“As far as I could see, south, north along the ridge, there
were the Canadians. And I experienced my first full sense of nationhood”.
~ Leftenant Gregory Clark, M.C.
Lt. Leslie Miller
April 9th, 1917 on
Vimy Ridge, Lt. Clark was one of 150,000 Canadian soldiers who were starting to grasp the significance of the battle they just fought.It was the first major British victory in 32 months and more over, Vimy Ridge
was believed to be an impossible objective to take.As Lt. Clark looked across the ridge at his
fellow Canadians I like to think that he may have unknowing seen another soldier,
Lt. Leslie Miller, who was equally taken by the harrowing losses and their
stunning achievement.In an effort to
capture the moment Lt. Miller found a buried oak tree (to this day there are no oak trees left on Vimy Ridge).From this buried tree he collected a handful
of acorns and sent them home to Canada to be planted on his farm in Scarborough.I suspect that Lt. Miller could not have imagine
that the simple act of collecting those acorns would reach across 100 years
and become a medium for the future generations to honor the actions and
sacrifice of the soldiers at Vimy and of the Great War.
Lt. Miller's Vimy Oak
Lt. Miller survived the war and returned to
Scarborough Ontario, where he worked his farm which he aptly named “Vimy Oaks
Farm”.Here enters Monty McDonald (a man
I am so grateful for as he has enabled my project to come alive).As a young man Monty worked with Leslie
Miller and the two mean formed a deep lifelong friendship. In 1979 Lt. Leslie Miller passed away and to
this day Monty has continued to care for the Vimy Oaks, which now are part of the wood lot at Scarborough Chinese Baptist Church. Over the last few yearsMonty has been determined to ensure the legacy
of these Vimy Oaks live on.In order to
do this Monty has become fundamental part of the Vimy Oak Foundation which
collaborates with the Vimy Foundation (Check out this website for more info http://www.vimyfoundation.ca/vimy-100/vimy-oaks/).Together they are painstakingly taking one
hundred saplings from the Vimy Oaks in Scarborough and planting a Centennial Park
at Vimy Ridge.The purpose of their project is to help preserve the legacy of Canada in World War One.It’s a breathtaking and
fitting living memorial with such a powerful story behind it.(It is important to note there
are many people involved in the Centennial Park/Vimy Oak project and I hope I
can capture who they are at some point ).
Vimy Oak Saplings
Once I learned about the story of
the Vimy Oaks I instantly knew that I had to try everything I could to get some
of this wood for the flute to be made from.The
stories of Vimy and the personal connection to those soldiers lives in this
Oak wood.To make a flute from this wood and
play the song amazing grace at Vimy Ridge is a humbling dream which will connect the past with present in a 100 year circle.It is my hope that because this wood is so connected to Vimy, when it is played the
song may reverberate from the Vimy Oak wood and reach out to all those who sacrificed so much and let them know we thank them, we honor them, and we remember them.