England

WW1 Battle of Verdun oak trees to be grown in Surrey

Cemetery at Verdun Image copyright EPA
Image caption An estimated 800,000 French and German soldiers were left dead, wounded or missing

A search is under way to locate oak trees planted in England as memorials to soldiers killed in World War One.

The Woodland Trust is looking for trees grown from acorns gathered at the site of the Battle of Verdun, which began 100 years ago.

The plan is to grow acorns from those oaks into a second generation of "Verdun oaks" at a planned centenary wood in Surrey.

Project manager Philippa Borrill said the trees would be planted this autumn.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The battle lasted 300 days during World War One

BBC iWonder - What caused Verdun to be the longest battle of WW1?

The battle began on 21 February 1916 and lasted 300 days. It was the longest battle of the conflict and an estimated 800,000 men were killed, wounded or went missing.

The Woodland Trust said oak and chestnut forests at Verdun were devastated by the fighting and still bear scars from the conflict.

The charity has been investigating how and why acorns were brought from the battlefield back to the UK.

Ms Borrill said one story suggested a field marshal who was at the battle brought back a handful of acorns.

Four centenary woods

And she said there are also reports the mayor of Verdun sent a box of acorns to the London and North West Railway Company in 1917.

According to the Woodland Trust, Verdun oaks have been found in Coventry, Pembridge and Leominster in Herefordshire, Southwold in Suffolk, and at the Garden of Remembrance in Lichfield, Staffordshire.

Ms Borrill said: "We think there are going to be a lot more out there.

"The idea is that hopefully we'll find as many as we can up to autumn, and then in autumn we'll go out and collect those acorns and plant them on and grow the second generation."

Four centenary woods are being planted in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to mark the 100th anniversary of World War One.

Planting for England's centenary wood began in 2014 at Langley Vale, near Epsom racecourse.

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