Historic trees planted to mark WWI tragedy


Pupils from an East London school planted historic trees and poppy seeds on April 1 to commemorate a World War I tragedy where 18 children died after a bombing raid destroyed the school in 1917.

Children from Mayflower Primary School were joined by the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, Commander John Ludgate, Deputy Lieutenant for the borough and David Shreeve from the Conservation Foundation to plant a Black Poplar and unveil a plaque in Trinity Gardens, Poplar, where the Upper North Street School originally stood. The Upper North Street School was hit by a German bomb on 13 June 1917, killing 18 pupils, the majority of whom were aged six and under.

The Black Poplar, Britain’s rarest native timber tree, gave the borough of Poplar its name. As recorded by John Gerard in his famous Herbal of 1597, Black Poplars grew abundantly in the Thames marshes that occupied most of what is now Tower Hamlets. For a number of reasons, Black Poplars no longer reproduce naturally in Britain, so their conservation relies on planting more of them. In addition to this tree in Trinity Gardens, four Black Poplars were planted early in 2014 in Poplar Recreation Ground. As part of the implementation of the Local Biodiversity Action Plan, a further 15 will be planted across the borough in autumn 2014.

Children planting elmThe children also helped to plant ten English Elms (see photo left), donated by the Conservation Foundation. Elm is another once-common tree which has disappeared from our landscape, following the appearance of Dutch Elm Disease in the 1970s. This fungal disease, carried by a beetle, killed nearly all the mature elms across the country. The Conservation Foundation is promoting the planting of cuttings taken from healthy mature elms, in the hope that their progeny will prove resistant to Dutch Elm Disease.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman said “We are here today to commemorate history and to confirm the future – a green future we hope for our children. This is the centenary of World War I, a war that changed the world. As we look forward I hope future generations will benefit from our efforts to re-green the borough and visitors to Trinity Park will reflect on our history.”

At the event the Mayor launched a campaign with the Conservation Foundation to green the borough. Schools will be invited to plant disease-resistant elm trees, encouraging children to tend to the saplings and learn more about the importance of trees, carbon recycling and climate change.

The poppy seeds were donated by Stan Kaye who came down to the launch and is on a mission to sow poppy fields around the world to mark the centenary of the First World War. Stan’s campaign is based on a Facebook group (this link can only be accessed by Facebook users). Those not on Facebook can see some of the details here.

Photos by Ian Williams


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