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 Paschendale, 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.
Representing Veterans Affairs The Honourable Peter Kent, Member of Parliament for Thornhill stated: “I applaud the Vimy Oaks team for preserving the legacy of First World War Veteran Leslie Miller. These trees stand as a symbol of the strength and determination of those who gave so much nearly 100 years ago, and it is truly an honour to be here to witness the beginning of what will become a lasting reminder of the Canadian sacrifice on Vimy Ridge.” « Je félicite l’équipe responsable des chênes de Vimy de leurs efforts en vue de préserver le patrimoine de M. Leslie Miller, vétéran de la Première Guerre mondiale. Ces arbres représentent la force et la détermination de tous ceux et celles qui ont tant donné il y a près de 100 ans, et c’est un véritable honneur d’être témoin du début de ce qui sera un rappel durable du sacrifice canadien sur la crête de Vimy. » L’honorable Peter Kent, député de Thornhill
Vimy Foundation Executive Director, Jeremy Diamond stated: “To commemorate the centennial of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 2017, the Vimy Foundation, in partnership with the Government of Canada, is spearheading the building of the Vimy Education Centre, which will be located at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France. We are thrilled to partner with the Vimy Oaks project, the trees from which will make a fitting complement to the Centre and site. Congratulations on this wonderful initiative.”
“I comment Vimy Oaks for their work in highlighting the unique links between Scarborough-Agincourt and one of Canada’s most important military achievements. As we near the centennial of this seminal battle for Canada’s Expeditionary Force, programs, like the one by Vimy Oaks, will help remind us of all the sacrifices made by many Canadians so that we can have the freedoms that make Canada the nation it is today.” Arnold Chan, Member of Parliament, Scarborough-Agincourt.
Media Contact: Patricia Sinclair (416) 498-8199 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Click here to read the article in the Toronto Star: “On Vimy Ridge, mighty oaks will grow again – thanks to a Canadian soldier”
Click here to listen to a radio interview: 680News reporter Kris McCusker speaks with Jeremy Diamond, executive director of the Vimy Foundation.
UPDATE APRIL 7, 2015:
Curious about how the young sapling are coming along? CityNews Videographer Audra Brown finds out more about saplings grown from oaks that originated in Vimy Ridge which will eventually be planted in France. Click here for the video update.