The “Charlie’s Tree” site on Highway 1 in Surrey. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

The “Charlie’s Tree” site on Highway 1 in Surrey. (Photo: Tom Zillich)


SURREY NOW & THEN: On ‘Charlie’s Tree’ site, young tree now grows where a giant fir fell in 2016

A weekly look back at Surrey-area landmark sites and events

Ves Vukovic gets emotional when talking about the young tree that has grown where Charlie’s Tree once stood.

“I got tears in my eyes seeing that when I was passing by,” Vukovic said after he recently visited the site on Highway 1, in the Port Kells area of Surrey.

“It’s difficult to park there,” he continued, “but the tree is there, growing. For me, I saw that tree growing, and it touched my heart.… I come from the part of the world, ex-Yugoslavia, that was impacted by the First World War, a difficult time. All my anscestors were attacked in that war, and (Canada) was an ally.”

The roots of the Charlie’s Tree story were planted long ago on the south side of the freeway, east of the 176th Street overpass.

A towering Douglas fir was given the name “Charlie’s Tree” after First World War pilot Charlie Perkins, who in 1919 planted ivy at the base of the tree in honour of Canada’s fallen soldiers.

Sadly, the aging stump of that centuries-old tree fell in July 2016, causing a tangled mess of ivy and bark on the landmark site.

(Story continues below tweet)

• READ MORE, from 2016: Surrey family to replant ivy from fallen memorial.

The old tree was gone that summer, but caretakers of the war memorial soon worked to rebuild it, including Vukovic, a Surrey resident and president of Friends of Old Canada, described on Facebook as “non-profit historic society looking to uncover and preserve lost Canadian stories.”

Even before the original tree fell, the group had planned to put up a stone marker on the site, and the project was later expanded to include replacing the fallen Douglas fir.

“My job was to make monument on behalf of Friends of Old Canada and bring the stone there,” Vukovic recalled. “The words on the monument are from Mike (Perkins), who is Charlie’s grandson. It was great pleasure to have met those people. For me, it’s with glowing pride that I met someone who is such a true Canadian, the family members of (Charlie).”

The chest-high granite marker features the following words, in English and French: “The ivy planted at the base of a giant Douglas fir on this site was a memorial to North American WW1 Royal Flying Corp pilots. The pilots were trained in Canada and the United States by lifetime British Columbian Charlie Perkins, the man behind the memorial.”

(Story continues below)

Today, a flag pole stands next to a “Charlie’s Tree” sign, a few feet from that growing young tree.

Turns out, it’s the second tree planted on the site in recent years.

“The first tree planted there wasn’t doing well and died about a year ago, and it was replaced again,” said Kevin Antrobus, commanding officer of Surrey’s 767 Dearman air cadets, who maintain the site.

“A new tree was planted in the summer of 2019,” Antrobus added. “This one is doing better. We bought watering bags for it to make sure it gets through dry spells.”

• RELATED STORY, from 2018: Guardian of Surrey-Langley war memorial to get memorial of his own.

The cadets stepped up as site caretakers following the retirement of longtime volunteer Dave Manson, who died in 2018. For more than a decade, Manson drove from his Langley home to the site every two to three weeks to cut the grass and repair the fixtures, after he grew tired of seeing how neglected and overgrown the memorial had become.

Now, it’s the cadets’ turn.

“Our cadets are out there in the summer months, every week or two, and spring and fall as needed, after wind storms,” Antrobus explained. “When our officers drive past and see some work needs done, we get it done.”

(Story continues below photos)


PICTURED: Charlie Perkins in a Surrey Leader story from 1979. (image courtesy Surrey Archives)


PICTURED: “Charlie’s Tree” in 1968. (Photo courtesy Surrey Archives)


PICTURED: “Charlie’s Tree” in 2000. (Photo courtesy Surrey Archives)

During construction of the freeway in 1960, the plan was for the road to run through the site, located on the Perkins family farm, and the tree was to be cut down.

However, Perkins and his friends protested the tree’s removal, causing the government to re-route the highway around the memorial. A visual bend eastbound on the highway can still be seen today.

Many years ago, the original tree was set on fire by vandals and needed to be topped, but the main trunk of the tree and the memorial survived.

Amazed by the story of Charlie’s Tree, Vukovic likes to set the record straight about the original tree.

“Most people think Charlie planted the tree, which was 500 years old, but he planted the ivy, not the tree,” Vukovic underlined.

“It’s a special place, that’s for sure.”

Online, a Charlie’s Tree “fan page” on Facebook details additional history with photos, news stories and more, and Discover Surrey also dedicates a page to the site.

Surrey Now & Then is a weekly look back at Surrey-area landmark sites and events, and how they evolved over the years. Email story ideas and tips to We thank Surrey Archives for assistance with this series.

CLICK HERE to read more “Surrey Now & Then” stories.

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Marchers supporting Indian farmers rallied in Surrey last month, from Bear Creek Park to Holland Park along King George Boulevard. (File photo: Tom Zillich)
Surrey MP says mayor’s motion to support Indian farmers is his to make

“He has his own sovereignty, right,” Sukh Dhaliwal says

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions against new model; BCSS and its board in favour

Researchers say residents should leave sleeping bats alone while they exit hibernation. (Cathy Koot photo)
Spring ‘signal’ brings White Rock, Surrey bats out of hibernation

Community Bat Programs of BC says it’s best to leave sleeping bats alone

(Photo: Creative Outlet)
YOUR MONEY: Tax tips for a complicated tax season involving CERB and more

With April 30 tax deadline, ‘it is important to understand the tax implications (benefits) will have’

The Delta Police Department’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Unit: (from left) Const. Joel Thirsk, analyst Jody Johnson and Staff Sgt. Sukh Sidhu. (Delta Police Department photo)
Delta police respond to rising number of hate crimes

Police have received 15 reports so far in 2021, compared to 12 in all of 2020

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Dr. Bonnie Henry – in a B.C. health order that went into effect April 12 – granted WorkSafe inspectors the power to enforce workplace closures with COVID-19 spread. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
24 workplace closures being enforced in Fraser Health under new COVID-19 order

WorkSafe inspectors the power to enforce closures if COVID-19 has spread to 3 or more employees

Maple Ridge Fire and Rescue were conducting training operations at Gold Creek Falls when a firefighter broke their leg. (Eileen Robinson photo - Special to The News)
Firefighter suffers broken leg during swift water rescue practice in Golden Ears park

A training exercise at Maple Ridge waterfall on Wedesday results in mishap

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Most Read