Friday, 17 February 2017

National Memorial Arboretum - Staffordshire

I was going to wait until the Spring and a nice sunny day before another tour of the NMA, but as we spent a few hours there this week, I'll go back later with a video camera.

We watched the National Memorial Arboretum unfold. We lived just two miles away from the old sand & gravel pits that were going to be transformed into this conceptual arboretum that would commemorate the Armed Forces quite graphically. We saw presentations that showed potential lay outs of trees that would one day grow and represent battleships at sea or the delta wings of a fighter aircraft.

What is still evolving is now better than that.

As the fledgling NMA grew there were more and more requests for specific memorials and gardens of remembrance and it reached the stage where the organisers said "No more trees for a while, please."

The popularity of the NMA was unexpected. There is a chapel of remembrance where a service takes place at 11am every day. It is always attended by elderly people wearing their medals with pride and humility.

The NMA changes every week. The main building was only opened in November, which is why we were waiting, and it is now much more user friendly and the train service is becoming state of the art.

The NMA does not simply remember the British Armed Forces, although the centrepiece records the names of each of the 16,000 personnel who have lost their lives in battle since the end of WWII.

The NMA was opened in 2001. It stands on 150 acres of reclaimed gravel works, but will continue to grow as more quarries become redundant. They will be converted. The Lion's Shelter that we keep clean and tidy started on the very edge of the plot. It is gradually sliding towards the centre, without moving at all.

There are now 300 memorials and the number grows week by week. The NMA was dedicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, in the presence of The Queen, in 2007.

The first memorial installed was that of a giant polar bear. That was in 1998. It commemorates the 49th Infantry West Riding Division, who were stationed under 20 feet of snow in Iceland.

The main memorial is where the 16,000 names can be found. The statues were created by Ian Rank-Broadly and the characters are dressed in the different uniforms of all the service branches. There are two silts, one in the outer wall and another in the inner wall. At 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, the sun shines through both slits and lights on a memorial wreath.

We were told there have been only two years that the sun has failed in its duty.

DE13 7AR

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