National Memorial Arboretum

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owards the Armed Forces Memorial
Aerial view, with River Tame

The National Memorial Arboretum, is a garden at Alrewas in Staffordshire managed by the Royal British Legion. It was established as a national site of remembrance, giving its purpose as:

The National Memorial Arboretum honours the fallen, recognises service and sacrifice and fosters pride in our country. It is a spiritually uplifting place and is emerging as a world-renowned centre for remembrance.[1]

The Arboretum is in Staffordshire, just south of Alrewas on approximately 150 acres of old gravel workings, five miles north of Lichfield. It is beside the meeting of the River Tame with the River Trent. It is at the western end of the 'National Forest', just off the A38 road.


The idea for the Arboretum was conceived by David Childs in 1988. He believed that it would form a living tribute to service men and women for future generations to reflect upon and enjoy. The Arboretum was officially opened on 16 May 2001. It is a registered charity[2] and is part of The Royal British Legion family of charities.


Sun Insurance company 1939-1945 memorial

The Arboretum contains over 50,000 trees, and more being added each year.[3]

There are nearly 300 memorials for the armed forces, civilian organisations and voluntary bodies who have played a part in serving the country; and even Simon the ship's cat of HMS Amethyst. Several corporate war memorials – from British banks, building societies, and insurance companies – have been relocated to the grounds,[4] when the original owners became unable or unwilling to care for them. At the heart of the Arboretum is the Armed Forces Memorial, which is a tribute to over 16,000 service personnel who have lost their lives in conflict or as a result of terrorism since the end of the Second World War.[5] At 11 am on 11 November each year the sun shines through two slits in the outer and inner walls of the memorial, casting a shaft of light across a wreath in the centre.[6]

Within the Arboretum is the Millennium Chapel of Peace and Forgiveness where, at 11 am each day, an act of remembrance takes place. Following the two minutes silence, accompanied by the Last Post and Reveille, there is an introductory talk about the arboretum.[7]

The Armed Forces Memorial was dedicated in October 2007 by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the presence of the Queen.

In 2010, the Volunteers of the National Memorial Arboretum were awarded the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award that any voluntary group can receive.


Some of the other features of the National Memorial Arboretum are described below.

Features Description
Jewish ex-service men and women memorial at NMA.JPG
Association of Jewish Ex-Service Men and Women

Made from Chinese granite and designed to give a different perspective when viewed from different angles, the Star of David memorial is dedicated to Jewish servicemen who were killed on duty.

Berlin Airlift Memorial at National Memorial Arboretum.jpg
Berlin Airlift Monument The memorial is erected in tribute to those who took part in the Berlin Airlift, the operation to deliver food and supplies to Berlin between June 1948 and May 1949. This sculpture features hundreds of intricate steel feathers. It was designed and manufactured by Anwick Forge in Lincolnshire.
Boys' Brigade Memorial at National Memorial Arboretum.JPG
Boys' Brigade

The elements of this garden represent all parts of the UK and Ireland. The Boys’ Brigade Garden is designed to remember those who have served in the Brigade since 1883. Sixteen Victoria Crosses have been awarded to former and serving Brigade members.

Burma Railway Memorial at National Memorial Arboretum.JPG
Burma Railway

The memorial is constructed from 30 yards of the original rails and sleepers used on the Burma Railway, brought here from Thailand in HMS Northumberland in 2002. It is a permanent tribute to those forced to build the infamous 'Railway of Death'.[8]

Commandos memorial at National Memorial Arboretum.JPG

This memorial consists of a reproduction of part of the Association badge – the wreath in copper and the Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife in stainless steel. It was created at Anwick Forge in Lincolnshire.

Polar Bear Memorial at National Memorial Arboretum.JPG
Polar Bear Memorial

The Polar Bear Association Memorial was the first monument and sculpture to be erected at the National Memorial Arboretum (1998). It is a tribute to the 49th Infantry West Riding Division, stationed in Iceland and snowed in under 20 feet of snow for most of the campaign: the Polar Bear on a block of ice was soon adopted as their mascot and shoulder flash.

RNLI memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum.JPG
Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI)

The RNLI memorial has been landscaped as a pebble, shingle and sand beach.

Shot at Dawn memorial.JPG
Shot at Dawn

During the First World War some 306 British and Commonwealth soldiers were shot for desertion or cowardice, in some instances though driven by shell shock

Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society (SANDS) Garden

The SANDS Garden is for bereaved parents. At the centre of the garden is a sculpture of the SANDS tear drop logo which was created by John Roberts and the Portland Sculpture Trust to encourage people to sit and touch the central carved figure of the baby.

NMA Polish Service Men And Women Memorial.jpg
The Polish Service Men and Women Memorial

The centre monument sculptured by Robert Sobocinski was unveiled by the Duke of Kent on 19 September 2009.[9]

The Beat

It is a memorial grove to all British policemen who have died on duty. Its trees are horse chestnut, because old-type British policemen's truncheons were made of horse chestnut wood.

Garden of the Innocents

This memorial is to children who have been affected by war or conflict. The central tree is an elder tree in memory of Anne Frank; each April its flowers and flower buds are removed, to symbolise that Anne Frank was not allowed to grow to adulthood and achieve her full life.

The Irish Mercantile Marine Plinth

This plinth was unveiled on 1 September 2001. The plaque on the plinth has an Irish Tricolour and the words 'Dedicated to all those who were serving on the following Neutral Irish Registered Vessels', followed by a list of ships lost. The plinth has a plaque dedicated to Irish seamen captured while serving in the British Merchant Navy, who were not accorded POW status, but treated as slave labourers.

Navy Memorial

On 15 June 2014 a memorial to the naval personnel was unveiled. It is made of a number of large pieces of coloured glass.[10]

Christmas truce

On 12 December 2014, a memorial on the centenary of the World War I Christmas truce, when British and German soldiers stopped fighting and played football, was unveiled by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and the England national football team manager Roy Hodgson.[11] The Football Remembers memorial was designed by ten-year-old schoolboy Spencer Turner after a nationwide competition.[11]

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about National Memorial Arboretum)


  1. NMA Guidebook (2009) introduction
  2. The National Memorial Arboretum Company Limited - Registered Charity no. 1043992 at the Charity Commission
  3. National Memorial Arboretum - Trees
  4. Gough, P.J., (2004) Corporations and commemoration – First World War Remembrance, Lloyds TSB and the National Memorial Arboretum, International Journal of Heritage Studies, Winter 2004, pp. 435 – 455, ISSN 1352-7258
  5. National Memorial Arboretum - Armed Forces Memorial
  6. Inscription on memorial
  7. National Memorial Arboretum - Chapel
  8. Memorial for 'Railway of Death' veterans
  9. Jamieson, Alastair (20 Sep 2009). "Memorial statue for Polish servicemen and women unveiled". Telegraph. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Prince William hails 'lasting memorial' to WW1 Christmas truce". BBC. Retrieves 12 December 2014