This week we celebrate Remembrance Day. We are tasked with honouring and remembering those who served, both in wars past and in peacekeeping missions today. While we often think of soldiers running into battle, wounded veterans, and crosses row upon row to mark those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom, there are other images that should give us pause as well. And one of those images from the past is of what appears to be a simple tree.
On first glance, the tree in the photograph above looks no different from what you would expect of any other battle-scarred trees which existed across Europe during World War I. If you look a little closer though, you might notice the hole at the bottom of the tree. Many soldiers would have walked past the tree without noticing anything different about them, but this tree was far different from the others which would have surrounded it. It was a Baumbeobachter or O.P. tree. And they were a reasonably effective tool for those who went to the effort to construct them.
Baumbeobachters (German for ‘tree observer’) were constructed out of metal. They were essentially hollow metal tubes with a small seat inside of them. A ladder led up to the seat and observation holes allowed a view of the surrounding area. The outside was designed to look not only like a real tree, but a specific tree. Photographs and sketches were taken of real trees, which were then used to build a hollow replica of the original tree, where a soldier could sit unobserved. When the replica was completed, the original tree was cut down and replaced with the baumbeobachter. Soldiers entered the tree from below unobserved.
These observation posts (O.P.) were used as strategic lookouts and sniper posts by both Germans and British alike. One such German tree was captured in 1918, dismantled and shipped to Australia, where it now resides in the Australian War Memorial. It is an example of artistry, cunning and the extent to which people went to in the depths of war. They turned trees into tools of defence and destruction.
This week CLC Tree Services encourages you to pay your respects to those who have served our country. Don a poppy and visit a cenotaph. Talk to a veteran or someone who continues to serve our country today. However you do it, make sure you remember them and the sacrifices people make. Their history is ours and it deserves to be told and remembered.