The Duke of Cambridge has met veterans, volunteers and schoolchildren at the official opening of our new Remembrance Centre. Today’s milestone event followed a successful fundraising campaign and a generous final contribution from our parent charity, The Royal British Legion.
The Remembrance Centre encourages visitors to embark on an inspiring journey of discovery. 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. His Royal Highness 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.”
“Most importantly, the new Learning Centre will help ensure that future generations are engaged in learning about the contributions and sacrifices that have been made; they will ensure the memory of the fallen is safeguarded through the years.”
His Royal Highness is Patron of the National Memorial Arboretum Appeal, which has funded the construction of the new £15.7 million Remembrance Centre. The appeal was supported by numerous individuals and organisations, including Staffordshire County Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Landscapes of Life features a wide variety of high quality, interactive activities, and an audio guide for use around many of the site’s memorials. It explores how the practice of Remembrance has evolved over time in different cultures – from historic rituals associated with burial mounds, to online tribute pages, and contemporary remembrance services on key dates throughout the year.
Visitors will experience an immersive film, projected onto multiple screens inside ‘The Drum’. The film follows the seasons and will explore why remembering is an important human need that spans the millennia. Visitors’ footsteps will cause digital leaves to be swept aside to reveal swathes of poppies, and people will have the opportunity to record and upload their own stories to a new national archive through a unique Memory Booth.
Enhanced learning facilities are a fundamental part of the new centre; new spaces will allow school visitors to grow from 15,000 to 25,000. The learning team use the Arboretum’s assets – the memorials, the local area and wildlife - to generate a greater understanding of Remembrance in a relevant and engaging way.
During today’s event, sincere thanks were offered to Major General Patrick Cordingley, Chair of the Appeal Council, and the entire project team, for their tireless work over several years. The iconic new building was designed by Glenn Howells Architects, and brought into reality by Stepnell, the main construction contractor for the project.
Lt Col David Whimpenny, Chairman of the National Memorial Arboretum board, said: “The Duke has been involved in this project for many years and we thank him for his ongoing support and encouragement. It was particularly pleasing that some of our younger visitors were able to talk with The Duke and explain what Remembrance means to them."
“Visitors to the new exhibition have all commented on the remarkable experience, with the immersive film in The Drum and the chance to record personal stories in the Memory Booth being particular engaging.”
Following the recent terror attack in London, which left one Police officer dead, one with life changing injuries and two injured, The Duke laid a tribute near ‘The Beat’ in order to acknowledge the service and bravery of all policemen and women. The Beat is dedicated to all British polices forces and contains many individual dedications to fallen officers. It is home to the annual Care of Police Survivors event for families of fallen officers. The Arboretum is also set to be the location for a new UK Police Memorial which will record the names of over 1,800 police officers and staff who have died from injuries sustained while carrying out their lawful duties.