10 Oct '17 National Memorial Arboretum
On Saturday 14th October a group from the Family History group, plus friends from the Travel Group, Weekenders, and a Reading Group set off for the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. It was an early start but we were pleased to see we had a brand-new coach [with an excellent driver]. On our arrival we were met by a group of NMA volunteers. The volunteers were marvellous – enthusiastic and knowledgeable with an obvious love of the Arboretum. There was time to get some lunch before meeting together for a ride on the land-train for a journey round the site.
Then it was time to explore – there is so much to see. Many of us went to see the Shot at Dawn memorial and heard the very moving talk. The memorial commemorates 306 British and Commonwealth soldiers who were shot for desertion or cowardice during World War I. Most were sentenced after a short trial at which no real opportunity for defence was allowed. Today it is recognised that many of them were underage and suffering from shell-shock.
After a busy afternoon we set off for our hotel, less than 30 minutes away. We met in our own area for dinner and the next morning for breakfast. One of our group commented that it was the best hotel breakfast she had had!
We set off for the NMA giving ourselves plenty of time to settle into the Millennium Chapel for the daily Act of Remembrance which incorporates the Last Post, Silence and the Reveille. This was followed by a very interesting talk by one of the volunteers about the history of the NMA. In the chapel are carvings by Essex Woodcarvers and we were told that the very first memorial – a large polar bear was also carved here in Essex, and that when it was moved to the NMA the travel bulletins included the fact that a large polar bear was on its way from Essex to Staffordshire!
The rest of our time there was free and some went to the far end of the NMA on buggies with drivers who gave their own interesting commentaries. We left at 2.30 and met lots of Sunday traffic, but I think we all agreed we had had a wonderful time. Next year we may be able to show our photos to remind those who went, and to show those who were unable to join us, what a wonderful place the NMA is!