The King Street, “Avenue of Honour” is a living memorial to the service and sacrifice of Merchant Navy in two world wars. It is comprised of native trees and shrubs planted alongside King Street, Manly Vale. It occupies a 1.5 km stretch of road from Condamine Street to the approaches of Manly Warringah War Memorial Park. The centrepiece is a stone monument with surrounding trees at King Reserve. Additionally there are 25 commemorative plaques situated on telegraph poles along the street.
The project commenced on National Tree day 2005 when members of the Save Manly Dam Catchment Committee’s “Mermaid Pool” environmental restoration project plus community volunteers, commenced the first stage of the street planting. This proceeded with the approval of Warringah Council after residents were “letterboxed” to keep them informed and given the option to “opt out”.
Stage two of the project continued in 2011 after a NSW Government “Community Building Partnership” grant was successfully applied for. This helped fund professionals from “Australian Bushland Restoration” to plant and maintain additional seedlings. It also enabled the purchase of a stone monument and signage plaques.
This work was fully supported by the Merchant Navy (NSW) RSL Sub Branch (specifically its president Don Kennedy) and local Merchant Navy ex Servicemen, Ray Cox and Don Caporn. Mr Cox has been an active conservationist in this area over many years and the planting of native trees is especially dear to his heart.
Warringah Council subsequently agreed to mulch the tree planting area at King Reserve and contracted “Bushlink” who employ people with a disability for the work. Ongoing maintenance is carried out by volunteers from the "Save Manly Dam Catchment Committee". It is hoped that the Avenue will not only serve to pay tribute to merchant navy personnel and reflect the affinity and respect that mariners historically have with the forces of nature, but that it will additionally act to educate and inform the community about local biodiversity.
Since earliest times of maritime commerce, the Merchant Navy has been integral during times of war. ...[U]ntil the latter part of the 14th century the monarch, by impressment or contract raised ships during conflict. Previously, no Royal Navy as we know it existed. (1)
The title “Merchant Navy” was bestowed by degree of the late King George V in recognition and appreciation of loyal and heroic duties performed during the First World War.
During the First and Second World Wars, Merchant Navy (MN) personnel served in all theatres of war. MN manned vessels included troop and hospital ships, munitions and supply ships, tankers, salvage and rescue ships. The demands of a total war effort requiring the transportation of war materials and food stuffs was always important, at times crucial to the ultimate success of the Allied cause.
So effective and horrific were U boat packs and air attacks on Russian, Atlantic and Malta convoys, MN personnel losses in these war zones were 1 in 5. “But for the Merchant Navy who bring us the food and munitions of war; Britain would be in a parlous state and indeed without them, the Army, Navy and Air Force could not operate.”(2)
The roll the MN played in Australia's survival was no less important. Ships attacked/sunk by enemy action on the Eastern coast of Australia alone was 37, including the clearly identifiable hospital ship “Centaur” in May, 1943 off the south east Queensland coast that cost 268 lives.(3)(4) The hazards of the sea, the losses and causalities from submarines, mines, armed raiders in Pacific and Indian oceans and air raids such as on Darwin, only then does the extent that MN personnel were in harm's way become recognized. Second World War MN losses overall are recorded to be 1 in 10, not including wounded and prisoners of war.
(1) A History of the Merchant Navy...H. Moyse-Bartlett..BA (Oxon)
(2) Winston Churchill statement…...27 January, 1942.
(3) Red Ensign ….............May, 2003
(4) Commemorative Plaque, Australian Maritime Museum, Sydney
The avenue of local trees and shrubs along King Street was completed in 2011 to commemorate the wartime service and sacrifice of members of the Merchant Navy during World War 1 and World War 2.
Funding was provided by the NSW government and the planting organised by the Save Manly Dam Catchment Commitee "Return of the Mermaids" Restoration Project.
The "Return of the Mermaids" seeks to restore the Mermaid Pool on Manly Creek and rehabilitate its bushland surrounds from the effects of rubbish dumping, invasive weeds and pollution.
The volunteer project team also works to inform the community about the beauty and wonder of our disappearing natural heritage and the need to protect what's left. The seedlings planted are all indigenous to this area and provide food and habitat for native wildlife.