Bosses at the National Memorial Arboretum say a new pledge will ensure the site remains an “open and inclusive” location for future generations. The commitment comes after proposals were unveiled for an expansion of the Alrewas site in the form of a new memorial woodland.
Philippa Rawlinson, managing director of the arboretum, said she was keen to see the national centre for remembrance continuing to welcome people from all backgrounds.
“Remembrance is a universal concept that spans cultures and communities and has been an important human need for millennia.
“The arboretum provides a reflective space for people from all walks of life to celebrate lives lived and commemorate lives lost and we are working to remove any remaining barrier that might prevent people from learning about the incredible stories of service and sacrifice behind our almost 400 memorials.
“As the nation’s year-round centre of remembrance, we are continually developing new routes for people to engage with this important human need, respecting that everyone remembers differently.”
Among the almost 400 memorials at the arboretum are tributes to Sikh soldiers who served during the First World War, members of the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women, and those who work in the Royal Army Chaplains Department.
Major Naveed Muhammad MBE, national liaison officer for the British Army, said:
“The National Memorial Arboretum is a place which is very welcoming and open for people, regardless of where they come from.
“I’ve been involved in initiatives at the arboretum, reaching out to Muslim and other communities to visit and look at memorials which may be relevant to them.
“For example, the First World War Victoria Cross Commemorative Paviors, where you can look at the name of someone such as Khudadad Khan, the first ever recipient of the Victoria Cross serving in the British Indian Army.”
Major Naveed Muhammad MBE
The arboretum has drawn up plans for continued inclusivity as the site marks its 20th anniversary. As part of the pledge, the arboretum says it will continue to seize opportunities to explore more stories from previously unrecognised communities. Last year, a commemorative programme to mark the 75th anniversary of VJ Day included a virtual illustrated exhibition that told the story of the Forgotten Fourteenth. The 14th Army was one of the most diverse forces in history, comprising a million people from across Britain, the Empire and the Commonwealth, and their contribution during the Second World War is often overlooked.
Head of participation and learning Chris Ansell said:
“The tale of the 14th Army is just one of many incredible stories of heroism and comradery which is not talked about enough.
“As we develop exhibitions and other commemorative activities, we are determined to include inspirational stories that reflect the diverse communities which have served our nation and continue to do so today.”