A living thank you to heroes ofWWI
IT was the war to end all wars, decimating entire families. But now a leading conservation charity has found a way to turn the heartbreak of the First World War into hope for the future.
The Woodland Trust, which champions nativewoods and trees and owns over 1,000 sites across theUK, has embarked upon an ambitious £20m project to remember those who died fighting for theircountryduring WWI. And with the Centenary of the fateful Gallipoli Campaign this weekend, there has never been a more fitting time to honour the lives of those who gave so much to ensure our freedom, both at home and abroad.
The charity’s Centenary Woods scheme, which is supported by Sainsbury’s, will see four flagship sites created – one in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – offering a unique place to reflect upon each country’s heroes, with trees planted in memory of those who played a part in the war.
Those who lost family members have already hailed the move a fitting tribute to the soldiers who died trying to secure a brighter future and their families who alsomade sacrifices.
David Appleton’s four great uncles – George Sydney James, Charles Edward James, Henry James and Frances Arthur James – were all killed within 15 months of each other during WWI. Aged between 22 and 31, their deaths devastated their family, in particular their sister, Phylis.
David, 53, says: “Growing up, I was always aware that thedeathofmy uncles had devastated the family, and thatmy grandmother – their sister – had never recovered fromher loss. Shewent on to serve as a nurse in a hospital for the badly wounded, walking 10 miles toand from work every day.”
The Woodland Trust supporter had already planted four black poplars on his farm as a tribute to the brothers, sowhenhelearnt of the plans for CentenaryWoods, he was keen to plant four trees in their memory. Afterhe made enquiries, David attended the inaugural tree planting at the 640- acre English site in Epsom, Surrey.
“I couldn’t imagine a more appropriate and f i t t i n g means of commemoration thanthe Centenary Woods,” he says. “A wood is the oppositeofwar, abeautiful, peaceful oasis of calm and life. Now the importance of our history has been passed on to my son and daughter.”
Beccy Speight, Chief Executive Officer of the Woodland Trust said: “All those who made sacrifices in the First World War did so in the hope of securing a brighter future for the next generation. Over the next three years, we’ll be asking people to dedicate a tree to their ancestors in one of the Centenary Woods, in order to create thousands of acres of woodland as a permanent legacy to the war.”
For £20 the Trust can dedicate a single tree, whichwill become part of a forest.