Yesterday my wife and I visited the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas. I first visited it two years ago, when my wife and I were first courting. I was struck then by the juxtaposition of old and contemporary; of remembrance for those long since fallen, but still mourned, and those still paying the supreme sacrifice today.
Alongside memorials to units which have already passed into history; the WRNS, the ATS, the Royal Green Jackets, are memorials to the fallen of particular industries (for example the Post Office), often with accompanying displays explaining the roles they played in the wars of the 20th and 21st centuries. Old memorials from factories and offices now defunct and demolished have been relocated to it’s garden. There was a memorial to the fallen at my old school, closed since the early 1980s. I’ve often wondered what happened to it; it would have been wonderful if such a place as this had existed then. How many other memorials were just consigned to skips as junk.
The trees at the arboretum are still young; saplings mostly and the memorial has the air of something unfinished. In a few years as the trees mature it will look splendid, but not yet. It’s one of the reasons I intend to visit annually. However the most striking thing is the central memorial. The names of the fallen since the second world war are listed there, listed by year of death and by service. It’s updated annually; 2009s fallen are already inscribed, and the ground beneath bears cards and wreaths from grieving parents, wives and children, their pain barely mitigated by profound pride.