The planting of trees as a dedication to individual Service personnel who gave their lives while serving their countries in time of war seems to be an Australian innovation. This unique practice originated in Ballarat, Victoria when in 1917 Mrs. Tilly Thompson proposed to raise funds to plant an 'avenue of trees' to honour the local men who had been killed in World War I. By 1919, there were 3,912 trees planted along 22.4 kms of the Western Highway. In all at least 128 avenues were planted in Victoria between 1917 and 1921, virtually every one a community effort.
The idea was taken up in Kings Park, Western Australia in 1918 by Mr Arthur Lovekin, an original member of the Kings Park Board. Kings Park and Botanic Garden now has a number of tree-lined avenues, set aside to honour service personnel who died in the two World Wars and other engagements.
At the base of each tree along these avenues, is a plaque inscribed with the name of the deceased, age, date and manner of death and who dedicated the plaque. Dedication ceremonies are now held four times a year for approved plaques. Members of the Highgate Returned and Services League have maintained the plaques in a voluntary capacity through the Honour Avenues Group since 1922.
May Drive was opened on 23 July 1901 by Princess May, Duchess of Cornwall and York, later Queen Mary. May Drive became the first Honour Avenue in Kings Park and Botanic Garden in 1919. Relatives and friends of men and women who died during World War I (1914-1918) planted 400 oak and plane trees during a planting ceremony. A message from Queen Mary was read to those assembled at the dedication. Her words were,
"May these fine oaks grow and flourish for many years, and stand as a reminder to generations to come of the devotion and loyalty of those brave sons of the Empire who gave their lives in the cause of justice and freedom" (Queen Mary, 1919)
When the trees failed to prosper, they were replanted with Bangalay (Eucalyptus botryoides) in the 1940s. Today, there is one oak left standing - at the corner of May and Lovekin Drives, adjacent to the Forrest statue.
Lovekin Drive, named in 1931, commemorates Arthur Lovekin, second President of the Kings Park Board and the man responsible for the initiation of the Honour Avenues.
After World War II many requests for trees were received for dedication to Servicemen who died in that war and the Kings Park Board asked the Returned and Services League to arrange a dedication ceremony for the remaining 300 sugar gums (Eucalyptus cladocalyx) in Lovekin Avenue.
Lovekin Drive was dedicated on 5 December 1948 and honours the fallen of both World War I: 1914-1918 and World War II: 1939-1945.
The most recent addition to the Honour Avenues is Marri Walk, a roadway adjacent to Plaque No.191 on May Drive, that leads to the Royal Kings Park Tennis Club. Marri Walk was dedicated on 18 April 1999 and honours the fallen of World War I, World War II and other engagements. It is here that future dedications will probably take place.