Papanui war memorial avenues

St James avenue, Papanui

In 1943 the Minister of Internal Affairs suggested that New Zealand’s communities should consider planting memorial trees in honour of their fallen soldiers. This proposal quickly gained support from the Christchurch Beautifying Society. In August 1946 Christchurch City Council formally approved a proposal by the Papanui RSA and the Papanui Beautifying Association to plant trees in memory of fallen soldiers in selected streets of that suburb.

The streets chosen for the purpose were Alpha Avenue, Claremont Avenue, Condell Avenue, Dormer Street, Gambia Street, Halton Street, Hartley Avenue, Kenwyn Avenue, Lansbury Avenue, Norfolk Street, Perry Street, Scotson Avenue, St James Avenue, Tomes Road and Windermere Road. It seems likely that memorial trees were also planted in Tillman Avenue and St John’s Street (now Blair Avenue), although these have not always been recognized as memorial avenues.

Sources differ on which street was planted first. Planting may have taken place in Claremont Avenue and St James Avenue in 1945, even before the project was officially approved. On 20 August 1946 memorial trees were planted  in Dormer Street, Perry Street, St Johns Street (now Blair Avenue) and Tillman Avenue. Halton Street was the final location planted, in 1952.

Species chosen for planting included ashes, oaks, maples, maidenhairs, liquidambars, camellias, and several varieties of crab apple.

Brass memorial plaques paid for by public subscription were hung on power poles at the end of each memorial avenue. These were worded simply PAPANUI / MEMORIAL AVENUE / TO THE FALLEN / 1939 – 1945.

Margaret Howley notes that the Anzac Parade for Papanui leaves from St James Avenue and makes it way to the RSA and then to the grave of Charles Upham VC and Bar in the churchyard of St Pauls Church, Papanui.

See: Janet Tillman, War Memorial Avenues, Papanui, Christchurch, New Zealand, Papanui Heritage Group, 2008 and other documents available via Papanui War Memorial Avenues [Kete Christchurch, 2010]; ‘Residents Fight to Save Historic Trees’, Christchurch Press, 4/5/2016, A6.

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