Birmingham visits the National Arboretum

“When you go home, Tell them of us and say,

“For your tomorrow, We gave our today.”

Earlier this year, 5th June 2024, the Birmingham branch organised a visit to the National Arboretum at Alrewas in Staffordshire.  It was the day before the 80th commemorations of the D-Day landings.

Branch members arrived in good time to attend the daily Act of Remembrance and learnt about the origin of the two minutes silence and listened to the Last Post.  The land train which provided an easy way to go round the whole 150 acre site.

It was a surprise to learn that the arboretum isn’t wholly dedicated to the military; there were memorials to the miners, the victims of terrorist attacks, children affected by war and that there are plans to expand the site to build a Covid memorial, remembering all the workers who helped the country through the pandemic.

As the train reached the end of its journey, it passed the memorials to the different regiments and services and what beautiful artwork is contained there.  Not just the many bronze statues of soldiers, but also eagles, horses, lions, angels and even a polar bear.  Someone clearly had a sense of humour as the PE regiment’s memorial is in the shape of the vaulting horse, remembered from the gym at school.

After a tasty lunch, there was time to look round the 1944 exhibitions, commissioned especially for the commemorations.  Walking into the ‘living room’ area was like being a small child again.  The first thing was ‘my’ coat hanging on the peg, with its velvet collar and double row of buttons.  The Singer sewing machine, bottles of milk on the table and antimacassars on the seats.  On the writing desk was a partially written letter to a husband, away fighting; heartbreaking in its normality.

The following day the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh would be standing where the Branch stood, taking part in the act of remembrance for those heroes who did not return home, and the celebrations for those who did.