A friend of mine works at Kew gardens. This morning she and lots of others stood for the two minute silence by the war memorial and right next to this very sad looking tree.
The tree has a very relevant history for an Armistice Day Story and whilst it appeared to have survived the severe storm a couple of weeks ago, it had obviously suffered structural damage and when the staff came in last Thursday morning they discovered that a large limb had ripped off. (Narrowly missing decapitating the Chinese guardian lion-dog.) The split goes even deeper down the trunk, all the weight is now on one side so it is unstable and they don’t think the tree can be saved – we are awaiting the final verdict but the prognosis is not looking good.
The really poignant story is this: A soldier involved in the battle of Verdun in France during the First World War, scooped an acorn out of the mud and put it in his pocket. It returned with him to Britain in 1919 and it was germinated and the young sapling planted at Kew. It’s not an “old oak tree”, as oak trees go, but it is a wonderful story and was always known as the Verdun Oak. A sign of hope and ongoing life from the devastation and carnage of the battlefield and a living link to the First World War. For it to be damaged just before November 11 and with 2014 so close is really very sad.