Treasured Burwood tree keeps Gallipoli legend alive

ANZAC SPIRIT: Wattle Park Heritage Group chair Tom Thorpe reflects under the park’s Lone PineAUSTRALIA’S oldest Gallipoli Lone Pine will mark its 80th milestone next week.
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The poignant tree in Burwood’s Wattle Park was planted by the 24th Battalion, known as the Kooyong Regiment, on May 7, 1933.

It was grown using a seedling from a single cone that was collected from the remnants of the original Lone Pine and brought back to Australia by Sergeant Keith McDowell of the 23rd Battalion AIF.

A second seedling from the cone was later planted by the 24th Battalion at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance on June 18 1933, but the tree died last year.

Wattle Park Heritage Group works to maintain the tree. Together with Hawthorn RSL sub-branch, it launched an Anzac Commemoration Service in 2001 to acknowledge the significance of the Lone Pine.

Ed Bright, Wattle Park Heritage Group secretary and Hawthorn RSL sub-branch president , said: “As the first direct descendant of the solitary pine on Plateau 400 at Gallipoli, the Lone Pine at Wattle Park represents a sobering and reflective reminder of the terrible fighting on that tiny section of open ground on the Gallipoli peninsula.”

Wattle Park Heritage Group is set to install a pair of plaques telling the story of the Lone Pine and the battle at Gallipoli after receiving a grant from the Victorian Veteran’s Council. The tree’s anniversary was acknowledged during the recent Anzac commemoration service at Wattle Park.

Boroondara council puts brakes on bike path

WIN FOR PARKLAND: Kew resident Tony Michael and Protectors of Public Lands Victoria secretary Julianne Bell are happy the council said no to plans to clear parkland for a bike path and bridgeBOROONDARA council risks civil action from residents and possible intervention by the state government after dealing a last-minute blow to the $18 million plan to link major bicycle paths in Melbourne’s east.
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Councillors on Monday refused to grant an extension of the state government’s permit for a bridge and trail to be built in Willsmere Park in Kew East.

They decided to approach VicRoads, Planning Minister Matthew Guy and Transport Minister Terry Mulder to discuss alternative routes to link Darebin and Boroondara.

One councillor blasted cycling advocates who attended the council meeting. “You should be ashamed of yourselves for coming in here and saying you are environmentalists,” said Cr Phillip Healey, who was chairing the meeting.

Councillors voted 6-3 against granting the Department of Sustainability and Environment, VicRoads and the Department of Planning and Community Development a two-year extension of the permit issued in 2009 by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The permit expired in August last year.

Boroondara Bicycle Users Group spokesman Peter Campbell said the group was considering taking the council to VCAT. “The meeting did not consider the procedural matter to do with the permit,” he said.

“When council says, ‘we want to go back and look at the alternative routes’ they are not genuine about that; it is more about delay. They are constantly finding reasons why it can’t be built.”

But environmental group Protectors of Public Lands vowed to resist the Willsmere solution. “If this goes back to VCAT we will fight like hell,” PPL secretary Julianne Bell said.

Mr Guy announced in December the government would spend $18million on the Darebin-Yarra link, with asphalt paths and four new bicycle and pedestrian bridges to be completed by 2015.

The government had negotiated with two land owners, Alphington Grammar School and the La Trobe Golf Club, to allow the route to pass through their properties, and was counting on Boroondara to allow the last piece of the path to connect the Darebin Creek Trail with the Main Yarra and Anniversary trails.

Boroondara CEO Phillip Storer admitted the decision left the council vulnerable to a compulsory land acquisition by the government and VicRoads could go to VCAT.

Bicycle Network Victoria’s Garry Brennan said the path plan was something “all bike riders in Victoria” would welcome.

But some residents accused the government of ignoring safety and environmental issues in Willsmere Park and nearby Kew Billabong.

“Willsmere Park is one of the most environmentally sensitive sites in Boroondara,” resident Tony Michael said. “The focus of this plan has been on the needs of cyclists; the experience of walkers and other park users has been ignored.”

Honouring years of tradition

Morwell resident Tom Pritchett laid a wreath for his father at Thursday’s Yallourn-Newborough Anzac Day service for the 68th consecutive year.
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His father Robert William Pritchett was a driver in the Royal Army Service Corps in World War II and died as a prisoner of war in 1943 after he was captured in Singapore.

The now 77 year-old Mr Pritchett was just five years-old when his father left from their home in Yallourn for war in 1940 after attempting three times to enlist and being knocked back because he worked at the State Electricity Commission.

Despite only having one real memory of his father, Mr Pritchett has chosen to honour his sacrifice every year since his family were notified of his death, laying a wreath at the memorial on which his father’s name is engraved.

Mr Pritchett said he was also now able to give back to the organisation that helped his family – Legacy.

He and his wife Maureen are legatees and regularly meet with war widows in the Latrobe Valley.

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Hasting rail route: residents see red

Plans derailed: Lorraine Wilson is shocked by talk of a freight link running straight past her door in Cranbourne South. Picture: Wayne HawkinsCRANBOURNE South resident Lorraine Wilson is right in the firing line when it comes to a proposed rail freight link from the Port of Hastings to Dandenong South.
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“If they put a rail link there, I’ll have to look both ways before I step out,” said Ms Wilson, whose house is just 25 metres from the Western Port Highway, the preferred route.

She said the proposed link have derailed her plans for the her 2.5-hectare property, which she bought 13 years ago as an investment for her retirement.

If the rail link proceeds, the government would almost certainly need to acquire the property. The uncertainty is when it will happen and how much of the property it will buy.

“I don’t do any work on my house any more. Why would I bother when they’re probably going to demolish it?

“Will they buy the whole lot? If they only buy 30 metres, will they give me enough to build a new house?”

Ms Wilson is also concerned about the impact on residents of a new housing estate between Cranbourne-Frankston and Thompson roads.

“I wonder about the people who’ve bought a brand new house for $400,000. Obviously no one told them ‘you’re going to have a railway line next to you’.

“The houses are all set back about 40 metres — just far enough for a railway line.”

Residents who recently moved into the Marriott Waters estate in Lyndhurst also fear disruption to their lives, with a possible rail line within 50 metres of houses.

Abhijit Sahasrabudhe said his family moved to the estate five months ago because it was so peaceful. Now he wonders what’s store over the next few years.

Living right next to the Western Port Highway, he is particularly concerned about the health effects of noise and air pollution on his eight-month baby.

Casey Council has welcomed the government’s commitment to the port because of the boost to local employment, but residents say it ignores the impact on them.

“Have they stood beside a freight train line before?” asked a resident who did not wish to be named.

What do you think? Post a comment below.

Newsmaker: Julia Blunden

Boroondara Bicycle Users Group’s Julia Blunden has spent 20 years campaigning for a Yarra crossing linking the Darebin Creek Trail with Kew, and was disappointed when the plan hit a road block at a recent council meeting.
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IT WAS absolutely disgraceful what happened at the meeting. The councillors (who voted against an extension of the state government’s permit for the bridge and bike path) had their minds made up.

The reasons why the proposal was blocked were purely selfish – the people who objected just want Willsmere Park as a private park where they can walk their dogs.

They claim it is environmentally sensitive. But the park is not a pristine area; it’s not in good condition.

And as the government’s report makes clear, the path would be well clear of Kew Billabong and would not pose any danger to woodlands.

Many of us ride for pleasure and many of us ride through parks. It isn’t about commuting from A to B, it’s about riding in a nice environment.

The other point is that children riding to school or learning to ride need a safe place. My granddaughters are nine and six and they’re capable of riding from Ashburton to Kew along the Anniversary Trail. But they’re not capable of riding on the road.

One of our members compiled a map of the alternative routes considered by VicRoads. Every one poses serious problems.

Some routes go along major roads so are not safe for children, or they involve steep grades that most cyclists would not be able to ride up, or they go through a golf course.

Another is a long meander upstream that most people trying to get to the city would not want to use.

The government has negotiated the preferred route with Latrobe Golf Club. Willsmere Park is part of its attraction. It joins the Yarra Trail in a nice open area that avoids those dangers. It connects with the underpass to Kilby Road, which links to the Outer Circle Trail.

It’s a very good location for a bridge. If this proposal fails, it will be back to the drawing board, with years more of work before anything is done. A lot of money has been spent; a lot of Parks Victoria’s time has gone into it. We have been waiting 20 years to get it.

To look at alternative routes now is just not on. I am sure the state government will not agree to it; it might even take decisive action.

It is impossible to know how many cyclists and pedestrians will use this link. But the more of these links we put in, the more people will get out on their bikes.

Julia Blunden. Picture: Scott McNaughton

Six months in Changi’s hell on earth

Bill Humphrey survived hell on earth as a WWII prisoner of war (POW), slaving away on the infamous Burma Railway after the Japanese conquered Singapore and imprisoned him in the Changi prison camp.
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Like many, he finds Anzac Days too difficult because they bring back too many bad memories.

Yet, at the age of 95, his recollections are clear and he said that he has no regrets.

“I’ve lived a long, good life. My time as a POW was a small part of it,” he said.

Born and raised in Tenterfield, Mr Humphrey joined the army with a couple of mates from Tamworth when he was 21.

After training in Bathurst, he soon found himself in Singapore with the 2nd/30th Battalion which was among the first battalions to face the Japanese.

“We were fighting for 60 days. It was exciting,” Mr Humphrey said.

Singapore fell to the Japanese on February 15, 1942 and Mr Humphrey and his fellow soldiers were taken prisoner a few days later. After his capture he stayed in a camp in Singapore and was then placed in a working party that put cigarettes and pineapple juice on boats to Japan.

Later, he was back in Singapore at Changi on another working party, building a shrine in the city.

The Japanese began to build a railway line from Burma to Malaya and Mr Humphrey was in a working party on the Burma end of what became known as the “death railway”.

“When I became a POW, it was a struggle for survival. I never get those memories out of my mind. The British were conscripted soldiers and didn’t have the survival instinct we did.”

The British lost around three times as many men on the Burma Railway.

“They didn’t have the same ‘will to live’, I think we had more to come home to. I had great survival skills. I had cholera and beriberi but I pulled through.”

Most who died on the Burma Railway endured a slow death, from cholera, malaria and malnutrition.

“During the monsoon period the roads were impassable. The Japanese troops were going through into Burma. We had to try and keep the roads and railway in working order.

“We were in the water all day, carrying baskets of rocks. Then we’d have to walk four or five kilometres at the end of the day and have about half a cup of rice and some watery stew. That was all we had for the day. Maggots used to eat most of the rice. Though the maggots were good and healthy,” he said.

“You weren’t allowed to remain in camp unless you were practically dying. So, only 30-40 out of a work party of 100 could actually work. We would each have to dig a cubic metre of dirt and rock before we could knock off for the day. Some kept going into the night. Some healthier blokes could finish around 3pm.

“The worst thing was seeing your mates dying. You’d go by the ward on your way to work and two out of three would have died overnight. That impressed on me more than anything – it wasn’t just them – in a couple more weeks, it’d be me. Death was never far away from any of us.

“Then, you’d get out on the railway line and there’d be Japanese in a frenzy. You’d get five or six slaps across the back of the neck for no reason.

“There was a Catholic priest in the camps and he made bamboo caskets to bury some of the dead in. He burnt their serial numbers on the bamboo.”

Generally, the bodies were burnt in bamboo fires; the smoke from which was a near constant for the POWs.

Mr Humphrey has not let his POW history define him or his life. His longevity has aided his perspective when reflecting on the Burma Railway.

“Six months out of 95 years is not long, is it? Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it,” he said.

“I came home by boat, on the Esperance Bay. It stopped at Darwin and then came down the Queensland coast, taking well over a month. They wanted to get us fit and I spent most of the time eating; when I got home I was 11 stone.”

Bill Humphrey returned home to Tenterfield and married Marjorie Laing in December, 1946. They moved to Armidale and resumed the carpentry work he had started before the war.

He bought a block of land in Mann St, near Allingham St, and built his first house from the drawings he had made with his fellow POW during the war.

“I was lucky that I came home, met my wife Marjorie and had six lovely kids. Armidale was a wonderful place to raise children.”

Mr Humphrey had a thriving building business, involved in the construction of over 70 homes in Armidale, the retirement units at Autumn Lodge and the refurbishment of the old PLC School buildings in Brown St into a nursing home.

He retired at the age of 67 and has spent his leisure time playing golf and gardening.

According to Bill Humphrey, post-WWII life has been pretty good.

LONG LOVED: They’ve enjoyed 66 years of marriage – war veteran and prisoner of war survivor Bill Humphrey and wife Marjorie have enjoyed post-WWII life in Armidale. BELOW  – INFAMOUS RAILROAD: Bill as a young soldier and the infamous Burma Railway. Photo: Danieli Studios

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Wilma’s lost medal tale has a happy ending

EVERY Anzac Day since her parents passed away Wilma Haigh has proudly worn the medal presented to her mother and to all the wives and mothers of serving personnel during World War II.
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Late on Anzac Day Mrs Haigh retraced her steps down Summer Street and into Robertson Park after realising the medal had fallen off her jacket.

“I was just devastated and I didn’t sleep a wink,” she said.

Yesterday the emotional Mrs Haigh came to the Central Western Daily to see if they could help find her precious medal after it had not been handed in to Orange police.

The CWD contacted Les McGaw who was on duty in the Returned Services League (RSL) office.

“I have the medal right here in my hand – a lady and a little boy just brought it in,” said Mr McGaw.

Mr McGaw said the young boy had stepped on the medal near Robertson Park.

“He said he thought it was a coin and when he picked it up he realised it was a medal.

“They were here first thing to hand it in,” he said.

The tears flowed again as Mrs Haigh held the medal in her hand at the RSL yesterday morning.

“I just can’t believe I’ve got it back,” she said.

Mrs Haigh was the youngest of three girls left behind with their mother Elizabeth when her father William Hulin left Australian shores to serve in New Guinea during World War II.

“Dad was there for 569 days and I still remember the day he came home and we went to Sydney to meet him,” Mrs Haigh said.

Mrs Haigh said although she doesn’t know the name of the woman and her young son who returned the medal, she is eternally grateful.

“I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart as this means so much to me,” she said.

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WORN WITH PRIDE: Les McGaw with Wilma Haigh, who rushed straight down to the RSL yesterday when she found out her precious medal had been handed in by a little boy. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 0426medal2

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Last post for soldiers’ letters

TWO years ago Stonnington historian Ellen Porter made a startling discovery.
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As is often the way with exciting finds, she was “searching for other things” at the time. “I noticed a very, very large collection of letters that had not been catalogued … I knew it had to be something significant,” Ms Porter, an historian at the Stonnington History Centre, said.

The box contained more than 1500 letters from soldiers during World War II and for the past two years, Ms Porter and long-time volunteer Geoff Currey have read, indexed and catalogued every letter, now available on public record.

Mr Currey, who volunteered for the job, was amazed by the find.

Stonnington History Centre volunteers Ellen Porter and Geoff Currey look at one of the estimated 1500 letters from soldiers duringWorldWar II. Picture: Eddie Morton

Some of the letters. Picture: Eddie Morton

Some of the letters. Picture: Eddie Morton

Some of the letters. Picture: Eddie Morton

The letters, which came from as far as Egypt, Germany, Canada and Singapore, have not been seen or read since World War II.

“What also makes the letters important is that they are not official war histories or reminiscences. These are as-it-happened and on-the-spot, contemporarily written letters by guys and girls who had never left home before, but were dumped into the horrors and tedium of war,” Mr Currey said.

“Some are funny and others very moving especially if you know the person was killed not long after sending the letter.

“One thing that all of them say in one way or another is, ‘I cannot wait for this war to be over so I can come home’.”

During the war, the City of Malvern (as it was known then) sent every service man and woman a birthday and Christmas card during their service along with a leather wallet gift.

The Stonnington History Centre is calling for any World War II veterans that remember receiving a birthday card from the council during their service to contact the history centre, as letters they wrote in response may be among those recently sorted. All names are searchable at

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Finding smiles

There were no missing smiles when Koko the Clown launched his new book at St Paul’s Anglican Grammar School on Friday.
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Grade prep and one students were delighted as their library teacher read aloud from Koko’s picture story book, Koko the Clown and the Lost Smiles, written by author Sylvia Berger.

With the help of some of the stars of the book, Koko acted out the story, in which the clown tries to make a group of children “recover their lost smiles”.

All funds raised from the book sales go to the Appin Hall Children’s Foundation, which provides respite care for children who are disadvantaged through serious illness, trauma, abuse, grief and particular cancer treatment recovery.

Koko said his involvement with Ronnie Burns and Appin Hall began a few years ago when he did a children’s show to raise money for the charity and then was contacted by Mr Burns to act in more shows.

“They asked me ‘would you like to do a book?’ and I said, ‘only if it’s good quality and with photography by Julie Ewing’. It’s come up great. She’s really brought it to life. It’s amazing,” Koko said.

“About three months ago we started. It’s come together really quickly.”

The books, which cost $20, are available from Runway 59, Traralgon or online at shop.in2helping南京夜网

KoKo the Clown launches his new book with his friends Emily Blomquist, Gabrielle Betts and Caydence Bezzina.

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