National Memorial Arboretum
National Arboretum 24th September 2014.
We arrived at the Arboretum just after 11 am where we were met by a very friendly ex-serviceman volunteer who came onto the coach to talk to us about the options for the day. We could choose to walk round in our own groups with a map or join the short guided tour. (This is actually worth booking in advance at a cost of £3.)
The one hour tour was guided by another ex-serviceman volunteer who explained, both knowledgeably and humourously, what each memorial was. The tour ended at the main memorial which was situated at the top of a man-made hill, built to resemble a medieval mound. This memorial was breathtaking; the design reminiscent of Stonehenge and the Roman Coliseum at the same time. It is designed so that the slit in the middle of the circular wall will let the sun shine through perfectly on the 11th November at 11 am to make a line in the sand.
The short tour gave us ample time to explore the vast grounds of the arboretum. We were informed that it had been rescued from an old gravel pit. Thousands of trees have been planted but there is still lots of open space to view and walk around with ease.
There are so many memorials to all British and Commonwealth soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen, too many to name them all. I was pleased to see they also had a memorial to the children and teachers who were killed at Dunblane School.
We were very lucky that our visit co-incided with the day they were dedicating a new memorial to the Normandy Veterans who 70 years ago were involved in the Normandy landings. They celebrated with a military band that were excellent; they looked amazing in their red tunics with their brass instruments gleaming in the sun. A lone piper in full highland dress played a lament.
There was also a very exciting fly past of two planes, a Spitfire and Dakota, which flew over the grounds, saluting the men and woman of the Normandy Campaign. That was such a thrill, we had a great vantage point and watched as they flew over the Normandy Veterans about three times
The National Memorial Arboretum is a charity, is self funding from donations, and is mostly run by the ex servicemen and woman volunteers who give freely of their time.
All in all it was a great day, our thanks go to Bob, our driver, and to Andy Gordon for organizing the trip and arranging all the extras, not to mention a lovely sunny day. It was unfortunate he and Eleanor were not able to attend on the actual day.