Poignant Remembrance Sunday held at Staffordshire’s National Memorial Arboretum


The rain and cold November wind did nothing to deter 5,000 people who gathered at The National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire on Remembrance Sunday.

A day of events at the year-round centre for remembrance saw a service held at the base of the Armed Forces Memorial, a centre piece for the Arboretum which has more than 300 different memorials.

During the service, there were musical performances from the West Midlands Police Brass Band with the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Warwickshire Band as well as pupils from Foremarke Hall School.

Head of marketing and communications, Sarah Oakden said: “It is a very unique place for people to visit and it helps different people in different ways.

“We have one visitor who comes very regularly because she feels close to her husband who was buried at sea.

“She does not actually have a grave she can go to.”

The centre is run with the help of hundreds of volunteers who give tours of the Arboretum’s many memorials, set in 52 acres.

One volunteer Mark Newbold explained why the wall which features more than 16,000 names of those who have died in active duty in conflicts past and present, is so close to his heart.

He said: “Some of the names are quite poignant to myself because I served in the Royal Navy for 10 years on HMS Coventry.

One wall of the Armed Forces Memorial which honours over 16,000 fallen service personnel.

One wall of the Armed Forces Memorial which was dedicated in the presence of The Queen in 2007.

“Three 1,000lb bombs hit us and the ship went down quite quickly,

“Nineteen of our sailors died.

“That’s why I am glad to be able to be here and to give something back,

“It is a fantastic place and you meet some fantastic people and more often than not they have got a story to tell.”

Among visitors to the Arboretum on Remembrance Sunday were serving members of the Armed Forces as well as veterans and relatives of those who have fallen.

Bill Grant, who lives in Sutton Coldfield, attended with his wife Mandy.

The couple are regular visitors and 54-year-old Bill served in the Cheshire regiment in the Army in the 1980s, spending two years of active duty in Northern Ireland.

He said: “It’s a lovely place, I come here every week to walk my dog.

“It’s a very calm place, you can just come and sit and think.”

Deputy Lieutenant of Staffordshire, Colonel David Leigh TD DL, said: “I live just the other side of Alrewas so I come here a lot.

Colonel David Leigh TD DL, The Rev'd Canon Peter Holliday, managing director Sarah Montgomery and Mr Tony Matthews, Chairman of the NMA branch, the Royal British Legion gather after laying wreaths

Colonel David Leigh TD DL, The Rev’d Canon Peter Holliday, managing director Sarah Montgomery and Mr Tony Matthews, Chairman of the NMA branch, the Royal British Legion gather after laying wreaths

“It is a wonderful place, it can be a bit blowy and today is one of those days, but it is excellent to see everyone here,

“It is very important that the country remembers those people that have fallen and those people that are in the Armed Forces on active service.”

The Arboretum’s annual Armistice Service will be held on Wednesday November 11 in the Armed Forces Memorial.

Princess Anne will attend the service which will include a unique spectacle due to the design of the memorial.

It is positioned to allow a shaft of sunlight to fall across the wreath on the central stone at precisely 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month.

Although the tickets have now been allocated, the service will be shown on large screens in the Arboretum grounds.

(Watch Staffslive’s video of today’s event, below. Additional reporting by Robert Smith)


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