Centenary of a lone oak tree in memory of men's sacrifice

A one-off event is to take place to celebrate the centenary of the planting of a lone English oak tree that helps keep alive the sacrifices of local men killed at Gallipoli in the First World War.

By Abigail Kellett
Monday, 21st March 2022, 1:00 pm

In March 1922, the parents of a teenager killed in service with the Rochdale and Todmorden Territorial Army battalion took the sapling of an English oak tree in a bucket of water across the Mediterranean to Turkey.

The grieving parents, who lived in Rochdale and owned grocery shops int he Calder Valley and beyond, planted the tree near to where their child, 19-year-old Eric Duckworth, had fallen on the battlefield in August 1915.

Eric was an officer with the 1/6th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers, which included men from the length of the Calder Valley, including the father of the poet Ted Hughes from Heptonstall

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The lone English oak at the Redoubt Cemetery on Gallipoli

One hundred years on, and courtesy of local gardeners working for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the lone English oak continues to thrive in what is now a Turkish National Park.

Standing proud in the Redoubt Cemetery, which is full of local men, it is now visited regularly by battlefield tourists and plays a vital job in helping to keep the sacrifices of our fallen alive.

To mark the centenary of the planting of the oak, a unique event will be hosted at Todmorden Central Methodist Church on Saturday, March 26, from 1.30pm-3.30pm.

The award-winning trio Harp & a Monkey will perform songs and stories relating to the tree and local men, and there will also be short talks by the historian Dr Martin Purdy and Liz Marsland of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, who will talk about the horticultural commitments of the commission.

Dr Purdy, who co-authored the book ‘The Gallipoli Oak’ about the local territorials and the planting of the tree, said: “We really felt that this centenary should not go unmarked. It is a story of great local sacrifice, and ultimately one of great friendship and respect – we shouldn’t forget that it is the Turkish gardeners who have kept this alien species thriving for all these years on their soil.”

For more information and tickets visit www.ticketsource.co.uk