Today I grabbed my goodies and headed off to the National Memorial Arboretum
again. This was as a result of the short visit we had made
on the Friday the 3rd. To be frank that first visit was frustrating, there was too much too see, and no time to see anything. However, it did pique my curiosity, so with the weather improving a return visit was made.
View towards the visitors centre from the Armed Forces Memorial
I had done a bit of homework to see what was in store. There are over 400 memorials here, ranging in size from a simple plaque to statues with multiple figures. I scribbled down some names and and the intention was to buy the map when I was there. I had a plan, it’s just that my plan was liable to change as I went along. The Arboretum opens at 09H00 and I was there by 08H45, and I was the first person through the gate. It was a nice warm day, with thin clouds and patches of blue sky, the sun was low so any pictures facing east would not work too well.
My first destination was the Armed Forces Memorial, and I covered that in the previous post, I really wanted to look up two names on the wall, the one in particular was still in my mind because his death had happened when I was in Southampton in 2013
. I was there today to pay my respects to Cpl Jamie Webb, and Drummer Lee Rigby, The latter was killed in an extremely callous fashion, and the reverberations are still being felt today.
Rest in peace lads, your duty has been done.
My next destination was an area that seemed to have a predominance of naval and nautical memorials, although anything along the way was fair game. Realistically though, I am unable to post an image of every memorial that I saw (I took over 600 images), so this blog post is really about the best and most memorable of the memorials.
The South Atlantic Campaign 1982.
Army Commandos Memorial
The Fleet Air Arm Memorial (410) really caught my eye, although with an aircraft carrier on it I was bound to be interested.
Fleet Air Arm Memorial
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.
Merchant Navy Convoy Memorial
Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships (DEMS) Memorial
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
Arctic Convoys Memorial
Royal Fleet Auxiliary Memorial
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.
Union-Castle Line Memorial
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.
RNLI Volunteer Crew Memorial
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.
Royal British Legion Never Forget Memorial
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.
Railway Industry Memorial
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.
Royal Tank Regiment Memorial
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.
Parachute and Airborne Forces Memorial
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.
Shot at Dawn Memorial
The subject is a difficult one to read up on, because of the controversy of so many of the hasty decisions made by those who endorsed the executions. It can be argued that in many cases the sentence delivered did not take account of the circumstances of each individual, and the age and maturity of so many of those who were executed.
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.
Polish Forces War 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.
Polish Forces War Memorial
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.
Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps Memorial
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.
Queen Alexandra’s Royal Navy Nursing Service & Voluntary Detachment
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.
King’s African Rifles Memorial
Very close to this memorial is the Normandy Veterans Memorial (301). There are 5 stones dedicated to each of the landing beaches in Normandy (Gold, Juno, Sword, Utah and Omaha).
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.
Police Memorial Garden
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.
Hospital Ships 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.
Royal Norwegian Navy (409)
HMS Repulse & HMS Prince of Wales
Royal Naval Patrol Service (413a)
Twin Towers Memorial (223)
Military Police (316)
Royal Corps of Signals (325a)
Royal Artillery Garden 2018
Naval Service Memorial
SS City of Benares Plaque
HMT Lancastria Memorial
Royal Auxiliary Air Force (343)
Chindit Memorial (232a)
Local Postman Memorial (213)
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