The Danger Tree
Replica of the Danger Tree (left). Y Ravine Cemetery in the background.
Some suggest that the healthy new trees adjacent to the “Danger Tree” today may in fact be descendants of the original.
The Danger Tree had been part of a clump of trees located on the Beaumont Hamel battlefield, about halfway out into No Man's Land. British and German artillery bombardments had stripped the tree of leaves and left nothing more than a shattered trunk.
During the Newfoundland Regiment's assault, the tree was used as a landmark, where gaps through the German barbed wire were supposed to exist. What gaps there were had quickly become clogged with the bodies of the first wave of attackers.
The tree was however a highly visible landmark for zeroing in on the enemy weaponry and it was where the German machine guns were particularly deadly. As a result, the Regiment suffered a large concentration of casualties close to the tree.
Though unrecognizable after the battle, the “Danger Tree” was originally a plum tree, although some sources describe it as an apple tree.
A replica representation of the twisted tree now stands at the spot. Following the battle, the trees broken and twisted remains emerged as an important symbol of the tragedy and devastation endured by the Newfoundland Regiment.
Returning veterans, in later years, would tread softly on the grounds of that doomed advance and would always pause silently near the Danger Tree.
What heartfelt emotions they must have had.
Though the tree is now dead, visitors are reminded that its’ seeds probably live on in the new trees. Some suggest that the healthy new trees adjacent to the “Danger Tree” today may in fact be descendants of the original.
Similarly, those who died furnished the “seeds” which generated a renewed sense of energy and identity to those Newfoundlanders who came after them.
Though death was all around them, the Newfoundlanders did not let it overcome them.
While the Danger Tree was the silent witness to the death and wounding of many, it also became a symbol of renewal.
These hardy men were used to dealing with the dangers of the sea, and the constant loss of loved ones.
But, quitting, or giving up, was not in their blood. Perhaps they really were, as their motto says: “BETTER THAN THE BEST.”
Today, the magnificent bronze caribou looks defiantly towards this tree and to the Y Ravine cemetery just beyond.
His mouth is curled forever in an eternal bellow pleading for his gallant sons to come back.
The Danger Tree, though gnarled and shattered, challenges us today to never forget and to never give up.
In June 2022, we look forward to having Gerry back on the battlefields with us, escorting us on a special pilgrimage to Gallipoli Turkey, to see for the first time, the last of the six Caribou along the Newfoundland Caribou Trail in Europe. Click June 2022 >
Our Guest Author Gerry Peddle
OMM. CD. BA. LTh. BD. DD.
Archdeacon Gerald Peddle was ordained a Priest of the Anglican Church of Canada in 1969. Now retired from active ministry, he has served parishes in Newfoundland and Labrador, Québec, Ontario and the Arctic. He has also served as a Chaplain to the Canadian Armed Forces. His final appointment, in the rank of Brigadier General, was as the Chaplain General at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa. For the next six years, he provided specialist ministry to both National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada. In total, he has served more than 51 years in active ministry.
Gerry currently serves as the Chairman of the Board for Beechwood, Canada's National Military Cemetery in Ottawa. He has also served as an International Guide, specializing in Battlefield Tours for several years.
The Caribou Tour to Gallipoli
In June 2022, we look forward to having Gerry back on the battlefields with us, escorting us on a special pilgrimage to Gallipoli Turkey, to see for the first time, the last of the six Caribou along the Newfoundland Caribou Trail in Europe. Check out the tour June 2022 >