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Elm tree planted to commemorate Stepney Green war hero

PUBLISHED: 11:56 18 February 2014 | UPDATED: 12:31 18 February 2014

Commander John Ludgate, the Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London for Tower Hamlets, and Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman plant the sapling

Commander John Ludgate, the Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London for Tower Hamlets, and Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman plant the sapling

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A rare elm tree has been planted in Stepney Green to commemorate a local war hero.

Wilfred CoppensWilfred Coppens

Standard bearers from the Royal British Legion and a bugler playing the Last Post were among those who attended the tree planting in Carlton Gardens on Monday to remember the life of Wilfred Coppens, who died last year in his nineties.

Mr Coppens was well-known in the area as he was brought up as an orphan and his neighbours took him into their hearts.

But it was only after his death that they discovered that he had won medals at Dunkirk as he was very modest man.

The Conservation Foundation provided the tree which was planted alongside Mr Coppens’ favourite park bench by Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman.

The sapling is the first English elm tree to be planted by the council since Dutch elm disease wiped out 24m trees in the 1970s.

Mayor Rahman said: “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.”

He added that he hoped that the elm would be the first of many planted in the borough.

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