New “Vimy Oak” honours sacrifices of TCS Old Boys

A small oak sapling has found a new home at Trinity College School, planted to honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War I. Following morning chapel on Monday, April 9th, students and staff joined together at the west side of the Memorial Chapel for a ceremonial tree planting and blessing of the new “Vimy Oak,” led by Capt. the Revd. Canon Don Aitchison, chaplain of TCS and of the 48th Highlanders of Canada.

The sapling is a descendant of one of the acorns sent home from Vimy Ridge to Canada during the First World War, by Lt. Leslie H. Miller. The trees grown from these acorns became known as the Vimy Oaks.

In honour of the 100th anniversary of the Battle Vimy Ridge in April 2017, descendant saplings were grown to serve as living memorials across Canada. One hundred Vimy Oaks will also be repatriated to Vimy Ridge to create a Centennial Park. These efforts were undertaken by Vimy Oaks Legacy Corporation, founded by Monty McDonald, who worked on Leslie Miller’s farm as a youth. Our gratitude goes to the Hogan family, who donated the Vimy Oak to the School on behalf of TCS past parent Ainslie Hogan Sr. We were delighted to have Ted Hogan ’85 in attendance for Monday’s ceremony.

At TCS, 596 Old Boys and masters served in the First World War, representing 90% of those who had left the School in the 20 years before the war. The Vimy Oak will stand as a memorial to the 123 Old Boys who died in the Great War. These include eight alumni killed in fighting around Vimy Ridge during the spring of 1917:

Walter Henry Cooper – After enlisting as a Sergeant in the 139th Battalion, he reverted to Private to join the 19th Battalion, Canadian Infantry, in France in spring 1917. He was killed in action on April 12, 1917.

Lionel Hyman Eliot – A Lieutenant with the 75th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Forces, he was killed instantly while leading his platoon towards an enemy strongpoint on Vimy Ridge, April 9, 1917.

John McCreary Elliott – Just 19 years old, Lieutenant Elliott was killed on April 16, 1917 near Douai, France, just east of Vimy. He served with the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) armoured regiment and the 60th Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps.

Frederick Travers Lucas – Leading up to the Battle at Vimy Ridge, Major Lucas and the 54th Battalion, Canadian Infantry, staged a trench raid against the Germans during which he was killed, leading his men, on March 1, 1917.

Stanley James Pepler – Beginning his service with the 4th Divisional Cyclists, Lieutenant Pepler transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and went to France in January 1917 with the 43rd Squadron. He was shot down near Arleux on March 6, 1917.

James Albert “Chap” Proctor – A Private with the 18th Battalion, Canadian Infantry (Western Ontario Regiment), he was just 18 years old when he was killed in action, May 9, 1917.

Herbert Boyd Symonds – Serving at the rank of Lieutenant with the 14th Battalion, Canadian Infantry (Quebec Regiment), he was killed in action on April 9, 1917 during the Battle of Vimy Ridge. He was the son of the School’s fifth headmaster, Revd. Herbert Symonds.

John Charles Waller – Enlisting after his first year at McGill University, he was a Lieutenant serving with the 4th Battalion, Canadian Infantry when he was killed in action at Vimy Ridge on May 3, 1917, while trying to get his men under cover before taking to safety himself. Lt. Waller’s original grave marker is on display in the Memorial Chapel at TCS.