Victoria’s Minister for Education Martin Dixon said.
These small prickly oak trees were found by Australian soldiers such as General (Sir) John Monash and Captain William Lempriere Winter-Cooke who sent their families packages containing acorns.
In November 1915, Sir John Monash wrote about the trees in a letter to his wife:
‘I am sending in a separate packet, a few acorns. I have made the discovery that the prickly scrub, with which these hills are covered, and which has inflicted many an unkind scratch on hands, arms and bare knees, is really a species of holly, and bears an acorn, showing that it belongs to the Oak variety. The bush is quite ornate and grows to a height of about 5 feet, much like the ordinary holly with the red berry.’
Captain Winter-Cooke’s family planted these acorns at their family home and Geelong Grammar where he had attended school. Offspring of these trees were later planted at the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Shrine of Remembrance. And now, thanks to the Gallipoli Oaks Project, Victorian primary schools are able to have their own piece of living history to admire and use as a place of commemoration.
This Thursday we say thank you to The National Trust of Victoria (in partnership with the Department of Education and Veterans’ Affairs) for enabling our children to have the opportunity to learn about, and be thankful for, the bravery and determination of those that fought, and sometimes died, for the freedom we have today.
Miss Fish Biz