People in Staffordshire have gathered to welcome Prince William on his visit to the National Memorial Arboretum where he will oversee the official opening of the new Remembrance Centre.
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge met members of all three armed services at the Staffordshire site before taking a tour with local school children and volunteers. As well as unveiling a plaque marking the opening of the new £15.7 million centre, he also got the chance to view a new interactive exhibition.
Sited on 150 acres of former quarried land in Alrewas in Staffordshire, the national centre for remembrance has over 30,000 trees and over 330 memorials. It includes the famous Armed Forces Memorial, dedicated in 2007 which honours members of the Armed Forces who have died in service.
The royal visit follows a major fund-raising campaign and project to create the new Remembrance Centre featuring improvements to cope with increased visitor numbers, new learning facilities, and Heroes Square for large events.
Staffordshire County Council provided £3m towards the project to help the centre become a world class centre for commemoration.
John Henderson, Chief Executive at Staffordshire County Council and a former member of the armed forces said:
“We are incredibly proud to have the National Memorial Arboretum here in Staffordshire and it’s wonderful to be able to welcome Prince William to open the new facilities.
“The Arboretum is now very much a world class centre of remembrance and a symbolic place to learn and commemorate and we look forward to welcoming many more visitors to the site. It’s important that we remember and honour all those brave members of our armed forces who have given up their lives for our freedom. Now, with the Arboretum, Commonwealth Graves and German Cemetery on Cannock Chase, Staffordshire can continue to be a focus for the nation’s commemorations.”
The Staffordshire site already attracts around 300,000 visitors a year, attracting people not only from Staffordshire, but from across the country, and the world, contributing £25m to the local economy.
The National Memorial Arboretum has 40 new memorials planned, including, a National Memorial to British Victims of Oversees Terrorism and a National Police Memorial. The next phase of development at the site will see the creation of a new purpose-built pavilion for remembrance events of all sizes.