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Belgian acorn will grow in memory of Worcestershire Regiment’s WW1 sacrifice

31st October 2016

Worcester journalist John Phillpott has planted a unique oak sapling in the Gheluvelt Park (Sunday 30 October). It is grown from an acorn he picked up in Polygon Wood - not far from the site of a crucial First World War battle at Gheluvelt, a village near the Belgian town of Ypres.

The tree will be a lasting reminder of the sacrifice made by the 34 members of the regiment who lost their lives, and those wounded at the Battle of Gheluvelt on 31 October 1914.

Mr. Phillpott’s Great Uncle, a soldier of the First Battalion the Northamptonshire Regiment, was badly wounded hours before the lead-up to the action at Gheluvelt involving the Worcestershire Regiment.

John Phillpott says: “I picked up an acorn two years ago in Polygon Wood, near Gheluvelt. I popped it in my pocket with a view to growing it and perhaps doing something with it. It came up in the spring and is now 4.5 feet tall – I’ve been looking after it like a parent looks after a child!

“I contacted former Mayor Mike Layland, who has played a major role in ensuring this tree will grow as a symbol of remembrance in the Park.”

Mr. Phillpott made a short speech at the tree planting ceremony, and read the famous poem by John McCrae, In Flanders Fields.

This was followed by an open air service to mark the 102nd anniversary of the Battle of Gheluvelt, from which the Park takes its name.

The commemorations were organised by the Worcester branch of the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Association and were attended by the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire, the Mayor and Mayoress of Worcester, representatives of Mercian Regiment, and Former Mayor Mike Layland.

Maurice Smith from the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Association, Worcester Branch says: “The park is a memorial to the Worcestershire Regiment. Through changes made within the modern British Army our antecedent Regiment is the 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment, who are also remembered on this day.”

The service included the playing of the Last Post, two minutes’ silence followed by Reveille and prayers. The names of the 34 fallen heroes were also read out.

About the Battle of Gheluvelt

In October 1914, around 400 soldiers from the 2nd Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment fought at Gheluvelt. Their counter-attack saved Ypres from capture and the British Army from defeat. At the end of the day, 187 men of all ranks had been killed or wounded.

Weary from ten days’ hard fighting, unshaven, unwashed and in torn uniforms but good spirits and with plenty of ammunition, they forced the young and inexperienced German enemy to withdraw and, with the few soldiers of the battalion of South Wales Borderers who had been left behind in the retreat, they cleared the area of enemy.

The heroic success of the 2nd Battalion’s counter-attack turned the course of the War, helping Allied forces to organise a more substantial defence against the Germans.

More information and Battle of Gheulvelt images:

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