Stand up the real ANZAC Lone Pine of Gallipoli


By Jaquetta (Ket) Bradshaw

Last year Mike Wilcox and David Spencer wrote an article in the May Journal of the NZIF. The article was called: Stand up the real ANZAC Lone Pine of Gallipoli.

They concluded that while there were several Turkish Red Pines (Pinus brutia) in Australia, possibly the only authentic Pinus brutia in NZ descended from the Lone Pine of Gallipoli was growing at the Paeroa Golf Course in the North Island.

They said the Pinus brutia growing at the Paeroa Golf Course must rank as one of the most historic trees in the country.

It was grown from seed in the cone Sergeant McDowell brought back with him to Australia. Apparently during the withdrawal the soldier picked up a pine cone from the original Lone Pine and placed it in his haversack as a souvenir.

John Groome knew that this tree we are standing beside was the real thing and in his inimitable style he has orchestrated a ceremony today, complete with the unveiling of a bronze plaque, that will ensure another real ANZAC Lone Pine of Gallipoli stands up.

The inscription on the plaque reads:

TURKISH RED PINE (PINUS BRUTIA)
The same species as the original ANZAC Lone Pine of Gallipoli
(Seeds of which were brought back by Australian soldiers in 1915 and now grow at several war memorials in Australia)
Sponsored by
NEW ZEALAND INSTITUTE OF FORESTRY INC. 25th April 2008
Te Putahi Ngaherehere o Aotearoa


So why did John make this happen?

Firstly, John is passionate about forestry.

Secondly, he wants people to know that this pine is botanically correct and not just any old pine. Many war memorials around NZ have a variety of pines [P. halepensis, P. radiata, P.canariensis] planted as if they were the real deal and therefore the same as the Lone Pine; the Turkish red pine. They are not. John wants to ensure that this tree, a progeny of the Lone Pine of Gallipoli, is remembered.

Thirdly, John is passionate about the ANZACs at Gallipoli. His father was wounded at Cape Halles on the South of the Gallipoli Peninsula, where the Brits landed. He, like others has visited Gallipoli.

To John this P. brutia provides a valuable link between the ANZACs at Gallipoli, botanists and foresters. And, in a way it is the physical expression of the passions of John's life.

John thought that this genuine specimen needed a proper plaque and asked members of the Institute of Forestry to find the funds. We are grateful that the gardens staff, led by Jeremy Hawker, readily agreed to this plaque in their excellent pinetum. This pinetum has a good range of conifers, including pines, from around the globe.

This tree is a direct descendent, the progeny, from the seeds brought back by Sergeant McDowell and planted in the Melbourne Botanic Gardens. There is no record of how old this tree is but there are records available from Melbourne to confirm that it is the real P. brutia.

So what happened at the battle of the Lone Pine in 1915?
1   The major battle with Australian troops was at Lone Pine.
2   The major battle with New Zealand troops was at Chunuk Bair.
3   Both were held in August 1915.
The major Australian battle at Lone Pine was planned as a diversion for the bigger battle at Chunuk Bair to follow shortly.
The Gallipoli "Lone Pine" has become a piece of living history in Australia. Every Australian soldier who served at Gallipoli knew Plateau 400 or "Lone Pine" - the scene of some of the fiercest hand-to-hand combat by Australians in World War One.

The Plateau was distinguished by a solitary lone pine which bore silent witness to the heroism and tenacity of Australians who fought there. It was a heavily fortified Turkish trench position identified by a solitary tree.

At 5.30pm on 6th August 1915, Australians of the First Brigade attacked the Turkish trenches under heavy machine-gun and artillery fire. The Australians found the trenches were roofed over with pine logs covered with earth. They clawed the roofing back and jumped into the trenches below. After savage hand-to-hand fighting the trenches were taken by 6.00pm. Attack and counter attack continued until the 10th August when fighting at Lone Pine ceased and the position was firmly held in Australian hands.

After 5 days of fierce fighting, the Australians gained 49 yards.

--- with a total loss of 9,000 troops

-- 5,000 Turks, 3,600 Australians and ~400 NZ'rs

This 49 yards was the only territory won by either side in 8 months of fighting.

7 Australian VCs were awarded.

It is hard to imagine that sometimes the Anzac and Turkish trenches were only 12 metres apart.

The area below the Lone Pine was tunnelled by both sides in the week before the attack, at what was known as "The NEK". The Turks had two trenches at one end and 9 lines of trenches at the front and several at the sides from which fire at the attacking troops was possible from at least 5 machine guns. 

There were 4 separate waves of men fighting against impossible odds.
Although in the brave attacks elsewhere on Gallipoli men went forward to death or glory, the men who fell at The Nek had not even this dubious alternative.
This attack represented a frontal assault of a degree of madness unrivalled in any theatre of war, before or since.

I have given you some background as to why this Turkish Red Pine from Gallipoli holds so much importance to Australia and New Zealand.

Henry Kitson - My Maternal Grandfather
There is also a very personal connection for me and my family and the reason why my mother Phillippa Bradshaw has travelled from Marlborough to be here today. Firstly, I too am passionate about forestry and when John asked me to unveil this plaque, my last official role as the outgoing President, I was delighted.

I immediately thought of my connection to the gardens through my maternal grandfather, Henry Kitson, who returned wounded from Gallipoli. Thanks to the efforts of my Aunt Helen Kitson we all have a copy of the letters and diary that he wrote during his war years.

Henry Kitson returned to Christchurch and in the 30's took on the role of Chair of the Domains Board which oversaw the management of Hagley Park and the Botanic Gardens.

This all brings a shiver down my spine and makes me realise that our pathways in life are not as serendipitous as we might think. Pop, as we knew him, has left a legacy of botany in the family and we are all grateful for his enthusiasm and interest.

I will now ask my Uncle, Jan Kitson, to give you a brief outline of Pop's time at Gallipoli and the part he played in ensuring that we are all gathered here today in these wonderful Botanic Gardens.

FYI Some Background The Gallipoli Lone Pine Lives On.
Through the efforts of Mr Ed Williams of Wantirna, two pine trees - descendants of the famous Lone Pine of Gallipoli - have been obtained from Legacy for the Lysterfield Avenue of Honour. The two young trees have been placed by Ed and his wife Alice on either side of the memorial stone. The following article provided by Legacy tells the story of the perpetuation of the Lone Pine and the ideas it has come to symbolise.

The Gallipoli "Lone Pine" has become a piece of living history in Australia. Every Australian soldier who served at Gallipoli knew Plateau 400 or "Lone Pine" - the scene of some of the fiercest hand-to-hand combat by Australians in World War One.

The Plateau was distinguished by a solitary lone pine which bore silent witness to the heroism and tenacity of Australians who fought there. It was a heavily fortified Turkish trench position identified by a solitary Pinus Halepensis species Brutia commonly known as an "Aleppo Pine".

At 5.30pm on 6th August 1915, Australians of the First Brigade attacked the Turkish trenches under heavy machine-gun and artillery fire. The Australians found the trenches were roofed over with pine logs covered with earth. They clawed the roofing back and jumped into the trenches below. After savage hand-to-hand fighting the trenches were taken by 6.00pm. Attack and counter attack continued until the 10th August when fighting at Lone Pine ceased and the position was firmly held in Australian hands.

The six Australian Battalions involved lost 80 officers and 2197 men in the battle for Lone Pine. Turkish deaths were estimated at between 5,000 and 6,000.

At Gallipoli, during the evacuation, 33 men of the 24th Battalion mounted a gallant action. They were left behind to keep up the pretence that the Lone Pine trenches were still occupied. They finally destroyed the remaining guns and embarked before daylight, twenty minutes before the appointed time and less than two hours before a storm blew up which would have made withdrawal impossible.

Although the Lone Pine was destroyed in the fighting, it lives on today in Australia, which is where the Legacy Lone Pine story begins.

During the withdrawal, a soldier, Sergeant Keith McDowell, picked up a pine cone from the original Lone Pine and placed it in his haversack as a souvenir. Sergeant McDowell carried the cone for the remainder of the war and when he returned to Australia, gave it to his aunt, Mrs Emma Gray of Grassmere near Warrnambool. "Here Aunty, you've got a green thumb, see if you can grow something out of this," the late Mrs Gray's son Alexander recalled. But it wasn't until some 12 years later that Mrs Gray planted the few seeds from the cone, five of which sprouted and grew into little trees. One of the pines eventually died but the remaining four survived.

1 In May 1933, one was planted in Wattle Park on the occasion of the Trooping of the Colour by the 24th Battalion.
2 On the 11th June 1933, the second tree was planted with full military honours by S.G. Savige of the 24th Battalion at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne where it now shades the well-loved statue of Simpson and his donkey.
The late Lieutenant-General Sir Stanley Savige KBE, CB, DSO, MC, ED, was the founder of Melbourne Legacy. Formed in 1923, the Melbourne Legacy Club was the first such Club to be established.
3 On the 18th June 1933, the third tree was planted at the Sisters near Terang, just north east of Warrnambool. This is the area where Mrs Gray's family lived and the home of several Gallipoli veterans.
4 The fourth tree was planted in the Warrnambool Gardens on 23rd January 1934.
In 1964 Legatee Tom Griffiths, then President of Warrnambool Legacy, put forward the idea that more seedlings should be raised in the Jubilee Year of Gallipoli from the established trees with the object of planting memorial trees throughout Australia in memory of those who fell in action at Lone Pine in 1915.
Melbourne Legacy undertook the propagation and distribution of seedlings. With the assistance of the Shrine of Remembrance Trustees, permission was granted by the Melbourne City Parks and Gardens Curator to harvest a limited number of cones from the 24th Battalion tree at the Shrine and these were gathered by the Forests Commission and after the necessary preparatory treatment were planted in the Commission's nursery at Macedon. Approximately 150 seedlings were raised from these cones by Dr Grose, Director of Silviculture.
Melbourne Legacy's Commemoration Committee was responsible for the collection, propagation, presentation and dedication of Lone Pines from the 24th Battalion tree at the Shrine of Remembrance.
On the 14th September 1989 further seedlings were collected with the hope of raising 1000 trees from the seeds. This could not have been done without the invaluable assistance of the Department of Natural Resources and Dr Peter May at the Victorian College of Agriculture and Horticulture in Richmond, Victoria.
Thus Legacy is helping to keep the memory of the Gallipoli "Lone Pine" alive - its spirit lives on today. Presentations are made to schools, ex-service organisations and interested bodies by Legacy Clubs in the hope that they will be cherished as a symbol of Australian nationhood and of its pride, devotion, courage, selflessness and sense of service to others.
Republished with permission in the July 1995 edition of the Rowville-Lysterfield Community News.