Pakenham Upper Roll of Honour
Above: The Pakenham Upper Roll of Honour dedicated in September 1917.
Left: The trees planted in 1917 to commemorate the Pakenham Upper boys serving overseas. Below: the plaque placed with the trees.
Such was Pakenham Upper’s pride in their Diggers that they began dedicating memorials even before the end of the War. On 25 August 1917, trees were planted on land between the Pakenham Upper Hall and Gembrook Rd (along what is now Bourkes Creek Rd) to honour “our boys”. The Pakenham Upper Hall and State School committees combined to carry out the ceremony as an ‘extension of Arbour Day” (DA 30/8/1917 p. 2. The local member of State Parliament, William Keast MLA, “motored up” to Pakenham Upper and planted the first tree, then “spoke feelingly of all the distress the war has caused’. Relatives of local Diggers then planted several other trees, which would help to "permanently beautify the Hall and perpetuate the memory of those who answering the Empire’s call, have preserved our Honour and our Land” (PG 24/7/1917 p. 2). The intention was for a full avenue of honour to be eventually planted (DA 30/8/1917 p. 2).
A month later, on 22 September 1917, a roll of honour was dedicated to those who had enlisted from Pakenham Upper. As the Shire President, Cr G.W. Martin noted, this was being done in the midst of the “titanic struggle now raging”: the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) was in full swing on the Western Front, involving millions of soldiers. Cr Martin spoke of how Pakenham Upper’s Diggers were fighting to help Australians maintain the “privileges of British citizenship”, which he said were “freedom, justice and right”. Cr Martin also asked those present to “love and revere those men who have so nobly played their part that they might grow to manhood in a free and peaceful country, under the British flag”. The roll was unveiled by Frank Wisewould, a leading Pakenham Upper resident, who spoke of how the “imperishable bravery of our lads at the landing at Gallipoli had been re-enacted on the bloody fields of Pozieres and Ypres. They were worthy sons of the fathers who had begotten them and the mothers who had nurtured them”. Described at the time as a “handsome board” of blackwood, the roll of honour was designed by Charles Smart, a partner in Bates, Peebles and Smart Architects of Queen St Melbourne. One of Charles’ brothers, Ashley, owned a property called “Kinkora” in Pakenham Upper, while another brother, Roy was one of the Diggers honoured on the roll itself. According to the Pakenham Gazette, the roll of honour, would “show the boys in some small degree that we are not unmindful of the sacrifices they are daily and hourly making that we may still live the free and peaceful life that has been ours in this our own country" (PG 28/9/1917 p. 2).
Interestingly, the thirty two names on the roll are listed by year of enlistment. 1916 represented the peak of enlistment, with twelve Pakenham Upper volunteers that year, after which numbers dropped off sharply in 1917 and again in 1918 when there was just one local volunteer. This suggests the pool of eligible men had likely been exhausted as the War dragged on (or had become more reluctant to enlist). The are small crosses beside ten of the names indicating that one in three of the Pakenham Upper Diggers were killed or died. The roll was subsequently modified to include the date the Armistice was signed (11 November 1918) and the Year 1919, when the War with Germany officially ended.