Woman commemorates war relatives at WWI wood

Margaret Murison, right, planted a rowan in memory of her grandfather and uncle. Picture: Helen Pugh
Margaret Murison, right, planted a rowan in memory of her grandfather and uncle. Picture: Helen Pugh
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A WOMAN whose grandfather and great uncle were killed on the same day at the Battle of Ypres has marked the start of tree planting at Scotland’s First World War Centenary Wood.

Margaret Murison planted a rowan in memory of her grandfather William Balmer and his brother John who served in the 2nd Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders.

The wood aims to create a “living memorial” to those who fell during the conflict.

Over the next two years 50,000 native trees will be planted at Dreghorn Woods on the Ministry of Defence (MoD) training estate in the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh.

The Woodland Trust Scotland is working in partnership with the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) - the MoD’s property and services provider - to create the wood, which is one of four to be planted by the charity across the UK.

Ms Murison, 80, said: “My grandfather William Balmer and his brother John enlisted on the same day; their numbers in the 2nd Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders are consecutive. Both died at the Battle of Ypres on April 11 1917, a date I always remember and always mark.

“Since my mother died I’m the closest family member to them now, and I feel even closer because of this Woodland Trust project. Planting trees in memory of these fallen heroes is a wonderful idea. I’ve always wanted to go and see my grandfather’s grave, but there’s not a very high chance of doing that now.

“This is something positive I can do which gives his memory standing. It’s something that’s growing, something that’s living, something that’s fresh and lovely.”

Ten thousand of the trees will be planted by schoolchildren and members of the public during special planting days, while the rest will be put in by contractors.

Children from Currie Primary School joined Ms Murison to plant the first trees today.

Carol Evans, director of the Woodland Trust Scotland said: “The First World War led to enormous sacrifices from the people who served and the people who lived through it. There was also an immense loss of woodland, more than 150,000 acres, much of it irreplaceable ancient woodland, felled to support an insatiable demand for timber.

“The Centenary Woods are a tribute to everyone who helped with the war effort, from those who paid the highest price and their families, to the hardworking men and women off the battlefield.

“We’re immensely proud to be planting millions of trees with the support of our lead partner Sainsbury’s as well as many individuals and organisations to remember that sacrifice and to create new woods for people and wildlife to enjoy.”

The Woodland Trust is planting millions of trees to mark the centenary with the support of lead partner Sainsbury’s, key individuals, landowners, schools and community groups.