Cen­te­nary wood com­pleted ‘by tree from the trenches’

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - NEWS - BY LUCINDA CAMERON

A “tree from the trenches” has been planted to com­plete Scot­land’s First World War Cen­te­nary Wood, cre­ated as a liv­ing me­mo­rial to all who served.

Vol­un­teers and mem­bers of the armed forces be­gan work at Dreghorn in Ed­in­burgh in 2014, with 24,000 na­tive trees planted across 23 hectares over the last four years.

The fi­nal tree is a Ver­dun oak, de­scended from an acorn col­lected on the bat­tle­field in France and planted as the UK pre­pares to mark 100 years since the end of the First World War to­mor­row.

Af­ter the war, the mayor of Ver­dun, scene of some of the fiercest fight­ing, sent acorns from the bat­tle­field to Eng­land and saplings were then sold to raise money for ex-ser­vice­men.

The Wood­land Trust tracked down some of these now-ma­ture trees and acorns were col­lected and grown on by in­mates at HMP Don­caster.

One of these saplings was planted as the fi­nal tree at Dreghorn Cen­te­nary Wood on Fri­day by a de­scen­dant of two broth­ers killed on the same day dur­ing the Bat­tle of Ypres in 1917.

Carol Evans, di­rec­tor of the Wood­land Trust Scot­land, said: “These new woods which have been cre­ated over these past four cen­te­nary years will stand as a liv­ing, grow­ing thank you to ev­ery­one who lived through the con­flict, from those who paid the high­est price and their fam­i­lies, to the hard-work­ing men and women off the bat­tle­field.”

The first tree was planted in 2014 by Mar­garet Muri­son from West Calder and she re­turned to plant the fi­nal tree with Scot­land’s First World War Cen­te­nary Wood am­bas­sador Ma­jor Gen­eral An­drew Mackay.

Her grand­fa­ther Wil­liam Balmer and his brother John en­listed to­gether in 2nd Bat­tal­ion The Seaforth High­landers.

Both were killed on the same day dur­ing the Bat­tle of Ypres in 1917.

School chil­dren and staff from cor­po­rate part­ners have also helped plant trees at the site, near Dreghorn Bar­racks, which was of­fi­cially opened in 2015 by the Princess Royal.

Be­yond the flag­ship Dreghorn site, Wood­land Trust Scot­land has worked with landown­ers and com­mu­ni­ties to create 43 First World War Cen­te­nary Woods across Scot­land, cov­er­ing more than 1,000 hectares.

Wood­land Trust Scot­land worked in part­ner­ship with the De­fence In­fra­struc­ture Or­gan­i­sa­tion (DIO) – the MoD’s prop­erty and ser­vices provider – to create the new wood at Dreghorn.

TRIB­UTES: Theresa May walks with Bel­gian Prime Min­is­ter Charles Michel and Liz Sweet di­rec­tor, ex­ter­nal re­la­tions, Western Eu­rope Area, Com­mon­wealth War Graves Com­mis­sion

One of the pho­to­graphs taken by Cap­tain Robert Ben­nett dur­ing his time in Bel­gium

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