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A World War One Walk Around the National Memorial Arboretum

Home > Birmingham > Free | Gardens | Memorials | Remembrance Day | Walks
by Andy Coleman (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer living in Birmingham. I like Classic Rock, 70s pop music, football and interviewing celebrities. Follow me on Twitter: @andycoleman9
Published August 13th 2014
Remembering those who fell in 1914 - 1918 conflict
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.

National Memorial Arboretum
Surprise: The Showmen's Guild memorial

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.

National Memorial Arboretum
Last post: The Postal Workers garden

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.

National Memorial Arboretum
Firepower: Cannon benches in the Royal Artillery garden

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.

National Memorial Arboretum
Peaceful: Quaker Services Memorial

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.

National Memorial Arboretum
Famous: 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.

National Memorial Arboretum
Jutland veteran: HMS Barham memorial

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.

National Memorial Arboretum
Never forget: Royal British Legion memorial

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

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Why? A place to think about those who have sacrificed their lives for their country.
When: Open daily, 9am - 5pm
Phone: 01283 792 333
Where: Croxall Road, Alrewas, DE13 7AR
Cost: Free
Your Comment
The cannon bench looks amazing, but the Royal British Legion Memorial definitely takes centre stage. The poppies look like they are made of card though; surely not good in the rain?
by Bastion Harrison (score: 4|12626) 2844 days ago
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