In 2014 Major General Patrick Cordingley, Chairman of the Appeal Council of the National Memorial Arboretum (NMA) in Alrewas, Staffordshire asked us help with a major fundraising project. The Appeal Council had been working tirelessly on raising the much-needed funds for a new visitor centre and more help was needed with a particular area of the fundraising.
The NMA is the UK’s year-round centre of Remembrance; a spiritually uplifting place which honours the fallen, recognises service and sacrifice and fosters pride in our country. The award-winning 150-acre woodland site is home to more than 380 memorials, including the national Armed Forces Memorial. It is visited by in excess of 300,000 visitors each year, including nearly 20,000 young people on learning visits but was in need of a significantly updated and fit for purpose remembrance centre.
The specific project, in which I was involved as Executive Fundraiser, was called Heroes’ Square. I was asked to raise £1.2 million for this area and this we did. Heroes’ Square and The Boyes Garden, a transitional area, frame the view of the Armed Forces Memorial from the main building and provide the focal point of the stunning new Remembrance Centre. It is a calming and imposing entrance into the grounds and features over 190 paviours, representing the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, the British Army, the Royal Air Force, and many Livery Companies, Organisations and Clubs associated with the Armed Forces. These have been engraved and laid in Heroes’ Square. The area, which is flanked by the Millennium Chapel on one side and by the new remembrance building on the two other sides, looks magnificent and is where visitors can gather, and memorial events can be delivered.
We finally put down 36 paviours for the Royal Navy, 74 for the British Army, 31 for the Royal Air Force, 39 for the Livery Companies, 10 for London Clubs – and 6 others. The project was very complex involving selling each paviour and finding donors for a variety of things in the Square – including the stunning garden. Moreover, considerable attention to detail was required to ensure complete acracy with the engraving of all the crests. The beautiful stones are made from Yorkshire Scoutmoor due to its hard-wearing abilities and also for its unique visual appeal. The late Duke of Westminster who was on the Appeal Council but sadly died before the project had been finished is also recognised in Heroes’ Square for all he had contributed to the Appeal.
Following a successful fundraising campaign HRH the Duke of Cambridge, Patron to the appeal, officially opened the £15.7 million Remembrance Centre on 29 March 2017. He met veterans, volunteers and schoolchildren at the official opening of our new Remembrance Centre. His Royal Highness visited a key part of the centre, the Landscapes of Life exhibition, where he was shown around the numerous interactive elements by groups of schoolchildren. He Royal then unveiled a commemorative plaque and met veterans from each of the Services in Heroes’ Square.
Writing in the programme for the event, the Duke said: ‘The National Memorial Arboretum honours and remembers those men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of this country. This is a place for special memories, many of them sad, but hopefully, many of them happy too. We all have an important job to do in keeping these memories alive for future generations and this new Remembrance Centre will play a significant role in that duty.’
Major General Patrick Cordingley, Chair of the Appeal Council, said:
“Nine years ago we launched our appeal, and have been fortunate to have the patronage of HRH The Duke of Cambridge. It was not an easy fundraising task but due to the immensely generous individuals, charitable trusts, companies and organisations who have supported our campaign, we now have a Remembrance Centre of which the Nation can be proud. It is a fitting memorial to all those who have given their lives in the service of this country.”
“We are so proud of what we achieved and are hugely grateful to all those associations, clubs, companies and other individuals who got behind us and helped us raise the funds. It has been remarkable and in April 2018, The National Memorial Arboretum was announced as the winner of the Large Visitor Attraction category in the Visit England Awards for Excellence 2018. It is so special to see this stunning area Heroes’ Square being used for so many events including the D-Day 75 Anniversary Commemorative Service and it continues to be the most beautiful place of reflection.” Caroline Cary – Executive Fundraiser