Friday, 12 October 2007

Opened by the Queen, closed to the public!...

Today was the official opening of the new war memorial in the national memorial arboretum. This huge circle of Portland stone has the names of the fallen carved on its inner edge. It is set on a huge mound, and has a slot specially aligned so at 11 o'clock on the 11th day of the 11 month, a shaft of sunlight will illuminate a statue of servicemen holding aloft a fallen comrade. The Queen and other dignitaries were on hand to perform the opening ceremony. Security was tight, and I had to cut through the back lanes in order to avoid the road closures.

You've never seen so many police, vans, cameras, motorbikes, plainclothes. All the local farms were being used as temporary bases for security personnel.
Still, I managed to find my way to the outskirts of the arboretum where the Queens entourage would arrive by car. As you can see I have no pictures, but you know what she looks like...big hat, nice car... I have no love for the Royal family; bunch of freeloading gits!

The general public weren't allowed in. I tried to explain that I wasn't a member of the public and never have been, but they weren't having any of it. Instead I found a little known car park by the nature reserve, that the royal security had adopted as their own. I parked alongside a black supercharged Range Rover that a man in a flack jacket with a gun was sat in monitoring the wireless cameras placed on the lampposts....if my car wasn't safe there it wasn't safe anywhere.
After a bit of wandering around looking for a good site overlooking the events, I came across a large van inhabited by some men in black with machine guns. I asked "Is there anywhere I can see the Queen and get a good shot?" As the words left my mouth, I realised they had been poorly chosen. Any way, I repacked my rucksack following the search and went on my way.

The closest I could get was across the lake in the nature reserve. The action was about 1/4 of a mile away, so I couldn't see much, but here there a some sailor chappies and a TV crew doing an interview.

The Queen sensibly kept out of sight, but did push her husband out into sniper range....

My main reason to be there was to watch the military flypasts. There was promise of a visit from the last Vulcan bomber still to fly. Vulcans are huge delta wing planes with an engine note that jibbles with your innards! It didn't show.....but there were Tornados, Typhoons etc.

Anticipating not being able to gain entry, I took some photos a little earlier so that you lot could see inside.
The National Memorial Arboretum is a 150 acre site with 50,000 trees set within the National Forest. The National Forest is a plan to recover Britain with trees once more. It's only 33,000 acres and so far they've only planted 7 million trees, but it's a good start and there are plans for another 20 million in the next 30 years.
The above statue is, "Shot at Dawn". During World War 1 many soldiers were shot for 'cowardice' or 'desertion' when often they were suffering from post traumatic stress and really had no control over their actions. Each of the posts has the name of a soldier executed by firing squad.

One of my favourite, and the first to be erected on the site is the polar bear representing the 49th West Riding Division.

I love the detail on this carving.

Memorial to maritime gunners.

The RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Association), a non government, volunteer based organisation that has saved countless lives around the coast.

One of the most stark and poignant is the open gate of a concentration camp...


photowannabe said...

This was a fascinating post Barkfoot. I liked your "travelogue" and the photos. I especially liked the concentration gate opened. Heart tugging.

Lavender said...

It would appear that the 'elite' had a wonderful time at the the second vid - is that herself walking thru?
The first vid made me laugh with just how far away you were....and the way the traffic noise seemed in time with the pan out - bravo!
'Shot at dawn' is the part that really gets me...just who is the enemy, anyway?

Floderten said...

War memorials and the likes always grips me. I remember when we went to France with my French class - we visited a little town whose name I've forgotten now (after extensive Googling and swearing I remembered - Verdun!) and we saw this memorial for soldiers killed during WW1 from that region. It was horrible..

The museum in itself looked like a giant penis (fitting? I don't know), and facing the parking lot were small windows showing the basement - large rooms full of odd bones that didn't have an "owner", so to speak. Skulls with bullet holes, bashed in... Really leaves you with a strange feeling when you leave.

I hate war monuments and museums. But they still fascinate me..

Gillian @ Indigo Blue said...

"I tried to explain that I wasn't a member of the public and never have been, but they weren't having any of it." You made me laugh out loud with this one!!! You are hilarious.
The last pic of the gate is sad.
In Washington we saw the Holocaust museum, and wow. That was a real eye opener.

somewhere joe said...

Her majesty's a pretty nice girl
but they keep her so far away...

I shudder to think what would have happened had somebody used the phrase, 'get a good shot', about The Decider, even in jest. Probably be taken away in a black helicopter. Deciders are generally not amused.

I'm moved by the Shot At Dawn statue, and its forest of posts; it memorializes several things at once.

Russell Hill said...

As usual, fascinating coverage.

What surprises me is that the nice men in the Range Rover and the van (all with their guns) didn't ask you what the heck you were doing?!

I mean, let's face it, you don't exactly blend in do you...

You do know we all call you Mr Shifty behind your back don't you? ;-)

barkfoot said...

Not blend in??! Me?
I'd got my kaki on and Jenny was wearing her camo combats, I don't think we looked at all suspicious. I emptied the rucksack of all incriminating objects (I thought), but during the search they did come across the camo face mask! I did remember not to leave the 'little red suitcase' in the back of the car ..thank god!

Outhouse Capital of Canada said...

I like the Polar Bear, do you suppose that regiment ever saw a polar bear? after being in Canada for over thirty years, the only Polar bear I saw was in a zoo. Is it made of wood and was it carved in Canada?
I have taken your lead in not being a member of the public, in fact, most of my life I have ignored no entry signs.