A special English oak tree has been planted in New Brunswick’s Albert County, deepening the community’s connection to the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
It all started after the Canadians captured Vimy Ridge in 1917. Lt. Leslie Miller was searching for a memento to remember the battle on the war-torn fields.
“The men who were at Vimy Ridge, they recognized that Vimy was a spectacular achievement because it was the first allied victory of the war,” says Stuart Liptay, president of the Albert County Historical Society. “At the Battle of Vimy Ridge the destruction was so bad every single oak tree was destroyed but one.”
The lieutenant took a handful of acorns from the half-buried English oak tree and eventually planted them at his home in Ontario.
In 2015, the Vimy Oaks Legacy Project was formed. It aimed to repatriate the native oaks to Vimy, serving as a living memorial to honour the memory of those who fought in the battle.
Professional arborists have taken cuttings from Miller’s oaks, nurturing them for more than two years. Two hundred of these samples will be spread out across Canada.
When Jim Landry, the executive director of Landscape New Brunswick and Landscape Prince Edward Island, found out about the project he fought to obtain 40 trees to be planted in the Maritimes, spurred by his own connection to Vimy.
“My great uncle was killed there on the first day of the battle, and his best friend was killed too. He died three days later. They both signed up together, both were from Kings County, Sussex area,” says Landry.
One of the trees was planted in Hopewell Cape, N.B. on Wednesday. It looks over another Vimy artifact– a German cannon captured by Canadian troops.
Local legion members are grateful for the piece of history they’ve been given, along with a connection to the battle.
“It’s a link that we can show our families, our children as they’re growing up,” says Hillsborough Legion First Vice, Peter Jubb. “We can explain the link of what happened in Vimy, of the brigades coming together and working as one unit, and Canada coming of age there.”
Thirty-eight other Vimy oaks are expected to be planted at legions, cenotaphs and other meaningful locations around the Maritimes in the next few weeks.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Cami Kepke