On Wednesday 25th June I travelled up to Staffordshire to attend the AJEX Ceremony and Parade in honour of Armed Forces Day at The National Memorial Arboretum http://www.thenma.org.uk/ .
The National Memorial Arboretum is the UK’s year-round Centre for Remembrance. It is a beautiful place honouring those who have served, and continue to serve, Britain in many different ways. There are over 50,000 trees planted at the site which covers 150 acres. The trees and over 200 dedicated memorials at the site make the Arboretum “a living tribute that will forever acknowledge the personal sacrifices made by the Armed Forces and civil services of this country.”
The focus of the NMA is not only on military remembrance. There are large areas devoted to the Police, Fire and Rescue and Ambulance services. National charities representing those who have died in particular circumstances, including children, are also to be found in the Arboretum grounds.
The day before Niki and I travelled up to Cannock and stayed at the picturesque Ramada Hotel…
In the morning, in partnership with the Holocaust Education Trust, we visited Great Wyrley School. Niki and Ron Shelley (our Museum Chairman) spoke to a school group about Armed Forces Week, the British Jewish contribution to the Armed Forces and what was planned for the day ahead.
Arriving at The National Memorial Arboretum, I was amazed by the beauty and tranquillity of the site. Ron Shelley first led the school group to the Shot at Dawn Memorial and The Armed Forces memorial.
The Shot at Dawn Memorial
This memorial commemorates the 306 British and Commonwealth soldiers who were shot for desertion or cowardice during World War I. Most were sentenced after a short trial at which no real opportunity for defence was allowed. Today it is recognised that many of these men were suffering from shell-shock.
The Armed Forces Memorial
This commemorates the men and women of British Armed and Merchant Services who have lost their lives in conflict, as a result of terrorist action or on training exercises since the end of WWII.
The AJEX Ceremony and Services
We then made our way to the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (AJEX) Memorial where AJEX held a parade and service in memory of those who have fallen.
After the service at the AJEX Memorial the parade moved on to the Normandy Memorial, in recognition of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings.