Rare English elm tree planted to commemorate local hero

Standard Bearers from the Royal British Legion and a bugler playing the Last Post attended a tree planting ceremony in Carlton Gardens, Stepney Green, on Monday 17 February, 2013, to commemorate Wilfred Coppens, who died last year in his nineties.
Mr Coppens was a well known local character. Brought up as an orphan, he had no close family; but his neighbours, the people of Carlton Square, took him into their hearts. He was modest about his war-record, which neighbours only discovered after his death – he had won medals at Dunkirk.
In commemoration of Mr Coppens’ life, a new elm tree was planted by Tower Hamlets Mayor, Lutfur Rahman. The event was attended by local residents and representatives of The Conservation Foundation.
The sapling was propagated from a rare English elm tree in Gloucestershire that had shown resistance to Dutch elm disease. It was situated along-side a park bench in Carlton Gardens, which was a favourite of Mr Coppens.
Elms were once a prominent feature of the landscape, but disease killed off most of London’s elms and devastated the British countryside.
The sapling is the first English elm tree to be planted by Tower Hamlets Council, since Dutch elm disease wiped out 24 million trees in the 1970’s.
Tower Hamlets Mayor, Lutfur Rahman said: “I hope that this will be just the first of many elms to come back and green our borough. It is a really fitting tribute to someone, who along with millions of British, Commonwealth and Allied comrades, risked his life so that this country would survive in 1940.”

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