A Tree Named Anzac
An open and level stretch of land reposes at the foot of Mt Brisbane, and is enwrapped by the Brisbane River bending gracefully around it. In 1942, this became a military airfield destined to be a supply and maintenance base. But the war moved North and Watts Bridge was abandoned, with intact runways and an already established heritage of Royal Australian Air Force training, was let go – back to cattle and their indolent grazing.
Many years later, recreational aviation enthusiasts – some into preservation of ‘warbirds’, others just seeking the peace of a free sky, made moves to preserve the airfield and bring it back to life, but in so doing were always mindful of its heritage, and the implications of that heritage. So Watts Bridge War Memorial Airfield came into existence – and the airfield lived again.
These days, people from all walks of life enjoy the fulfillment of their personal pursuits at this airfield, and do so under a peaceful sky which is wholly their own. They remember that that freedom was secured at a terrible individual price by so many. That price is now acknowledged in the essential being of the airfield’s re-birth and continuation – by its dedication.
How can you ever acknowledge that which was, yet gave that which we have? We create elaborate memorials in cold stone engraved with immortal prose. That is as it should be – for whatever is within our personal hearts, we must preserve and convey to the young the price others paid so they may now live.
At Watts Bridge Airfield, we took another tangent in remembrance. We created a set area, in the centre of our intended population development, where we relax, or re-fuel, where we make, in personal terms, our personal commitment to what we are about – and so include with us those who are no longer with us.
There will be an engraved plaque of immortal prose. There will be a dry stone wall containing a raised bed 40 feet (12m) in diameter, and a small stone shrine. But the central memorial will be living – a tree named Anzac.
Anzac is yet a youngster less than 2 feet (60cm) high. But it will grow with the airfield, and with our own young. Anzac is a Eucalyptus Grandis – popularly known as the Australian Ghost Gum. Many ghosts it will contain, for it will grow to a giant over 100 feet (30m) high, dominating the airfield. Every leaf will be a memory of a life given.
Anzac’s very being will be home, refuge and food for Australia’s unique wildlife. In the evening, Possum Gliders will fly from it. And in the morning, birds of prey will rise and soar – and our remembrance will be enhanced by this continuing life.
Upon the stone at the foot of the tree, will be inscribed:
When you go home, tell them of us and say,
For their tomorrow we gave our today.
Botanical Note: The true Australian Ghost Gum is the Eucalyptus Papuana – which we dearly wanted. But these are very slow-growing desert trees and would be stunted in our climate – so the majestic Grandis, which will have a snow-white trunk in a few short years, it had to be.
Final Footnote: ANZAC = Australia and New Zealand Army Corps
It was the name given to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps soldiers who landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey early on the morning of 25 April 1915 during the First World War (1914-1918).
– Tony and Kay Hayes
Toogoolawah, Queensland, Australia