Thursday, 30 April 2009

National Memorial Arboretum

On the day of the memorial service to the 179 British service people who lost their lives in Iraq, it's appropriate to talk about our visit last week to the National Memorial Arboretum. The Arboretum is a 150 acre site in the National Forest between Burton and Lichfield. It commemorates
  • those who have given their lives in the service of their country,
  • all who have served and those who have suffered as a result of conflict,
  • others who for specific or appropriate reasons are commemorated on the site.

The 50,000 trees around the site are planted in varying patterns as memorial to a whole range of organisations and individuals. There is an avenue of chestnuts funded by all the police forces in the UK. Included are trees grown from conkers collected at Drayton Manor, home of Sir Robert Peel. There are memorials to regiments, to campaigns and to prisoners of war.

On a mound in the centre is the Armed Forces Memorial, a stone circle engraved with the names of all the members of the forces who have given their lives since World War 2. The Memorial has slits in two of the walls. These are aligned so that a shaft of sunlight will fall on the central wreath sculpture at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

Two things were particularly moving: firstly, the blank walls waiting for names. The second was finding the name of David Tinker, brother of a neighbour, who was killed on the last day of the Falklands War. His father published a book of David's poems and letters from the Falklands; Mark has given me a copy.

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