One hundred years ago, the world was in turmoil and a generation made an unimaginable sacrifice.

Britain, like the rest of the world, had just been plunged into the worst of times and the war to end all wars. The roll call of the battles of the First World War still echoes with meaning – Gallipoli, Jutland, Passchendale, Verdun, The Somme and Ypres.

In the years between 1914 and 1918, millions of men and women went to war and did not return. The First World War profoundly affected the lives of an entire generation and there is barely a family in Britain that did not suffer some kind of loss. Life for everyone would never be the same, both for those who fought and for those who remained at home. The whole world changed.

A poignant link to nature

The war had a devastating impact on all aspects of life and the stories of bravery, courage and determination of those who supported their country in the war are nothing short of heroic. So many gave so much so that we could live our lives as we do today and we are inspired and thankful.

The war also desolated our landscape and had a huge impact on our native woodlands. Trees and woods were vital to the war effort – many were felled to become the posts and planks in miles of trenches. Those that were not felled were victims of heavy bombardment, reduced to scarred shells as so aptly captured in paintings of the time. The war highlighted Britain’s dependence on imported timber and skills and this recognition of the need for more trees led directly to the formation of the Forestry Commission in 1919.

Today, we need our trees and woods more than ever. The protective environment of woodland and the sense of peace it creates provide a perfect escape from the pressures and strains of the outside world. Woods provide homes for wildlife to thrive and places for current and future generations to enjoy. They improve our communities and contribute to a healthier planet. They will work for us for the next 100 years.

A brighter future

During and after the First World War, a tradition was established of planting trees in remembrance, marking the loss of life and the sacrifices made. The Woodland Trust is continuing this tradition and we want to thank those who fought in the hope of securing a brighter future for us.

We are now creating four Centenary Woods, one each for England, Scotland, the island of Ireland and Wales. Thousands of trees will be planted at each wood and each tree will represent the brave men and women who gave so much during this momentous period of our history. We will also be working with people from all walks of life, in schools and communities, to plant trees within villages and towns across the country.

By 2018, we hope that millions of trees will have been planted in commemoration. The living and growing woodland legacy will stand forever to make sure our nation never forgets – and we are asking people to be a part of this ever-growing, everlasting tribute.

For Club and Country

The For Club and Country partnership between the Woodland Trust, National Football Museum and football supporters will help plant trees at England’s Centenary Wood, Langley Vale Wood in Surrey. We are aiming to plant an acre for each football club involved. An acre is the size of a football pitch and will provide a place for people to remember the past but also a place full of life for people and wildlife for the future.

There is an old Chinese proverb that says:

"A society grows great when men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in."

Our national tribute to the First World War is the living embodiment of this and serves as a reminder that our society was shaped by the actions of a past generation.

Join us in saying thank you

Through creating these new woods, we will remember those who fought, those who lost their lives and the loved ones who supported them. We would like you to join us in saying thank you – to an ancestor who fought in the war or to volunteers who helped keep people safe and fed in your local town or village. The actions of the First World War have helped make us who we are today and we owe so much to those involved.

Please join us by finding out more about your club in the First World War and dedicate a tree to say thank you.

~ Sharon Thomas specialises in the First World War Centenary Woods project at the Woodland Trust, the UK's largest woodland conservation charity.