The Vimy Oaks of Scarborough-Agincourt

Saturday, January 24, 2015

On April 9, 1917, Vimy Ridge was captured by Canadian forces and, with the victory that claimed nearly 11,000 Canadian casualties and lives, Canada became a nation.

Born in 1889 in Milliken north of Agincourt, Leslie Miller survived three and a half years of trench warfare in World War I with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, including the historic battles at Passchendaele, Ypres and Vimy.

After the Vimy battle was won, many soldiers realized that they had been part of something truly great. Leslie Miller looked around for a souvenir on the Ridge, which was completely devoid of structures or vegetation due to shell fire but he did find a half buried oak tree. He gathered up a handful of acorns.

Those acorns were subsequently planted by him on farm land which is now home to the Scarborough Chinese Baptist Church. He called his farm the ‘Vimy Oaks Farm’.

Today, several of the original oaks survive. However, there are no original oaks on the Vimy Ridge site.

Monty McDonald, as a teenager, worked with Leslie Miller on his farm. In remembrance of him and all our Canadian soldiers, Monty came up with the idea of repatriating the Vimy Oaks of Scarborough-Agincourt back to Vimy, France.
And so, the Vimy Oaks Team was formed to help preserve and promote Canada’s WWI legacy through the creation of a living memorial.

In partnership with the Vimy Foundation, we are working to grow and plant up to 120 trees at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France for the 100th Anniversary, April 9, 2017.

Today the process begins with professional arborists taking cuttings (scions) from the crowns of the oaks which will be grafted onto base root stock – quercus robur. Like Ice Wine this process must be done in the cold weather. The saplings will be grown at Connon Nurseries in Waterdown, Ontario using an accelerated method. In two years time, 125 cm young oak saplings will be ready for shipment via air to France.

We hope to arrange a ceremonial planting involving all the Canadian regiments that fought in WWI on the 100th Anniversary in April 2017.

Lest we forget

VIMY OAKS Team:
Monty McDonald, Lead retired Engineer with extensive project development experience.
Dr. Ron Ayling is a forester, with some 30 years experience in project development and management, and is now Editor of the Forestry Chronicle, a Canada-wide forestry magazine.
Dave Lemkay General Manager of the Canadian Forestry Association, instrumental in planting of Canadian Maples at Juno Beach centre in Normandy, France on D Day Anniversary.
Ed Lawrence well known gardening expert and radio personality with many industry contacts.
Tony DiGiovanni Director Landscape Ontario
Case Vanderkruk and Andrew Barbour Connon Nurseries.
Colonel Ralph Coleman (retd) former director public affairs Canadian Military.
Patricia Sinclair local community activist with a network of contacts; public relations expertise. Key Supporters and Volunteers:
Andrew Cowell, Chris Brown, Caitlin Ayling: arborists responsible for initial harvesting.
Members of the Scarborough Chinese Baptist Church for overall support of the project.