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Remembrance Sunday at NMA
Thousands gather for Remembrance Sunday at National Memorial Arboretum

From barren field to national memorial

Twenty one years after the first trees were planted at a reclaimed quarry, Staffordshire’s National Memorial Arboretum will take centre stage for this year’s 100th anniversary commemorations to mark the end of the Great War.

Founded on 150 acres of former quarried land in Alrewas, the national centre for remembrance now has 30,000 trees and more than 330 civilian and military memorials. It includes the famous Armed Forces Memorial, dedicated in 2007, which honours members of the military who have died in service.

Armed Forces Memorial

The Armed Forces Memorial at National Memorial Arboretum

The Arboretum, which began with no money, no land, no staff and no trees was the brainchild of Commander David Childs CBE, who wished to see the creation of a national centre for Remembrance. The first trees were planted in 1997. Almost two decades later in 2016, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, officially launched the new £15.7m Remembrance Centre.

Staffordshire County Council, which provided £3m towards the project, has reaffirmed its commitment to support the site’s development into a world-recognised centre of remembrance.

Philip Atkins, Leader of Staffordshire County Council, said:

“We are incredibly proud to have the National Memorial Arboretum here in Staffordshire in the heart of the country.

“This is a particularly poignant year as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armistice and it’s wonderful that Staffordshire is playing such an important role in the commemorations.

“This is an investment in the county’s national and international reputation. With the Arboretum, Commonwealth Graves and German Cemetery on Cannock Chase, Staffordshire continues to be a focus for remembrance and the nation’s commemorations.”

The National Memorial Arboretum will be holding a Remembrance service on Sunday 11th November, beginning at 10.40am, and a candlelight vigil on the Saturday evening. Philip added:

“Both the candlelight vigil and service on Armistice Day will be a fitting way to remember and commemorate the end of the Great War and those brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice giving up their lives for our freedom.  I’d definitely encourage people to visit this truly inspirational site and join in the commemorations.”

Features in the new centre include an audio-visual theatre recounting compelling personal stories of Remembrance, an area dedicated to the history of remembrance from the Bronze Age to the present day and an interactive poppy field in which leaves blossom into poppies as people walk across them.

Royalty visits NMA

Duke of Cambridge visits the National Memorial Arboretum in 2017

Other areas include a Remembrance Wall in which visitors can hang their personal memorials and a memory booth where they can record and share their stories in perpetuity.

The site already attracts around 300,000 visitors a year, attracting people from across the country and overseas, contributing £25m to the local economy. In the last two years alone, the site has hosted 15 royal visits and many political figures.