The Fleet Air Arm Memorial (410) really caught my eye, although with an aircraft carrier on it I was bound to be interested.
The deeds of the Fleet Air Arm are legendary, especially during the 2nd World War. The paving surrounds have individual commemorations on them, and overall this is a really wonderful memorial, and was proof enough that I was in the right area for my naval memorials.
The wooded area behind these two memorials are dedicated to various men, ships and the Merchant Navy, and is appropriately named “Merchant Navy Wood”. I think part of what makes the whole Arboretum special is not the short term usage, but the long term. in 50 years time the trees will be much bigger, and the horticulture will be properly established and matured, making this a very pretty place
I spent a lot of time in this area, photographing and trying to see what ships I recognised. I was pleased to see a Union-Castle Line Memorial, although I was disappointed that the memorial only covered the Second World War.
I was about ready to wind up here now and head towards another area. Although I was really glad to see the the RNLI was represented here too. The bravery that their crewmen show is unbelievable, and very often unrecognised.
I now headed towards the area which is East of where I was, heading in the general direction of the “Shot At Dawn” memorial. Unfortunately I had just had a call about work so I would have to curtail my plans somewhat as I needed to get home by 14H30. This brought me to the Royal British Legion Never Forget Memorial Garden (418a) I was about ready to wind up here now and head towards another area.
It is a bit of an odd memorial, the red of the poppies almost out of place with the greens and browns and greys that I was seeing. Maybe that is what makes it so special?
One memorial that I had bookmarked was the Railway Industry Memorial (336), and it really commemorates the contribution of yet more unsung heroes who performed their job in very trying circumstances. It is probably long overdue too.
Although the argument could be raised that the men could have either served in the trenches or in the railways, but bear in mind that women were entering the industry and doing many of the jobs that men had done before. It was also the rail industry that moved equipment and soldiers around the country, and of course took soldiers to their homes when they were on leave. The heavy industry used by the railways was also able to adapt to wartime needs, and many of that equipment was served by women.
The Royal Tank Regiment Memorial (324) is a pretty one, although I do think a full sized tank would have been much better, but then I am biased. The British Army was the first to use tanks in battle, and it is fitting that the replica is of an early tank.
The Parachute and Airborne Forces Memorial (332) dominates the space where it is, and it is an interesting memorial. The mounted figure is that of Bellerophon on a winged horse, with a trooper beneath the statue pulling a pack up the ramp with a rope. The interpretation of this is best left to the imagination, but I tend to see it as the pack that dangles below the soldier as he drops on his chute, it usually hits the ground before he does. The parachute regiments are generally a formidable fighting force, and they have a history second to none.
I was now at my intended destination: the Shot at Dawn Memorial (329), and apparently it is one of the most visited memorials in the Arboretum. It is an emotive piece, and conveys its message very effectively.
It is true that there were executions for offences that were not related to cowardice or “lack of moral fibre”, some men were executed for murder. However, the fairness of the court martial process is often questioned, and those high ranking officers who sat on these tribunals were often seen as being totally out of touch with the reality of the situation of soldiers on the ground. It could also be argued that in many armies, the benefit of any sort of hearing did not exist, and the men were shot outright, often on the field of battle.
Certainly some commanders should have been put of trial for the way in which they flushed lives away in battles that they had no hope of winning, but we all know that would never happen.
In 2006 the British Government agreed to posthumously pardon all those who were executed for military offences during the First World War, but that was too many years too late for the families of these victims of officialdom. The irony is that even though a pardon has been granted, the pardon “does not affect any conviction or sentence.”
It was time to turn around and head towards another large memorial with a grouping of statues, this is the Polish Forces War Memorial (327a), and it is a beaut. Unfortunately the front of the memorial faces west, and it was difficult to get an image of the front of the memorial.
The history of the Polish forces is summarised on the panels around the memorial, and the four figures represent a soldier, sailor, airman and the underground movement. This is topped by a symbol of the Polish Eagle.
In the area behind this memorial were the Royal Army Medical Corps (328) and Royal Army Dental Corps (328) Memorials. These were relatively small memorials and they were situated in a grove of trees. The trees on either side of the grove had plaques that commemorated the many Victoria Cross holders from this branch of the forces.
My mind immediately went to Noel Chavasse, and I went looking for his plaque, which I am glad to say I found.
Having left this grove of the brave, I was ready to start heading towards the exit, I had seen a lot so far, and probably missed a lot too.
I also encountered the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps Memorial (327), formerly known as Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, it was founded in 1902.
There was also a memorial to the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Navy Nursing Service and Voluntary Detachment (417b) which was in the area where I found the naval memorials.
There is a lot of ground to cover at the Arboretum, and I still had some to go. On my list was the Hospital Ships memorial which seemed to be a new one as it was not listed in my guide book. I would have to ask at the office about it before I left.
Another memorial to men who seemed to have slipped from history is the memorial to The King’s African Rifles. (302). These man are a lost army of their own, and their stories have never been adequately told. I am sure that they would have encountered the South Africans during their service, and like the South Africans have really become a forgotten part of the world wars.
The area where I was in now seemed slightly biased towards policemen, and police served in the military too, in my photography in South Africa I had often had police on my list of graves, and many fell in the line of duty. The same is true for the United Kingdom.
Representative of these memorials is the Police Memorial Garden (306). Strangely enough, I found a plaque to a British policeman who was killed in South Africa in a vehicle accident in October 2002.
Technically I was finished for the day. Although I really wanted to investigate the area around the visitor centre. Upon enquiry my Hospital Ships Memorial was found behind the Fleet Air Arm Memorial.
Although once again I do not understand why they only mention ships lost during the Second World War.
I was ready to go, I do not have a tally of how many memorials I had seen, and looking back now I missed out on a number of them that I had not seen, Realistically though, there was an overkill of memorials. There are just so many that seeing them all would be a lot of hard slogging, and trying to see each marked tree would be even harder. However, if you are there for a specific memorial then the experience would be very different to mine. The Arboretum is a fantastic place, and it is a meaningful space, and somebody should point this out to the powers that be who hijacked Freedom Park in South Africa.
I will probably add to this page as I go along, but at this point I shall point to some random images instead.
Do not see this page as an all encompassing view of a much larger picture, it is a mere glimpse, the reality is a very different thing altogether. Looking at my guide book I see how many of the memorials I missed altogether, and I think that is what I do not like about this place. There are just so many, and it is really better to come here with a distinct purpose rather than an eye to see everything.
© DRW 2015-2018 Created 08/04/2015. Images migrated 29/04/2016