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Reserve Forces & Cadets Association
Northern Ireland


19 February 2016

The Woodland Trust is asking people to turn detective to help locate Verdun oaks – oak trees planted as memorials to soldiers who died in the First World War.

Sunday, 21 February marks 100 years since the start of the Battle of Verdun, the longest single battle of the First World War. The 302-day clash between French and German forces led to the deaths of around 400,000 troops and was instrumental in Britain’s involvement in the Battle of the Somme.

After the battle, acorns were collected from the devastated battlefields and taken to the UK, where they were grown into mighty oaks, standing tall and proud as a lasting memorial to those who fought and died on the Western Front.
Now, a century on, the Woodland Trust wants to find any surviving trees so it can collect their acorns and grow a second generation of Verdun oaks in its First World War Centenary Woods.

Philippa Borrill, the Woodland Trust’s Centenary Woods project manager, said: “One of our volunteers has identified the sites of seven surviving Verdun oaks, another found an eighth.  The findings, so far, are throughout England and we’re really keen to extend the search to Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK.

“There is a real element of mystery to this story as there is limited commentary on 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.”

One of the most notable surviving Verdun oaks is the Queen Mary Oak, which was planted, along with several others, in the grounds of the Sandringham Estate, Norfolk, by Her Majesty Queen Mary in 1920. 

Philippa added: “We are sure there must be many more Verdun oaks out there but we need help to find them. We would love people to turn detective and tell us if they have one of these beautiful tributes in their community. We are hopeful there will be information in local history archives, newspapers of the day, in council records or people’s own recollections of conversations with their older relatives.

 “Verdun oaks will be an important part of our First World War Centenary Woods, and this project will help to discover an untold story from the battlefields and enable us to continue the growing legacy.”

The Woodland Trust’s First World War Centenary Woods project will see four flagship woods created, many smaller community woods and millions of trees planted across the UK to honour all those involved in the First World War.  The project will connect people to the natural world, while reminding them of the historical significance of the war.
The First World War Centenary Woods are located at Brackfield Wood in the Faughan Valley, not far from Derry/Londonderry; Langley Vale, Surrey; Dreghorn Woods, near Edinburgh; and Coed Ffos Las in Carmarthenshire. The Centenary Woods project is supported by lead partner Sainsbury's, helping the Woodland Trust to plant millions of native trees to commemorate the First World War.

Anyone who knows the location of a Verdun Oak is asked to email the Woodland Trust at or visit