We have no known family connections with the National Memorial Arboretum, but it is somewhere that you catch glimpses of on the TV and so we thought that, being in Staffordshire for a few days, we would seek it out.
It is really well worth a visit! The visitors’ leaflet describes it as “the UK’s year-round centre for Remembrance” and the 150+ acres contain more than 300 memorials for both military and civilian organisations. Entry is free and the facilities are excellent, with good parking and a lovely visitors’ centre with shop and café. For the less mobile there is a land train to take you round the key memorials.
I had read in advance that there is a daily act of remembrance at 11am, so on arrival we headed for the beautiful wood and glass chapel for this and for the Welcome Talk, which was a great introduction to how the Arboretum came about and its development. Most of the staff are volunteers and were very helpful.
The Armed Forces Memorial, on the central mound, honours those killed whilst serving since the end of WWII, with striking sculptures. We were struck by how different all the memorials were – some large sculptures, some set in lovely gardens, some featuring buildings (such as that for the Far East Prisoners of War). New memorials are being added all the time. There are wildflower meadows and maturing woodland and a lovely riverside walk.
I thought I’d write of this in a family history blog for two reasons: firstly because you may well know of a recent family member commemorated there by name and secondly because, even if you don’t know of anyone, there are computer touch-screens inside the visitor centre where you can search for names. This is definitely a name-rich site and you may well learn of someone connected to you.
You may, in addition, have a personal connection with a particular regiment. We found the memorial for the Staffordshire Regiment (of which Edmund Oldrieve Greenhill, who I wrote about last time, was part). You can find a list of all the memorials here http://www.thenma.org.uk/whats-here/memorial-listing/
It really was a good day out – we walked miles, enjoyed the peace and beauty of the location, and were moved by the commemoration of so many on one site.