The Living Legacy of St Mark's Lone Pines: A Tribute to Sacrifice and Resilience

Fifteen years ago, a profound gesture of remembrance and honour took root at St Mark's, marking a connection to history that continues to inspire generations. Two pine trees, germinated from cones of the legendary Lone Pine tree in Gallipoli, Turkey, were planted with great reverence by Mrs Peta Sinclair, the School's PA to the Principal, and her husband. This act carried out alongside Year 7 students, symbolised not just the growth of trees but the growth of understanding, respect, and commemoration within the school community.

The significance of these trees traces back to the Battle of Lone Pine, a harrowing chapter in Australia's military history. This battle, fought over four intense days, witnessed extraordinary bravery amidst the chaos of war. It resulted in over 2300 casualties, and six Victoria Cross medals were awarded. The Lone Pine tree became a symbol of courage and resilience, standing tall amidst the devastation. It is understood that after the capture of the Lone Pine ridge in Gallipoli, 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. This tree still stands proudly to this day on the grounds of the War Memorial in Canberra. The Yarralumla Nursery began collecting and propagating seeds from that particular tree in the late 1940s.

In 2009, St Mark's received two one-metre-tall saplings from Mr and Mrs Sinclair, who had received them as a gift and had the idea of using them for Bonsai. However, the historical significance was not wasted, and the Sinclairs embraced this living link, recognising these trees needed a more poignant planting where they could be remembered and honoured. The inaugural planting ceremony, held by the Year 7 students and staff next to the newly established Floreat Building, marked the beginning of a profound tradition. Little did they know then, as they planted those small trees, the towering strength and enduring significance these pines would come to represent.

Each year, as ANZAC Day approaches, the story of Gallipoli and the Battle of Lone Pine resonates throughout St Mark's. Students immerse themselves in tales of bravery and sacrifice, learning about the soldier who brought back a pine cone and the legacy it birthed. In a touching tradition, the Year 5 students collect pine cones from beneath these mature pines, holding tangible pieces of history in their hands.

This year, as the Year 5s take home these symbolic pine cones, they carry with them not just a piece of the past but a responsibility to honour it. They share these stories with their families, planting seeds of remembrance and gratitude in their own backyards. The growth of these new seedlings mirrors the growth of appreciation for the sacrifices made by brave soldiers, a poignant reminder of the privilege of today's peaceful lives.

The St Mark's Lone Pines stand as more than just trees; they are living memorials, embodying the spirit of resilience, courage, and the enduring legacy of those who fought for the freedoms we cherish.