Saturday, 25 May 2013
The National Memorial Arboretum
I enjoyed a wonderful day out recently at the National Memorial Arboretum (NMA) in Staffordshire. Perhaps, in view of this week's headlines, it is a good time now to share these photos. The NMA was inspired by the Arlington Cemetery in the USA, but this is not a cemetery (no-one is buried here). It is a place of remembrance, intended to provide a national focus to commemorate those who have given their lives in the service of our country, those who have served and suffered as a result of conflict and others who for special reasons are remembered here.
It was inaugurated in 1997, on a 150-acre site that used to be gravel pits, bordered by the River Blythe. It has been planted with over 50,000 trees, many of them dedicated to individuals or groups, which are maturing into a wonderful living tribute. The site is dominated by the Armed Forces Memorial, a huge circle of sculptural walls, inscribed with the names of all those members of our armed forces who have been killed whilst on duty, since the end of World War II. In addition there are over 200 other dedicated memorials, with new ones being added from time to time. (A memorial to the Bevin Boys, men who worked in our coal mines during the Second World War, was unveiled this May by HRH the Countess of Wessex.)
I spent the best part of a day exploring the site, and found it much more moving than I had expected. You soon realise that it not only encapsulates the nation's honouring and thankfulness but also the grief and pride of thousands of individuals: wives, husbands, partners, children, parents, friends and colleagues, for whom it is a place to remember and a focus for their sense of loss. Many tears are shed here and yet the whole site - already maturing into a rich nature reserve - somehow speaks of hope and renewal too.