In more ways than one, the Rotary Club of Wakefield Chantry had a day to remember. 25 members, friends and family recently visited the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire, where the Nation remembers those who have given their life in the service of the country.
The Arboretum, has around 300 memorials, mainly military, but also including many non-military.
The day started for the Rotarians, in the memorial chapel, where a short Act of Remembrance and commemorative talk, including a 2 minute silence is held every day at 11am. This was followed by a land train tour of the whole site to give visitors a feeling for what the Arboretum offers. After lunch, the Rotarians spent time exploring for themselves.
Centre piece of the Arboretum, the Armed Forces Memorial, lists the names of all military personnel, who have given their life since the end of WW2. There are over 16,000 names carved into the walls.
One of the most poignant is the “Shot at Dawn” memorial to the 306, mainly young me, who were shot at dawn during the First War for desertion or cowardice. These were executed after a trial at which no real defence was allowed, and without anyone realising that nearly all were suffering from shell shock. This was recognised as a major travesty of justice and all those shot were posthumously pardoned in 2006.
One of the other memorials that really hit home was the Polish memorial commemorating all those who perished during WW2 and brings home to visitors the sacrifices made by Poland in the fight against the Nazi’s.
Probably one of the most hard hitting memorials is the Far East Prisoners of War Memorial Building, which houses an exhibition dedicated to all of those who were captured by the Japanese and imprisoned. Most of course were transported to the infamous Burma railway.
President Bob Guard, said that this was one of the most moving and thought provoking trips the Club had ever undertaken. The breadth of memorials that members found thought provoking, in addition to those already mentioned, included the RAF Association Memorial Garden with its Silver Eagle atop a silver globe, the BASRA Memorial Wall, the very modern Naval Services Memorial and the memorial to the Parachute Regiment with the statue of Belerophon mounted on Pegasus with spear in hand . There are so many that most members have already said that they must go back as you cannot do the Arboretum justice with just one visit.
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more Will, Rebecca and Elliot with Chantry President Bob Guard
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more Rebecca Ward and Guy Beardsmore, giving their presentation to the Rotary Club of Wakefield Chantry at the Hotel St Pierre, Newmillerdam
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more Hazel Haas (DG) and Bob Guard (President) at the Hotel St Pierre before the club meeting.
more Andrew Slater (r), and Bob Guard(l), President of the Rotary Club, in front of a picture of the SS Lusitania docked in New York harbour the year before her final voyage.