"We will remember them": Commemorations for the 100th anniversary of the planting of the Bacchus Marsh Avenue of Honour

Bacchus Marsh remembered its fallen fathers and sons as its marked the 100th anniversary of the planting of its world-famous Avenue of Honour.

With 281 majestic elm trees towering overhead, dignitaries, descendants and locals gathered for a ceremony and a march along the avenue to the RSL club where stories were swapped over tea and Anzac biscuits.

Bacchus Marsh RSL president Cherrison Lawton said the commemoration was in part the fulfilment of an oft-recited promise: “we will remember them”.

“They were all volunteers. They were not conscripted and it was an honour for them to sign on the line to be volunteers and they made the ultimate sacrifice,” she said.

”I think for society it’s really good to reflect … it’s a special milestone.”

In researching the history of the 281 men named along the avenue, it was found that one had actually died on August 10, 1918 – the day the avenue was planted.

“He died on the day the avenue was being planted but his family wouldn’t have known about that until probably a few weeks later.”

Five of those named on plaques along the 3.3km avenue were aged under 18 when they enlisted.

After a ceremony at the eastern end of the avenue, a procession made its way along the avenue with a knitted wreath being attached to each tree. 

The Creswick Light Horse, representing the soldiers of 100 years ago, lead the march accompanied by a Bushmaster armoured vehicle used in conflict today. As the main parties passed the public joined on the tail of the march to make their way through the canopy of the 

Historian Tony McManus, who is researching the story behind each of the name plaques along the avenue, said while there were 281 trees and names, there were actually 480 people from the district eligible for a tree.

But because it cost 10 pounds for a plaque, many families at the time were unable to pay the price.

“A lot of people know the Avenue of Honour and drive through, but not too many people know the individual stories behind the trees,” he said.