The “Lone Pine” Trees Growing Across Australia

Jun 22, 2017 0 comments

Many war memorials across Australia have pine trees growing in their grounds. These trees are called “Lone Pines”, and their ancestry can be traced back to a single pine tree that stood where one of the bloodiest battles of the Gallipoli campaign took place.

The Battle of the Lone Pine was fought around an area called Anzac Cove, on a rise known as "Plateau 400", in Gallipoli, in Turkey. It was year 1915 and the First World War was in full force. The Allied offensive against the Ottoman Empire in Gallipoli wasn’t going on very well, and so they decided to create a diversion at Anzac to draw the Ottoman attention away from the main assaults at Sari Bair, Chunuk Bair and Hill 971.


The Lone Pine Cemetery at Gallipoli. Photo credit: Jorge Láscar/Flickr

On 6 August 1915, two days before the planned attack on Chunuk Bair, the 1st Australian Infantry Division launched a major offensive at Plateau 400 in Anzac Cove. The ridges joining the plateau was once covered with large number of pine trees, which the Turkish forces cut down to fortify their trenches. Only a solitary pine tree was left standing, but not for long. In the battle that followed, the remaining tree was blown to pieces.

It took Australian forces only 20 minutes to break through the Turkish defense, but the battle raged for the next four days. Inside the cramped and complicated maze of trenches Australian and Turkish soldiers fought hand-to-hand throwing punches and bayonetting each other, rather than risk shooting their comrades in the semi-darkness. Sometimes they hurled grenades at each other but at such close quarters they were often lobbed back and forth until they exploded.

Some 2,300 Australians and 7,000 Turkish soldiers were killed in the Battle of the Lone Pine.


Detail from “The taking of Lone Pine”, 1921, oil-on-canvas, by Fred Leist.

After the fighting stopped, some Australian soldiers retrieved several pine cones from cut branches that the Turks had used to cover their trenches, and brought them home to Australia. Sergeant Keith McDowell, of the 23rd Battalion, is believed to have salvaged a cone from the remains of the actual Lone Pine Tree. He carried the cone in his rucksack as a memento for the duration of the war, and on his return to Australia, he gave it to his aunt Emma Gray near Warrnambool, Victoria.

Many years later, Emma Gray planted the cone and four seedlings sprouted, which were replanted in four different locations around Victoria—Wattle Park and the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, the Soldiers Memorial Hall at The Sisters near Terang and Warrnambool Botanic Gardens.

Another soldier, Lance Corporal Benjamin Smith from the 3rd Battalion, also retrieved a cone from the battle site and sent it back to his mother in Australia. 13 years later, his mother attempted to grow some trees from the seeds and two seedlings survived. One was presented to her home town of Inverell, New South Wales and the other was planted at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Every year hundreds of seeds are collected from these trees and planted across the country in remembrance of the fierce battle at Gallipoli more than a hundred years ago. If you want, you can buy seedlings of the Lone Pine tree from the Australian War Memorial’s website and also from here.


A trench at Lone Pine after the battle, showing Australian and Turkish dead on the parapet. Photo credit: Australian War Memorial


1st Battalion troops having taken 80 yards of a Turkish trench, waiting near Jacob's Trench for relief by the 7th Battalion. Photo credit: Australian War Memorial


Photo credit: ArchivesACT/Flickr


Lone Pine at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Photo credit: Bidgee/Wikimedia


Lone Pine at Wattle Park, Melbourne. Photo credit: Melburnian/Wikimedia

Sources: Wikipedia / Australian Geographic / / Wikipedia


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