After the Battle of Vimy Ridge was won, many soldiers realized that they had been part of something truly great. Leslie Miller, born in 1889 in Milliken, ON, looked around for a souvenir on the Ridge. It was completely devoid of structures or vegetation due to shell fire but he did find a half buried oak tree. He gathered up a handful of acorns.
Those acorns were subsequently planted by him on farmland in Scarborough, ON, which is now home to the Scarborough Chinese Baptist Church. He called his farm the ‘Vimy Oaks Farm’. Today, several of the original oaks survive. However, there are no original oaks on the Vimy Ridge site.
VIMY OAKS IN FRANCE
The Vimy Foundation, in partnership with the Vimy Oaks Legacy Corporation, is working to repatriate these Vimy Oaks of Scarborough-Agincourt back to Vimy, France, to help preserve Canada’s First World War legacy through the creation of a living memorial.
The Vimy Foundation Centennial Park, adjacent to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in northern France, will feature 100 Vimy Oak trees. These Vimy Oaks in France are available for sponsorship by individuals and organizations.
VIMY OAKS IN CANADA
In January 2015, the process began with professional arborists taking cuttings (scions) from the crowns of the oaks which will be grafted onto base root stock – quercus robur. (Photos from this process can be found here.) The saplings have been grown at Connon NVK nurseries using an accelerated method.
These saplings are now available for private planting in Canada to commemorate the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Donations will be used to support the creation of the Vimy Foundation Centennial Park in France as well as ongoing education programs.
The planting of a Vimy Oak is a special way for schools, libraries, and other community organizations to mark the end of the First World War centennial period. These special trees, brought back as acorns from Vimy Ridge to grow in Canada, are an opportunity for groups to acknowledge the impact that the First World War had on their community, and to gather together in a ceremony when the tree is planted in the ground.
The Vimy Foundation can assist with ideas on how fundraising for a Vimy Oak can be combined with education and awareness-building activities for students or visitors, which could include researching individuals from the school or neighbourhood who enlisted; learning more about the geography and environmental impact of war; and analysis of First World War memorials.
For younger readers, Linda Granfield’s The Vimy Oaks: A Journey to Peace is an excellent entry-point for discussing the First World War and Remembrance alongside the Vimy Oaks.