Doncaster prison inmates help create World War One forest tribute

Prisoners from Doncaster Prison have helped to grow acorns for a unique First World War tribute.

Inmates at the Marshgate jail nurtured saplings, grown from acorns of trees which originally stood on the battlefields of France during the 1914-18 conflict.

Inmates at Doncaster Prison helped nurture saplings for the WW1 forest

Inmates at Doncaster Prison helped nurture saplings for the WW1 forest

Now one of the saplings has been planted as part of a Scottish forest which has been created as a living memorial to all those who served.

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Work on the First World War Centenary Wood began at Dreghorn in Edinburgh in 2014, with 24,000 native trees planted across 23 hectares over the last four years.

The final tree is a Verdun oak, descended from an acorn collected on the battlefield in France and planted as the UK prepares to mark 100 years since the end of the First World War on Sunday.

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After the war, the mayor of Verdun, scene of some of the fiercest fighting, sent acorns from the battlefield to England and saplings were then sold to raise money for ex-servicemen.

The Woodland Trust tracked down some of these now mature trees and acorns were collected and grown on by inmates at HMP Doncaster.

One of these saplings was planted as the final tree at Dreghorn Centenary Wood on Friday by a descendant of two brothers killed on the same day during the Battle of Ypres in 1917.

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Carol Evans, director of the Woodland Trust Scotland, said: “These new woods which have been created over these past four centenary years will stand as a living, growing thank you to everyone who lived through the conflict, from those who paid the highest price and their families, to the hard-working men and women off the battlefield.”

The first tree was planted in 2014 by Margaret Murison from West Calder and she returned to plant the final tree with Scotland’s First World War Centenary Wood ambassador Major General Andrew Mackay.

Her grandfather William Balmer and his brother John enlisted together in 2nd Battalion The Seaforth Highlanders.

Both were killed on the same day during the Battle of Ypres in 1917.