National Memorial Arboretum

The NMA is UK’s year-round place to remember, and exists to provide a space where everyone can celebrate lives lived and commemorate lives lost.

The grounds are expansive, covering around 150-acres, and are made up of woodlands and gardens. Placed within the grounds are more than 400 memorials, each with an amazing story to tell. The designs of many of the memorials feature symbolism that can be used to help understand the stories of those remembered.

Although lots of the memorials at the Arboretum are connected to military organisations there are also memorials in the grounds for the emergency services and for other charitable organisations who provide invaluable service to our country. The site also features nearly 25,000 trees, many of which remember individuals or organisations, with the species of a tree often selected for symbolic purposes. 

The Arboretum was the idea of Commander David Childs CBE who, having been inspired by a visit to Arlington Cemetery and the National Arboretum in Washington, believed a year-round national centre of Remembrance was needed in the UK to ensure we never forget.

Supported by Group Captain Leonard Cheshire VC, an appeal was launched in 1994 by the then Prime Minister, John Major.

The project began with no money, no land, no staff and no trees. The National Lottery, in the form of the Millennium Commission, granted some forty per cent of the funds needed and this was matched by thousands of donations, both large and small, from a wide variety of organisations both military and civilian, men and women, corporate and voluntary.

The site, based in Alrewas Staffordshire between Burton upon Trent and Lichfield, was developed on reclaimed gravel workings, bordered by the Rivers Trent and Tame, gifted to the charity by Redland Aggregates, now Tarmac.

Planting began in 1997 and the Arboretum was created by a small army of volunteers and an original friends group with the vital support and grants from the Forestry Commission and the National Forest Company. From the start it was seen as a place of joy where the lives of people would be remembered by living trees that would grow and mature in a world at peace. The Polar Bear Memorial was the first actual memorial to be placed at the Arboretum. This tribute to the 49th West Riding Infantry Division was dedicated on 7 June 1998.

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