ADVOCATE, N.S. – A chance encounter at A&W in Amherst helped bring a living remnant from the Battle of Vimy Ridge to Advocate Harbour.
“Last year I stopped for breakfast at A&W in Amherst on a Saturday morning,” said Don Fletcher, councillor with the Municipality of Cumberland County, and, also, a retired Master Warrant Officer from the Armed Forces. “Our MP, Bill Casey, was there, and he and I had a conversation about having a Vimy Oak in Advocate Harbour.”
Fletcher talked about his encounter with Casey during the 2018 Remembrance Day ceremony Nov. 4 at the Log House in Advocate Harbour.
After they met, Casey forwarded Fletcher information from the Vimy Oaks Legacy Corporation, which sells oak saplings grown from cuttings from oak trees in Scarborough, Ont., which trace their lineage back to the Battle of Vimy Ridge in northern France, a defining battle that ran from April 9 to 12, 1917, and claimed the lives of 10,500 Canadian.
After the battle, Lieutenant Leslie Miller, a soldier with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, gathered a handful of acorns from the Vimy battlefield and sent them home to Scarborough where they were planted.
Those trees, now 100-years-old, are used to provide saplings that are planted throughout Canada.
Besides forwarding information about the Vimy Oaks, Casey also provided Fletcher with a donation to get the ball rolling.
Fletcher ordered a tree and it was planted May 18, 2018 between the flag pole and cenotaph at the Log Building in Advocate Harbour.
“Floyd Johnson and I planted the oak tree and, with the help of Richard Cole and Russell Fillmore, we watered and cared for the tree all summer,” said Fletcher.
They also surrounded the tree with a wire fence, which was donated by Garry Morris.
“I wanted to have a plaque created, so I contacted Wanda Bennet who agreed to engrave a plaque,” said Fletcher. “And a piece of granite was donated by Bob Mills. It was truly a community effort.”
Many young people attended the Remembrance Day ceremony, and Casey talked about the sacrifices soldiers made to help make their lives possible.
“When I was in my forties and fifties I thought about how those soldiers never got to see their children, and in my sixties and seventies I thought about how they never got to see their grandchildren,” said Casey. “They made tremendous sacrifices, and I take my hat off to them.”
Tory Rushton, MLA for Cumberland South, also attended the ceremony.
He has two grandfathers who fought in wars, and he talked about a lesson he learned from one of them.
“It was Remembrance Day, I was about 10-years-old, and we showed up at my grandfather’s house,”
Rushton said he was sitting watching TV, and when his grandfather said it was time to go to the Remembrance Day ceremony, Rushton told his grandfather he wasn’t going.
“He turned the TV off, grabbed me by the shoulder and said, ‘Boy, I’m going to tell you something; I can forget birthdays, I can forget Christmas, and I can forget Easter, but I served overseas, as did many other kids for several years. Remembrance Day is not a day we can ever forget.’”
After Rushton spoke, those in attendance stepped outside and gathered around the Vimy Oak tree.