Vimy oak sapling planted at Camp Hill Veterans Memorial Garden
By Virginia Beaton,
A bit of Vimy Ridge is now part of the Veterans Memorial Garden at Camp Hill Veterans Memorial Hospital.
Richard Ratcliffe, a Royal Canadian Navy veteran who served in HMCS Nootka during the Korean War, travelled to Halifax to bring the oak sapling. It’s a part of a legacy project, he told the audience of veterans, family members and Camp Hill staffers who had gathered in the garden for the event.
The oak planting not only symbolizes the battle of Vimy Ridge, but also the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice in November 1918. Noting that his father was a First World War veteran, Ratcliffe said, “I hope I don’t get too emotional during this.”
Ratcliffe described how the Vimy oak project came to be. After the battle of Vimy Ridge on April 9, 1917, a young Canadian Army officer named Lt Leslie Miller picked up some acorns from an oak tree on the site and sent them home to Canada. The acorns were planted on his family farm in Ontario.
Currently, 1500 saplings that trace their existence back to the oaks on Miller’s farm, and from there back to to the Vimy Oak acorns, are in a greenhouse in Hamilton “and now you are about to receive one of those saplings,” said Ratcliffe.
Now living in the veterans’ centre at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, Ratcliffe said that one day at lunch he was talking to fellow veterans at Sunnybrook about the Vimy oaks and they came up with a plan to donate them for planting at veterans’ centres all across Canada. “This one today is the first one to be planted at a veterans’ facility,” said Ratcliffe.
Ratcliffe’s children Rick and Stephanie were present for the occasion and his son assisted with the planting, to applause.
Following the ceremony, Ratcliffe told Trident that he joined the Navy in 1945 following the Second World War and retired in 1970, with the rank of Commander. His career included his appointment as Commanding Officer of HMCS Qu’Appelle.