On the way from Scottsdale to St Helens you pass the turn off to Legerwood. Don’t drive past, turn off the main road and visit this little town famous for it’s carved tree sculptures with a very special story.
At the end of World War 1, nine trees were planted in memory of the seven local soldiers that were killed in the war plus one tree for Gallipoli and one for the Anzacs.
By 2001 the trees were declared a safety hazard, but the local community looked for ways to retain their memorial and Eddie Freeman, the chainsaw artist was enlisted to bring the soldiers back to life in sculpture. With much research and photos, the fallen soldiers have been re-created and each tree tells their story, and of those left behind.
I found the following information about these local heroes on the North East Tasmania Tourism site…..
Private Alan Robert Andrews – died in France on July 25th, 1916 aged 19 years: Alan Andrews was the first soldier born and raised in the area to give his life. A farmhand on his family’s farm, Private Andrews is depicted with his dog, hat in hand, seemingly waving goodbye to his loved ones.
Private Thomas Edward Edwards – died on February 19th, 1918 and was buried in Belgium: At the highest point of what remains of a giant American Sequoia, Thomas Edwards stands with his wife in their final embrace before he sets off to war. Surrounding them are the harrowing scenes of battle mixed with the joy of family welcoming home returned servicemen.
On one limb sits a man with bandaged eyes, suffering from the effects of mustard gas while next to him lies a soldier with a mirror box looking out over the trenches.
Further around the tree a little boy waves farewell as a smiling daughter sits on her grandfather’s shoulders, welcoming her father home.
Private William Henry Hyde – died aged 27 years. In France on July 7th, 1916: Shouldering his lumber, sawmill hand William Hyde stands next to a saw blade representing an industry that was – and still is – part of the life-blood of the community.
Private Robert James Jenkins – aged 28 years and killed near Flers (Somme) July 1st, 1917: The story of Robert “Bobby” Jenkins is perhaps the most poignant of the seven men. Private Jenkins migrated to Ringarooma from England at the start of the 20th century and made his living touring local halls as a tenor. It was in his new found home that he met young Amy (Trippy) Forsyth, and the two were engaged shortly before he went to war.
Private Jenkins fell at the Somme in 1917 and a heartbroken Trippy never married. She kept a photo of Private Jenkins, together with his engagement ring, beside her bed until she died at the age of 76. The photo was used to carve his likeness in the tree, looking across at his fiancé on an opposite limb.
Private George Peddle – aged 25 years and killed at Passchendaele on October 13th, 1917: Private Peddle was the son of George Peddle Snr, famous for his wooden chairs which have now become sought after collectables. Before he enlisted Private Peddle was the Manager of his father’s sawmill, a bushman and a bullock driver.
Private John Henry Gregg McDougall – aged 19 years. Died at Passchendaele on October 13th, 1917: Private McDougall was a porter at the Railway Station, which once stood directly behind the memorial reserve. His statue now stands holding signal flags directing traffic through the town.
It is ironic that Privates McDougall and Peddle both fell on the same day in the same battle at Passchendaele; this would have been very little comfort for their families in such a tight-knit town.
I challenge you to visit this amazing memorial and not get a tear in your eye. It is a truly remarkable tribute by a community to their heroes of the past, particularly as they salvaged the original memorial in such a unique way.