LONG SAULT – A Canadian project to repatriate oak trees to Vimy Ridge and plant memorial oak trees across Canada has seen two saplings planted at the cenotaph at the Lost Villages museum in Long Sault.
The Vimy Oaks Legacy is a project in partnership with The Vimy Foundation, which has two missions. The first is to repatriate Vimy Oaks to the Vimy Ridge Battlefield in France, planting 100 saplings in a grove next to the Canadian monument. The second is to plant commemorative Vimy Oak saplings at sites across Canada.
“I read about the project in the Toronto Star,” Jim Brownell, president of the Lost Villages Historical Society told The Leader.
“It was one of our members, Colonel Bill Shearing, who suggested we form a committee and apply.”
The committee of Brownell, Shearing and Tim Gault applied to the foundation for two of the oak saplings, to be put on either side of the cenotaph at Ault Park at the Lost Villages Museum. The park holds the cenotaph from Moulinette and Mille Roche, villages that were flooded in the Seaway project.
Brownell included with the application a letter explaining why the group wanted the oak saplings. Four soldiers from Mille Roches died at the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917. Their names are among the 11,285 Canadian soldiers names engraved in the monument who are posted as “missing, presumed dead”.
“I was absolutely surprised, elated that Vimy Oaks Legacy approved us for not just one, but both trees,” said Brownell.
The organization explained that the letter and the connection between where the saplings were to be planted and Vimy were the reasons they were picked.
The group traveled to Dundas on May 29th to pick up the saplings. They were planted the next day.
The Museum’s summer students, Gardner Sage and Lindsey Levasseur, were involved with securing the saplings and their planting.
Later this year the museum will have a ceremony to formally dedicate the Vimy Oaks. It is currently working to have a plaque and stone placed to tell the story of the oaks.
Brownell explained that they are trying to secure stone from the original Mille Roches quarry, now operated by Cornwall Gravel.
“It would be a nice connection with the story,” he said.
The Vimy Oak project stems from the actions of one soldier during World War One.
Lieutenant Leslie H. Miller, a member of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the Signal Corps, fought at Hill 115 (Vimy Ridge) in April 1917.
After the battle, Miller gathered and sent home acorns from the battlefield. The English oaks (Quercus robur) on the battlefield were all but destroyed.
Miller was a teacher before the war but was unable to teach after the war due to medical issues.
After being given 24 acres of the family farm by his father, he planted the acorns as part of a woodlot on the land in what was then Scarborough Township. The land later became the grounds of the Scarborough Chinese Baptist Church where 10 trees grew to maturity, and remain today.
The trees from the Vimy Oaks Project were cultivated from the surviving oaks by NVK Nurseries in Dundas, near Hamilton. All the saplings for Vimy Oaks are direct descendants of the original oaks from Vimy.