The origin of the project to re-plant the tree went back much further. One of several letters sent to France was read by Monsieur Jean Fouquenelle, land owner and resident at Le Rutoire farm. M Fouquenelle put us in touch with John Christian from Gloucestershire who had long been interested in the battle and had similar ambitions to re-plant the tree. He readily agreed to join the project. At around the same time, another letter which had lain dormant in the Loos Mairie was discovered by Olivier Jupon who passed it on to his brother Christophe. Christophe had recently formed a local history group 'Sur les traces de la grande guerre'. He telephoned one evening and offered his help and support. He was to become a valuable member of the team.
In February 1995, John and Nick Christian visited Le Ruloire farm and gained permission to plant a cherry tree and place a small memorial from M Fouquenelle. I then set to work designing a suitable trilingual memorial, based on a Gallipoli grave marker. The tri-lingual aspect was particularly important to us as we wanted to symbolise the new European Unity.
REPLANTED IN MEMORY OF ALL THOSE WHO LOST THEIR LIVES AT THE BATTLE OF
REPLANTE EN MEMOIRE DE TOUS CUEX
QUi0NT PERDU LA. VIE A LA BATAILLE DE LOOS 1915
NEU GEPFLANZT ZUM ANDENKEN AN ALLE DIE IN DER SCHLACHT BLI LOOS 1915
25 SEPTEMBER 1995
We then set to work fund-raising, asking WFA branches and regimental associations for donations. Response was rapid and generous and we soon had the required amount, M Rene Guillemant a nurseryman from Gosnay agreed to provide the tree.
John was meantime working hard to arrange the planting ceremony. The British. Consulate at Lille was very helpful in providing John with necessary names and addresses. As the weeks flew by the arrangements fell into place, although trying to liaise between France and England proved at times frustrating.
On Saturday 23rd September, we crossed to France with the four-stone memorial of granite and bronze in the boot of our car. We arrived at the site early afternoon to find a concrete base in situ kindly provided by the Council of Loos. M Fouquenelle dug the hole for the tree. The memorial was soon in place to the admiration of the potato harvesters working nearby. With everything ready on the ground we were now free to visit and pay our respects to the men who died at Loos who are buried in the beautiful cemeteries, or commemorated at the memorial to the missing at Dud Corner.
Monday 25th September dawned wet and miserable but by 11.00 am the rain had cleared. We met with John and Nick Christian and Father William Scott at Le Rutoire and finalised all the last-minute arrangements. We were greatly aided in this by generous amounts of Famous Grouse whiskey provided by M and Mme Fouquenelle.
At 1.30 pm we all met up at the Chapelle de Notre Dame de Consolation and prepared to greet and direct people as they arrived. Amongst the first arrivals were the Khaki Chums, with Mike Barnes dressed as a private in the Gloucestershire regiment. The chums formed up and marched off up the track to the memorial to stand guard Meantime, other guests were arriving and most opted to walk the half mile up the muddy track. We were running a shuttle service for the less able. At 3.00 pm most were assembled at the site, the ancient combatants from Hulluch and Vermelles standing to attention with their banners fluttering in the breeze. Amongst the last to arrive was Jean Luc and another member of the Somme pipe band who marched up playing Scotland the Brave.
John started the proceedings by inviting the Mayor of Vermelles, the British Consul and the German embassy representative to make short speeches. The three representatives were then invited to plant the tree After this, Father Scott gave a short dedication and then John and I unveiled the memorial at the base of the tree. Father Scott then led an enthusiastic rendering of the Marseillaise. After this he gave a short blessing followed by the German pastor, whereupon a minute's silence followed, broken by the exhortation. Christophe Jupon proposed a vote of thanks in his excellent English and invited us to lay wreaths, the first being laid by my wife Michelle, soon followed by many others. Jean Luc played the Last Post and the ceremony drew to a close. People began to walk back to their cars and the Mayor of Vermelles kindly invited us to a reception at the Mairie.
As we walked back to the cars we chatted to friends, both old and new, who had attended. At the reception afterwards we were able to officially thank the dignitaries who had attended and to continue chatting to our friends. When the reception was over and we were left alone, we were able to look back with a sense of relief and pride that we had re-planted the Lone Tree, and provided a long overdue memorial to those who died eighty years ago at Loos.