Friends of Soldiers Memorial Avenue Inc. (FOSMA) was formed in 2002 to promote the restoration and preservation of the Soldiers Memorial Avenue on the Queens Domain.
The movement began in October 2001 when as a result of public attention the Hobart City Council supervised the removal of the last 10 plaques to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery for safekeeping. Adrian Howard and Kirsty Black who had become concerned at the state of the Avenue arranged the removal. Over a period of some months, they had searched for plaques while walking their dog, Beau. While knowing that there had once been many plaques, they were puzzled that most plaques had disappeared. The last plaque they discovered belonged to Private C W Cowen 40th Bn who is buried in Kandahar Farm cemetery near Neuve Eglise, Belgium. A nearby grave contains the remains of a great uncle of Adrian's, Pte James Clarence Jacobs 43rd Bn. Having slowly located the remaining plaques, they contacted the Council to arrange removal when a remaining plaque disappeared.
Their actions prompted a stream of phone calls from descendants and concerned members of the public. A public meeting was arranged and in March 2002, Friends of Soldiers Walk was formally incorporated. It has since been renamed Friends of Soldiers Memorial Avenue Inc (FOSMA) to reflect the original name for the memorial. FOSMA now has over 300 members and supporters and is contact with the descendants of over 200 soldiers of the Walk.
A Management Plan was prepared in cooperation with a working group of Council officers and was endorsed by Council in May 2004 and launched in August 2, 2004 the 96th anniversary of the first planting.
Activities and Achievements
Alec Campbell unveils the plaque, April 24 2002
On April 24th 2002, Alec Campbell unveiled a plaque by the first tree. The plaque was placed for Private Arthur Adams of the 12th Battalion who is believed to be the first Tasmanian killed at the landing on Gallipoli on April 25th 1915. The plaque notes:
"Private Adams was the first Tasmanian killed at the landing on Gallipoli. This plaque was unveiled by Alec Campbell the last survivor of the campaigns on Gallipoli."
Alec Campbell died in May 2002 and was given a state funeral.
Frank MacDonald and Alec Campbell
Frank MacDonald, the last Tasmanian survivor of the campaigns on the Western Front was our second patron. Frank enlisted in 1916 in the 40th Battalion (the only all-Tasmanian unit in the Great War) and fought on the Western Front, winning a Military Medal for gallantry. He celebrated his 107th birthday on June 26th 2003 and impressed all who meet him with his humour, determination and remarkable memory. Frank remembered visiting the Avenue in the early 1920s and remembered some of those commemorated, particularly Captain Gard.
Frank served in the signals section, often went forward with the advance and never missed a battle. He was a fine shot having been brought up with a rifle in hand on the family farm, shooting rabbits and practising his accuracy by shooting cherry pips hanging on a small gate from the veranda. He served in the militia before the war but was rejected and spent time cane cutting in Queensland before successful enlistment in 1916.
Frank died in September 2003 and with him went the last direct link to the battles of the Great War.
Remembrance Day Activities
In 2001 a small group tied red ribbons on the first forty trees in the Avenue to highlight the existence of the Avenue and to remind the people of Hobart of the men from the area who died in the Great War and deserved to be remembered.
In 2002 and 2003 larger turnouts have placed poppies on all the trees of the Avenue. In 2002, a field of crosses was created, each cross bearing the name of a soldier whose tree was missing.
First Clean Up
On August 3rd 2002, Friends of Soldiers Walk with the assistance of the Hobart City Council's Bush Care group conducted a first clean up around the trees on the northern section of the Avenue. Permission was given to remove all competing vegetation and weeds within 3 metres of the trees. About 40 people worked for three hours removing vegetation, which was then piled along the path for collection by the HCC. A barbeque followed at the Gunpowder magazine thanks to the lessee the Southern Tasmanian Volunteer Artillery Service, a group dedicated to preserving the colonial artillery heritage and well-known for re-enactments locally.
Second Clean Up
In October 2002, a second clean up was undertaken on the southern sections of the Avenue. This was marked by the discovery by the Harrison's of another plaque hidden in the leaf litter and soil at the base of a small tree. After this clean up the Avenue was now more obvious to the passer by and became more visually defined in this part bush landscape. Another barbeque followed near the largest tree on the Avenue, that of Capt Appleby.
2003 Clean Ups
Two working bees, in October and November, removed further vegetation from within the bounds of the Avenue opening up new vistas and reinforcing the presence of the original Avenue. Over 50 people turned out including the Andrewartha, Vaughan and Wadsley families. A member of each of these families enlisted in the 15th Battalion and trained together at Broadmeadows camp in Victoria. Ross Andrewartha brought along a photograph of the three men taken in Melbourne in late 1915.
One reason for the low public awareness of the Avenue was the disappearance of individual tree markings; the trees simply became anonymous exotics struggling in a mixed native environment. Members turned out with basic maps and lists to place small labels with a name and tree number at the base of each tree so that once more the connection between an individual tree and an individual serviceman was obvious.
Annual ANZAC Day exhibitions
On each Anzac Day, an exhibition has been held in the Gunpowder magazine. Besides giving an opportunity for members of the public Database launch.
In 2002, the Minister for Veterans Affairs made a grant under the Local Commemorative Activities program to Adrian Howard to produce a database.
In 2002, the Minister for Veterans Affairs made a grant under the Local Commemorative Activities program to Adrian Howard to produce a database of the soldiers commemorated in the Avenue. This is the basis for this website.
In 2006, FOSMA was granted DGR (Deductible Gift Recipient) status i.e. all donations are tax deductible and can be claimed as part of personal income tax and other returns. This is a real aid to families and friends donating money to help restore the Avenue.
Plaques to date
To date over 480 plaques have been placed on the Avenue. There is now a continuous line of plaques from Aberdeen St to the Crossroads. Only Stage 2 of the replanting of trees around the western edge of the Soldiers Memorial Oval remains to be done. During 2009 and 2010, missing, dead and poorer trees along the Avenue have been replaced with Cedrus libani - in all 230 trees were planted by the Hobart City Council.