The History of the O’Connell Anzac Memorial Avenue
The O’Connell Anzac Memorial Avenue is a living war memorial. It is dedicated to the men and women from O’Connell and district who served during the First World War. Of the sixty-six known men and women of the area who enlisted, twelve were killed in action.
The project was inaugurated in March 1925 and was officially opened by Field Marshall Lord Allenby on 25 January 1926. Mr Eddie Gornall, the president of the O’Connell Progress Association, and a group of men and women of the community planted the trees. The local people held dances and musical events to raise funds for the project. The O’Connell community holds fund raising activities to continue this tradition.
The Memorial Avenue is registered on the list of war memorials in NSW and has state and national recognition. It is listed on the Register of the National Trust NSW.
The 120 desert ash trees will continue to prosper if given the care and attention needed to maintain the Avenue as a living memorial.
The Community Guardians of the O’Connell Anzac Memorial Avenue are actively involved in preserving, protecting and maintaining the trees.
About the Desert Ash Trees
The desert ash (Fraxinus augustifolia) species is native to northern Africa and southern Europe, the areas where the troops fought. Trees symbolise stability, life and immortality.
The trees were grown in the Bathurst Experimental farm for the Sydney Botanical Gardens which supplied the trees to the community working bees.
There are 120 trees remaining in the Memorial Avenue, although it is not known how many were originally planted. While more than sixty soldiers and two nurses have been identified as having come from or been associated with the O’Connell area, it is probable that the length of the avenue was not determined by the number of soldiers. Rather it was to create a symbol of grandeur and honour which would move the minds and hearts of O’Connell residents. Most certainly it was a community effort of deeply significant and enduring proportions.
From A Memorial to the Soldiers of O’Connell produced by the O’Connell Village Preservation Group
Newspaper Reports about the Avenue in 1925 and 1926
Avenue in 1925 and 1926
The movement to have a Memory Avenue planted at O’Connell is receiving enthusiastic support. A working bee has been arranged for Saturday to cut poles for tree guards, while a meeting of ladies has been called to arrange for social functions, and provide meals for the workers. The first social in aid of the Avenue movement is listed for April 29, when Hurrell’s orchestra will furnish the music. The secretary of the Avenue Committee has been advised by the curator of the Botanical Gardens that desert ash trees are the most suitable for the avenue.
Bathurst Times 17 April , 1925.
The work on the Memorial avenue is going along well. Oberon Shire Council has had men at work grading and ploughing the road preparing for planting the trees. The residents have been at work cutting, carting and sawing off poles for tree-guards. In a few weeks time the trees should be planted on the eastern portion of the avenue.
Bathurst Times 18 July, 1925
Lord Allenby said he was very pleased to open this avenue in memory of those gallant soldiers who died in the Great War. It was very fitting that this avenue had been made in the memory of those great Australian soldiers, who gave their lives for the great cause and as these trees grew they must think of the men who gave their lives for their country. He then declared the avenue open, and Lady Allenby cut the ribbon.
Western Times, 22 January, 1926
Lord Allenby ………said that he felt it a very great honour to be asked to declare open an avenue dedicated to the memory of the gallant Australians who fell in the war. He had had the honour of leading many Australian and he never wished to lead braver troops. Their names would live forever in the gallant deeds they had performed for the Empire and it was fitting that their memory should be perpetuated by an avenue of that kind.
Bathurst National Advocate, 21 January, 1926
Each year the community conducts an Anzac Day Dawn Service and commemorates Remembrance Day.