The Battle Lone Pine

20 March 2015

Battle of Lone Pine

6 August 1915 to 9 August 1915

The battle of Lone Pine was intended as a tactical diversion from attempts by New Zealand and Australian units to force a breakout from the Anzac perimeter in the north at Chunuk Bair and Hill 971.

The Lone Pine attack, launched by the 1st Brigade, AIF, took place in the late afternoon of 6 August 1915 and pitched Australian forces against formidable entrenched Turkish positions, sections of which were securely roofed over with pine logs. In some instances the attackers had to break in through the roofs of the trench systems in order to engage the defenders. The main Turkish trench was taken within 20 minutes of the initial charge, but this was the prelude to four days of intense hand-to-hand fighting, resulting in more than 2,000 Australian casualties. Turkish losses were estimated at 7,000. Seven Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross for this battle.

Images in the Memorial’s collections from the battle of Lone Pine.

The story of the pine cones

After the battle, Lance Corporal Benjamin Charles Smith, 3rd Battalion, AIF, collected several pine cones from the branches used to cover the trenches. This was done in commemoration of his brother Mark, who had died on 6 August, and Smith sent the pine cones home to his mother.

From one of these cones Smith’s mother sowed several seeds and successfully raised two seedlings. One was planted in Inverell, New South Wales, where both her sons had enlisted. The other was presented to the Australian War Memorial, to be planted in its grounds in honour of her own and others’ sons who fell at Lone Pine.

Planting the pine at Australian War Memorial

On 24 October 1934 HRH Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester (and later Governor-General of Australia), planted the small Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis) in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial. He decorated it with a wreath of red poppies he had brought with him.

Shortly after the ceremony, a severe thunderstorm hit the area. The storm washed away a bridge over the Molonglo River, but the sapling stood firm.

Inscription on the plaque

A plaque on the low wrought-iron fence around the tree reads:

After the capture of the Lone Pine Ridge in Gallipoli (6 August 1915), an Australian Soldier who had taken part in the attack in which his brother was killed, found a cone on one of the branches used by the Turks as overhead cover for their trenches, and sent it to his mother. From seed shed by it she raised the tree, which she presented to be planted in the War Memorial grounds in honour of her own and others’ sons who fell at Lone Pine.

Lone Pine tree damaged in storm

In December 2008 the tree received Australia-wide media coverage when a severe storm broke off a large branch. Fortunately, the tree survived.

Fallen branches from the Lone Pine tree were salvaged and later crafted into keepsakes for the public. A new product range is being developed from the remaining salvaged branch and will be made available for to the public during the centenary of the First World War. These are available in the Memorial Shop.

Propagating seeds from the Memorial’s Lone Pine tree

The Yarralumla Nursery began collecting and propagating seeds from the tree in the late 1940s. Since then, many seedlings have been distributed to RSL branches, schools, and other organisations for commemorative purposes.

Two pines were taken to Gallipoli in 1990. They travelled with a group of First World War veterans who returned to the peninsula to attend the memorial service marking 75 years since the landing at Anzac Cove. Mr Alf Garland, National President of the RSL, planted one of the pines during the wreathlaying ceremony.

In October 2009 a seedling was presented to Mr Ray Hasler, who had attended the planting of the sapling at the Memorial in 1934 as a 13-year-old Scout, to commemorate that planting’s 75th anniversary.

Seeds and seedlings can be purchased from the Yarralumla Nursery.

75 years since the tree planting

(Blog post, 29 October 2009)

Ray Hasler, a 13-year-old Scout, was part of that historic day on which the Lone Pine tree was planted at the Australian War Memorial. He returned to the Memorial in 2009 to commemorate the anniversary of the planting and reflect on the many history-making events that occurred since that day.

Wartime article "Courage at Lone Pine"

Wartime is the Memorial’s official magazine, and is produced quarterly. This article was written in 2006 by Andrew Gray, then Memorial’s Education Manager.