History

100th anniversary – from barren field to national memorial

Staffordshire’s National Memorial Arboretum will take centre stage for this year’s 100th anniversary commemorations to mark the end of the Great War, twenty one years after the first trees were planted at a reclaimed quarry.

The national centre for remembrance now has 30,000 trees and more than 330 civilian and military memorials since it was founded on 150 acres of former quarried land in Alrewas. It includes the famous Armed Forces Memorial, dedicated in 2007, which honours members of the military who have died in service.

The Arboretum was the brainchild of Commander David Childs CBE, who wished to see the creation of a national centre for Remembrance, and it began with no money, no land, no staff and no trees . The first trees were planted in 1997. Almost two decades later in 2016, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, officially launched the new £15.7m Remembrance Centre.

Staffordshire County Council, which provided £3m towards the project, has reaffirmed its commitment to support the site’s development into a world-recognised centre of remembrance.

Philip Atkins, Leader of Staffordshire County Council, said: “We are incredibly proud to have the National Memorial Arboretum here in Staffordshire in the heart of the country. This is a particularly poignant year as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armistice and it’s wonderful that Staffordshire is playing such an important role in the commemorations.

“This is an investment in the county’s national and international reputation. With the Arboretum, Commonwealth Graves and German Cemetery on Cannock Chase, Staffordshire continues to be a focus for remembrance and the nation’s commemorations.”

The National Memorial Arboretum will be holding a Remembrance service on Sunday 11th November, beginning at 10.40am, and a candlelight vigil on the Saturday evening. Features in the new centre include an audio-visual theatre recounting compelling personal stories of Remembrance, an area dedicated to the history of remembrance from the Bronze Age to the present day and an interactive poppy field in which leaves blossom into poppies as people walk across them.

Other areas include a Remembrance Wall in which visitors can hang their personal memorials and a memory booth where they can record and share their stories in perpetuity. The site already attracts around 300,000 visitors a year, attracting people from across the country and overseas, contributing £25m to the local economy. In the last two years alone, the site has hosted 15 royal visits and many political figures.

You can find out more about the arboretum, and planned events, at http://www.thenma.org.uk/.

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