Cities plant ‘peace trees’ for centenary of end of First World War


More than 200 cities and towns have already signed up to plant a peace tree in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War

An Armistice to remember

Next 11 November is a very special Armistice Day: the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. In Flanders, it’s an especially auspicious occasion, and numerous memorials and ceremonies are planned at municipal, provincial and regional levels.

One of them is the peace tree initiative, headed up by heritage organisation Faro. In Flanders, 220 cities and towns have signed up to plant a tree in recognition of 11 November 2018. It will be a unique memorial, says the organisation “that will be visible for decades”.

Avelgem, in the far south of West Flanders, is planting its tree in the name of the civilians who died 100 years ago during the gas attacks, the first time chemical weapons were employed in warfare. “At the end of the First World War, 273 residents of Avelgem died as a result of gas attacks by both the Germans and the allies,” says city councillor Tom Beunens. “In a period of three weeks, Avelgem lost 7% of its population. With this peace tree, we want to memorialise them and all other casualties of the First World War from Avelgem.”

Symbol of hope

Both Zottegem and Wuustwezel, meanwhile, are planting their trees as a symbol of hope. “Hope in the world, 100 years after the end of the Great War, in which weapons remain silent and swords are forged into ploughshares,” says Zottegem mayor Jenne De Potter. “It’s work that isn’t finished, but a tree can easily reach 100 years old, and hopefully this peace tree will live to see it.”

Faro and its partners in the initiative have published an “inspiration brochure” for municipalities and organisations that want to plant a peace tree or plan another activity for 11 November. Residents can visit Flanders’ website dedicated to the centenary of the First World War to find an agenda for all events and activities up to 11 November.

First World War

Claiming the lives of more than nine million people and destroying entire cities and villages in Europe, the Great War was one of the most dramatic armed conflicts in human history. It lasted from 1914 to 1918.
Flanders Field - For four years, a tiny corner of Flanders known as the Westhoek became one of the war’s major battlefields.
Untouched - Poperinge, near Ypres, was one of the few towns in Flanders that remained unoccupied for most of the war.
Cemetery - The Tyne Cot graveyard in Passchendaele is the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world.
550 000

lives lost in West Flanders

368 000

annual visitors to the Westhoek

1 914

First Battle of Ypres