Westport & Rideau Lakes weekend guide: November 26 – 27 | Hometown News
keep it local

Students bring home a piece of World War I history

Vimy Oaks

REGIONAL – HOWAIDA SOROUR-ROBERTS

A majestic piece of history is about to land in Smiths Falls with the help of students from Smiths Falls District Collegiate Institute (SFDCI).  A single oak tree, descended from oaks that once dotted Vimy Ridge in France will be planted somewhere in town to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge next year.

“I hope that it sparks conversation and interest in younger people ,” said Ben Seward, SFDCI grade 11 student.

The project has been in the works for more than two years, and Smiths Falls gets first dibs thanks to the work of Blake Seward, SFDCI history teacher.

“A year ago, I was contacted by the Vimy Oaks Legacy project to design an educational component for the program, in return Smiths Falls would be a test site,” said Blake Seward, founder of the Lest We Forget Project.

His educational component approved, it’s the students who are spearheading the project. It’s divided into three parts.  Phase I, led by Ben Seward, will identify a suitable location for the sapling.  Working closely with town staff, his concerns will be how visible the location is, its suitability in terms of soil, history, aesthetic and traffic.

The second phase will be led by Catherine Poag. It will involve the design of the monument or plaque that will be part of the display, its material and the wording of the memorial.  And the last phase, led by Jordan Drummond, will involve designing a commemorative event tailored to the site and hopefully tied in with the Canada 150 celebrations.

“We’re all tied in together, each one of us is doing more of one phase than another but we are still working as a group, just with specialists in the group,” said Drummond, grade 11 SFDCI student.

The significance of these trees dates back to 1917 when Lieutenants Leslie H. Miller, a soldier with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, sent oak acorns back to Canada that he had gathered from a half buried tree he spotted on the shelled remains of Vimy Ridge.  He later planted those acorns on his farm, which is now home to the Scarborough Chinese Baptist Church.  

Then in 2014, Monty MacDonald, who had worked on Miller’s farm and knew the story, brought attention to the oaks in a radio phone-in because when he had visited France he had been surprised there were no oak trees growing on Vimy Ridge.  A project was born.  

“The ice storm of 2013 stunted production of acorns in 2014 and we had to come up with a Plan B which got a great number of skilled horticulturalist and silviculturist, engaged.  There are probably about 600 grafted Vimy Oaks saplings growing and most of the grafted 600 are going to France [for repatriation] April 2017 except for a very, very few key sites in Canada,” said Patricia Sinclair, Vimy Oaks project coordinator.  

By then, the saplings will be about 2.5 meters tall, big enough to survive public planting.  For the students, it’s an opportunity to plan, to collaborate and make decisions and wow the town. “We hope it will get the community involved and interested in the Vimy Oaks project and finding out more about it’s significance,” concludes Poag.

Share Button

Leave a Reply









Students bring home a piece of World War I history

Vimy Oaks

REGIONAL – HOWAIDA SOROUR-ROBERTS

A majestic piece of history is about to land in Smiths Falls with the help of students from Smiths Falls District Collegiate Institute (SFDCI).  A single oak tree, descended from oaks that once dotted Vimy Ridge in France will be planted somewhere in town to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge next year.

“I hope that it sparks conversation and interest in younger people ,” said Ben Seward, SFDCI grade 11 student.

The project has been in the works for more than two years, and Smiths Falls gets first dibs thanks to the work of Blake Seward, SFDCI history teacher.

“A year ago, I was contacted by the Vimy Oaks Legacy project to design an educational component for the program, in return Smiths Falls would be a test site,” said Blake Seward, founder of the Lest We Forget Project.

His educational component approved, it’s the students who are spearheading the project. It’s divided into three parts.  Phase I, led by Ben Seward, will identify a suitable location for the sapling.  Working closely with town staff, his concerns will be how visible the location is, its suitability in terms of soil, history, aesthetic and traffic.

The second phase will be led by Catherine Poag. It will involve the design of the monument or plaque that will be part of the display, its material and the wording of the memorial.  And the last phase, led by Jordan Drummond, will involve designing a commemorative event tailored to the site and hopefully tied in with the Canada 150 celebrations.

“We’re all tied in together, each one of us is doing more of one phase than another but we are still working as a group, just with specialists in the group,” said Drummond, grade 11 SFDCI student.

The significance of these trees dates back to 1917 when Lieutenants Leslie H. Miller, a soldier with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, sent oak acorns back to Canada that he had gathered from a half buried tree he spotted on the shelled remains of Vimy Ridge.  He later planted those acorns on his farm, which is now home to the Scarborough Chinese Baptist Church.  

Then in 2014, Monty MacDonald, who had worked on Miller’s farm and knew the story, brought attention to the oaks in a radio phone-in because when he had visited France he had been surprised there were no oak trees growing on Vimy Ridge.  A project was born.  

“The ice storm of 2013 stunted production of acorns in 2014 and we had to come up with a Plan B which got a great number of skilled horticulturalist and silviculturist, engaged.  There are probably about 600 grafted Vimy Oaks saplings growing and most of the grafted 600 are going to France [for repatriation] April 2017 except for a very, very few key sites in Canada,” said Patricia Sinclair, Vimy Oaks project coordinator.  

By then, the saplings will be about 2.5 meters tall, big enough to survive public planting.  For the students, it’s an opportunity to plan, to collaborate and make decisions and wow the town. “We hope it will get the community involved and interested in the Vimy Oaks project and finding out more about it’s significance,” concludes Poag.

Share Button

Leave a Reply

"Come experience our world-class destination on the banks of the Rideau Canal"