Today's blog, a day late, starts with a fascinating story from Waterdown Ontario, about 10 Kms west of Burlington. And it touches on Vimy and a tree. Well actually lots of them! And a 3rd generation of one of these was being planted at the Royal Canadian Legion in Waterdown.
While history well records the price mankind paid during the Great War, less obvious sometimes is the story of destruction to the vegetation. The area of the Vimy Ridge, for example, had all of its oak trees blown up.
But luckily, a Lieutenant from the 5th Canadian Expeditionary Force did something about it. His name was Leslie Miller and he came from a farming family in Scarborough Ontario (Toronto.)
He had discovered a burnt remnant of an oak tree half buried, and dug around to get a handful of acorns. He then sent these back home to Ontario with the request that they be planted on the family farm. That was one hundred years ago. Ten remain today and stand some 150 feet high.
Another youth of the era, a friend of Miller's, often visited the family farm and no doubt in later years watched the oaks grow skyward. During several visits to Vimy over the years, this friend.... Mr Monty McDonald... noted how barren the Ridge was of any trees. He then got to thinking about what to do... and then remembered the oak acorns that had come back to Canada from Vimy, and their growth to the day, in Scarborough.
While the story becomes a little confusing, depending of the source, either a graff from the Ontario trees was married up with some strong stock from BC, and seedlings produced. Some 120 of these were apparently sent to Vimy, one to represent each Canadian regiment who fought there. But because of tree diseases in Canada the offer was blocked.
Another version is that acorns were sent and were to be planted on land adjacent to the land were the famous Vimy memorial now stands.
Moving on, and westward to Saskatoon, there is another story about trees that I hope you have had a chance to look at.
In mid June the press reported that it was the 94th year anniversary of Saskatoon's memorial called the "Next of Kin Memorial Avenue of Trees." This is located almost entirely within a cemetery in the city.
It started with 112 elms, complete with bronze plaques containing the names of veterans who fought and died in the Great War. Today is has expanded to about 1200 trees in memory of those lost in WWll and Korea.
The press coverage noted that this is the last existing memorial of this type to maintain its integrity in the country. But there is another here in Victoria BC, that has lasted, though reduced in size. And there is a move afoot, with growing momentum, to bring more local awareness to the importance of this memorial.
More on the Victoria memorial will be covered in a future blog.
Looking back to Ontario again, there is a wonderful story that was released in late June about the York Cemetery in the north west area of Toronto.
It noted that with some donation of land a new memorial to the Victoria Cross recipients has been created. It claims pride in noting that the memorial is the first in the country to commemorate the names of 99 recipients, all being honoured in one place, for the very first time. They could have added several to that number if they checked with my records, but that aside, the memorial is fabulous.
One interesting development with this memorial is the inclusion of a QR code that with a suitable device will allow the viewer to pull up a copy of the latest VC book of 99 recipients from the net and no doubt allow you whilst standing in front to the plaque, reviewing the material about that hero at the same time.
I would love to get a copy of that QR code to post in a future blog, and an image of the Rowland Bourke WWl plaque and what the QR code displays about this hero.
So there is some homework for a Toronto reader!
There are other VC memorials across the country that list what, at the time, were thought to be the total recipients of this most prestigious medal for bravery. But as info develops, so do the numbers increase as readers of this blog well understand.
Also told in past blogs, the Ottawa plaque was mounted at the British High Commission offices in Ottawa and unveiled by Princess Anne in Nov 2014.
With over 6,000 memorials, plaques and the like honouring the Canadians who went off to war, and many receiving the Victoria Cross, it is obviously hard to keep track of them all, Though those touching on the above stories, clearly in my mind could have benefited with a little more homework. (As do some of my own blogs.) That aside, the efforts to create these keepsakes of our heritage well deserve kudo's and thanks to all that played a role in their creation.
The least we can do is make it a priority to get out at some time and visit them and pay our own respects to our forefathers... and foremothers... and those who wear the uniforms of today in the service of our great country. And let us not forget those on the home-front while our loved ones are standing between us and those wishing to do us harm.
And it is doubtful that all these warriors have in their hands, is just a pen or keyboard!
Before signing off today, I should also note that while many claim their creations are the first... perhaps we should reflect back to 1949. That is when a natural monument of sorts was named in honour of ALL of Canada's VC recipients.
It started with the names of VC recipients Edmund de Wind and Frederick Harvey. In 1952 five more were added.. and all 7 where then representative of ALL recipients from Canada.
Here is another image looking down on the range...
Of the 7 mountain tops, you will find it interesting to note that only one recipient... George Kerr from Nova Scotia... is the only one of the 7 to have been born in Canada.
Next week I shall return with some birthdays of sorts...
till then, hope the delay was worth it...