A World War One Walk Around the National Memorial Arboretum

A World War One Walk Around the National Memorial Arboretum


Posted 2014-08-13 by Andy Colemanfollow
Prompted by commemorations of the centenary of the outbreak of World War One I visited the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, near Lichfield.

The 150 acre site opened in 2001 as a place of contemplation but it is also a valuable wildlife resource thanks to the 50,000 trees it now contains.

There are over 200 memorials to people who have served their country or died in conflict.

There are many imaginative, poignant and thought-provoking tributes but possibly the most unexpected is a colourful fairground carousel horse.

The figure stands in a grove of trees and an inscription nearby explains that it commemorates members of the Showmen's Guild – the trade association of the travelling funfair industry – who died in the two world wars.

I found the memorial as I followed a World War One Poppy Field trail, a 1.5 mile walk that highlights significant tributes connected with the Great War. The map and trail details cost £2.50 from the visitor centre.

The circular stroll begins at the memorial to the Church Lads' and Church Girls' Brigade, a garden with pathways forming a cross and 22 shrubs representing the brigade members who were awarded the Victoria Cross. Twenty one of the VCs were awarded in World War One which saw 50,000 Brigade Lads serving.

The next destination is the Postal Workers' memorial, a garden that includes vintage pillar boxes. By the end of the Great War 73,000 post office staff had enlisted in 'The Post Office Rifles', a battalion which was awarded 40 Military Crosses, 160 Military Medals and one Victoria Cross. During the war the postal service continued thanks to 35,000 women workers recruited between 1914 and 1916. During 1917 19,000 bags of mail were sent to troops in France.

Across the way is the Royal Artillery Garden which features benches made from cannons. During World War One the Royal Artillery had three elements – the Royal Horse Artillery, which supported the cavalry, the Royal Field Artillery with medium calibre guns and howitzers, and the Royal Garrison Artillery which developed from coast-based fortresses. The British Army's artillery developed very quickly until, by the end of the war, it was armed with very heavy guns that had huge destructive power.

Many of the 50,000 trees at the arboretum are dedicated to a person or organisation. The walking trail took me to a lime tree which commemorated the Inns of Court & City Yeomanry, a regiment that served at Gallipoli, Salonika in Greece, Egypt, Palestine and the Western Front. Nearby, a Rowan tree is dedicated to Flight Sub-Lieutenant Reginald Alexander John Warneford who was awarded the Victoria Cross for destroying a German airship in 1915.

The contribution made by Quakers to World War One is recalled by the Quaker Services Memorial. More than 1,000 Quakers, including Laurence Cadbury of Birmingham's famous chocolate making family, served in the Friends' Ambulance Unit, caring for injured British and French troops.

The high limestone walls of the Quaker Memorial contrasted with my next destination, the Royal British Legion Poppy Field, a wide open area ablaze with colour thanks to the carpet of wild flowers sown among an avenue of oaks. Complementing the scene is a carved wooden bench and a plaque on which is the famous poem In Flanders Fields.

At the halfway point of my walk is the Western Front Association Memorial and Wood, a grove of hornbeams, the only tree variety that survived the Somme battles in 1916.
Many British families, including mine, have connections with World War One so I was interested to see the HMS Barham Memorial. My grandfather, James Coleman, was a sailor involved in the 1916 Battle of Jutland. The British battleship HMS Barham was in the battle, the largest clash of steel ships ever seen.

Facing the HMS Barham Memorial is a plaque recalling the role of the Submarine Service in World War One.

The walk concludes at the impressive Royal British Legion Never Forget Memorial where visitors remember their loved ones by 'planting' a wooden poppy bearing their name.

A visit to the National Memorial is always recommended but particularly during the next four years as we recall the conflict of 1914 -18.

The National Memorial Arboretum, Croxall Road, Alrewas, DE13 7AR is open daily, 9am – 5pm. Entry is free, though donations are appreciated.

67806 - 2023-01-26 01:25:21


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