SPRING BAY—The Manitoulin District Cenotaph Committee in celebrating Legion Week hosted a very special ceremony this past Sunday, planting a Vimy oak sapling grown in Canada to honour the soldiers who fought at Vimy Ridge and other battles during World War I.
“On behalf of the Manitoulin District Cenotaph committee I would like to thank all of you for coming out here today to take part in this special ceremony,” said Linda Bowerman, secretary-treasurer of the cenotaph committee and master of ceremonies for the event held this past Sunday at the Manitoulin District Cenotaph in Spring Bay. She pointed out the Vimy oak tree has been donated by Joe and Sue Morin in memory of George Bury and a red Maple Canada 150 sapling was donated by Dave and Cheryl Harper of Har-Cor Greenhouse
The Vimy Tree has a story I would like to share,” said Ms. Bowerman. “The Battle of Vimy Ridge in northern France took place between April 9 and April 12 in 1917 and is considered to be one of the defining events in the history of our nation. Where Allied troops had struggled and failed, the Canadians overcame great odds and eventually captured Vimy Ridge at a cost of some 10,600 casualties.”
“After the battle, Lieutenant Leslie Miller of Scarborough, serving with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, gathered up a handful of acorns from a partially buried English oak (quercus robur) on the ridge,” said Ms. Bowerman. “He sent the acorns home to his family with instructions to plant them. In 1919 Lieutenant Miller returned and was given a 25-acre section of his father’s Scarborough farm and transplanted the oaks along the borders of his woodlot. He named his farm “The Vimy Oaks.” Today a number of these majestic oaks are thriving in the same but smaller woodlot under the close care of the Scarborough Chinese Baptist Church that purchased the farm property in 2002.”
“In January 2014 a group of volunteers, the Vimy Oaks Legacy Corporation, decided to repatriate offspring of these descendant oaks back to Vimy Ridge, whose oak trees had all been destroyed in the First World War,” continued Ms. Bowerman. “These Vimy oak saplings will be planted in the Vimy Foundation Centennial Park adjacent to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial site as part of centennial commemorations in France in 2017 and 2018.”
Ms. Bowerman noted, “the non-profit Vimy Oaks Legacy Corporation has undertaken to offer Vimy Oak saplings grown in Canada for sale to qualifying organizations and individuals to be planted at commemorative sites throughout Canada to honour the soldiers who fought at Vimy Ridge and other battles during the First World War.”
O’ Canada was then led by Keiren Harper, followed by a prayer of the trees by Chaplain Diane Musgrove. “It is my honour and pleasure to be here as chaplain to provide a short prayer as we gather for this ceremony,” she said.
Legion Public Relations Officer Roy Eaton brought greetings on behalf of Legion District H Command Steve Frech. He also noted, “I am so happy that veteran Dennis Dockrell is attendance here today at this ceremony. The District Command congratulates the Cenotaph committee for putting on this ceremony today.”
Denis Blake then provided a story of a trip he took to Vimy Ridge this past June and previously with students at Manitoulin Secondary School. “I was an officer for 12 years in the Sea Cadets and in 2012 I had the opportunity to take a trip with MSS students to Vimy Ridge. I was asked and was honoured to accompany the students. It was a wonderful trip.”
This past April Mr. Blake made a trip to Vimy Ridge with six cadets and three civilian officers, including his son Andrew. “Nothing in my life has made me so proud to be Canadian. Not just the trip but the residents residing in Vimy Ridge and France and their feelings towards Canadians,” said Mr. Blake. He said that at the Vimy Ridge 100th anniversary ceremony there were about 25,000 Canadians in attendance, two-thirds of whom who were youth.”
“It was an extremely momentous event to accompany my son and share in the experience,” said Mr. Blake. “We had the chance to visit other parts of Paris as well. One of the highlights was seeing several generations of people who remember the contributions that Canadian soldiers made at Vimy Ridge. Walking through Paris, a lady approached me and our group thanking me for everything we did for France. I felt a little uneasy but said, on behalf of Canadian veterans from 100 years ago, you’re welcome.”
“Then later in the day we were walking two by two when a boy about four- or five-years-old said to his mother, ‘look mom it’s the Canadians!’,” continued Mr. Blake. “These are perfect examples of older and younger generations knowing about the contributions made by Canada at Vimy Ridge. That legacy will be remembered by these cadets and students I accompanied and will be an experience they will remember, just like how we remember all those who made the ultimate sacrifice for Canada.”
At the Vimy oaks sapling tree planting site veterans on hand were asked to take tobacco and hold it in their hands while Chaplain Musgrove blessed the trees. “We give thanks and bless these trees to be healthy, strong and powerful in the spirit of the men and women who made the sacrifice,” she said.
A second similar planting and blessing was held for the Red Maple tree by Chaplain Musgrove.
Keiren Harper concluded the ceremony by singing “The Highway of Heroes.”
The District Cenotaph Committee had to apply and be approved through the Vimy Oaks Legacy Corporation to be one of the organizations to be able to plant a Vimy oak sapling.