People urged to look out for First World War memorial oak trees

People are being urged to help locate Verdun Oaks - trees planted as memorials to soldiers who died in the First World War.
People are being urged to help locate Verdun Oaks - trees planted as memorials to soldiers who died in the First World War.
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People are being urged to help locate Verdun Oaks - trees planted as memorials to soldiers who died in the First World War.

The Woodland Trust Scotland wants people to turn detective and tell the organisation where they are as none are currently recorded in Scotland.

The move come as Sunday, February 21, marks 100 years since the start of the Battle of Verdun.

The 302-day clash between the French and the German armies led to the deaths of around 400,000 men. After the battle thousands of acorns were collected from around Verdun and sent to Britain, where they were grown as a lasting memorial to those who fought and died on the Western Front.

One hundred years later the Woodland Trust wants to trace surviving trees so it can collect their acorns and grow a new generation of Verdun Oaks in its First World War Centenary Woods around the UK.

Carol Evans, director of the Woodland Trust Scotland, said: “Volunteers have traced several surviving oaks in England and Wales, but we don’t have a record of any in Scotland yet. We’re sure there must be many more Verdun Oaks out there and we need help to find them.

“We want people to turn detective and tell us if they have one of these trees in their community. There are very limited records of how many were planted and where, and why the oaks came to be planted in the sites we have found.

“It’s a mystery we would love to solve.”

Newspapers and magazines written at the time provide some evidence as to how the acorns arrived in Britain.

There are stories that Field Marshal Sir John French, a Boer War veteran who led the British into Northern Europe in 1914, took a handful of acorns to commemorate the French Army’s stand at Verdun.

It is also known that the Mayor of Verdun sent a box of acorns to the London and North West Railway Company in 1917 to be sold for the benefit of the War Seal Foundation, a charity which supported ex-servicemen and their families. Sample boxes were sent to mayors in towns and cities along the route of the railway.

The Woodland Trust’s First World War Centenary Woods project will see four flagship woods createdacross the UK alongside many smaller community woods and millions of trees planted to honour all those involved in the First World War.

The First World War Centenary Woods are located at Langley Vale, Surrey, Dreghorn Woods, near Edinburgh, Coed Ffos Las in Carmarthenshire and Brackfield Wood in County Londonderry.

Anyone who knows the location of a Verdun Oak is asked to email the Woodland Trust at verdunoak@woodlandtrust.org.uk or visit www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/fww for more information.