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Tree plan for fallen hero of Great War

A tree will be dedicated today in Northern Ireland to a soldier killed on the Western Front during the First World War whose body was never found.

The first trees in new woodlands commemorating the conflict will be planted across the UK today by families of soldiers who fought and died on the front.

Four flagship woodlands – one each in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – are being planted by the Woodland Trust as part of the £12m project to provide a memorial to the Great War.

In Northern Ireland, Stanley McMinn will dedicate a tree at the wood in Faughan Valley, Co Londonderry, to his uncle Private Edmund Gray, who saw his first action in the Somme in 1916 and was so horrified by the scale of the killing he became a stretcher bearer.

He was killed by shell fire at Passchendaele at the third battle of Ypres, while he waited to retrieve a wounded soldier.

"There is no known grave for Eddie and his remains were never found. I think the Centenary Woods are a brilliant idea and an excellent way to commemorate all those who fell like my Uncle Eddie," Mr McMinn said.

Woodland Trust president and TV presenter Clive Anderson said the woods would be a "permanent memorial to a war, which is also ecologically useful and beautiful".

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"If you plant trees, they will store carbon, provide shade, retain river banks, provide ecological niches for birds and animals, and are agreeable places for humans to go."

He added: "In this time of great stress on our woods it is vital we redouble our efforts on behalf of our trees to preserve a landscape fit for heroes."

Judith Batchelor, head of Sainsbury's brand, said the supermarket had a target to plant two million trees by 2015, and the woods would help commemorate the 350 Sainsbury's employees who died in the First World War.

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