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 400,000+ annual visits & 6 million hits to 180  webpages & 3000 photos.  News and Information at the bottom of this and every web page.

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~ COMBINED OPERATIONS COMMAND MEMORIAL ~

MEMORIAL ARCHIVE

 

On Thursday, July 4th 2013, in the presence of Her Majesty's Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire, Mr Ian Dudson CBE and 200 guests including 25 WW2 veterans and 6 Standard Bearers, the Combined Operations Command Memorial was unveiled by General Sir Richard Barrons KCB CBE ADC Gen, Commander of the Joint Forces Command and dedicated by the Reverend Prebendary Tony Wood.

No greater honour could be bestowed on the service personnel of yesteryear, than for the Commander of their modern equivalent Force to honour their memory and achievements in this way.

The memorial is on the north bank of the River Tame in the grounds of the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas in Staffordshire, England.  Entrance to the Arboretum is free and visitors are very welcome. Electric scooters and golf style buggies are available for the less ambulant. The GPS coordinates are; Lat N 52 43.705 and Long W 1 43.934. The position of the memorial within the NMA grounds are; Lat N 52 43.866 and Long W 1 43.360.

In photos and text this page tells the story of the memorial from its tentative beginning in the mid "noughties" to the dedication ceremony.

 

Background Construction Progress (Photos) Diray of  Events Design & Materials Dedication Ceremony Guide for Guests Why a Memorial?

Background

Towards the end of the 1990s, my late father in law, John Glen, started to talk about his wartime service in the Combined Operations Command. By then the Command had all but faded from the collective mind of the people of the UK save for the few who had served in it and historians.

John Glen's qualifications in radio repairs caught the attention of the RAF and he trained as a radar technician and saw service at various land based coastal radar stations in Scotland and the north west of England. The work was top secret as was the conversion of three LSTs (Landing Ship Tank) to provide radar cover, early warning, friend or foe identification, communications and intelligence gathering off the Normandy beaches. By then a flight sergeant, he was seconded to the Combined Operations Command and reported to John Brown's shipyard on the Clyde where the three LSTs were being refitted and designated "Fighter Direction Tenders" (FDTs).

As his story of D-Day and its aftermath unfolded, I read Bernard Fergusson's excellent book "The Watery Maze" about the Combined Operations Command. At this time there was not a single reference to the Command on the Internet so I constructed a website and in 2000 published a few pages.

Despite the primitive search engines in those days, veterans, their families and friends found the website and offered material, photos, support and encouragement. The website grew like topsy and by 2004 I became aware that there was no memorial to the Command. With a mild sense of outrage, little preparation, no design, no place on which to build, no committee, no bank account and no money I launched the Combined Operations Memorial Fund.

There was so much goodwill it would have been difficult for the project to fail. Problems and obstacles were overcome and those attending the dedication ceremony confirmed that the memorial successfully represented the achievements and sacrifices of those who served in or alongside the Command. The presence of so many veterans and tear filled eyes was humbling. It was a happy and emotional day.

To preserve the record of the memorial project a number of "Memorial" web pages have been removed from the website and their contents decanted into an archive section below. The first is a photographic record of the construction, the second is about the design and materials

Construction Photo Gallery

37 The grass cut and the site tidied up in readiness for the dedication ceremony. 38 Thank you Richard Stimpson and the ASFA for the loan of equipment!
34 Information display is erected near roadway to inform passers-by... 35 ... and visitors about the Combined Operations Command. 36 The dedication plaque is secured to the apex stone which completes the memorial.
31 ...but thanks to Richard Stimpson the memorial site is restored. 32 This view is looking towards the Arboretum entrance. 33 Mid November 2012. Courtesy of Peter Scally.
28  ...nearly finished but not fully funded. 29 June 2012, the River Tame is in flood... 30 ... and the weeds are out of control...
25 Front view with position of the dedication plaque indicated. 26 Except for minor work and the purchase ...  27 ...and addition of the plaques, the memorial is...
22 The Navy's Oak and the Army's Ash are planted. 23 The mosaic wall almost completed. 24 The plaque and wall are sloped about 10 degrees from the vertical.
19 The spearhead shape becomes clear..... 20 ...as all the edging strips are concreted in place. 21 Paving stones laid and mosaic wall partially built.
16 Memorial from spearhead shaft with dedication stone in centre. 17 The edging strips are embedded in concrete. 18 Excavated soil is recycled to landscape the surrounding area.
13 Setting the 3 standing stones in quick setting concrete. 14 Work done for the day. 15 Information stone and stone tiles for spearhead shaft in foreground.
10 Holes dug. 11 Dedication stone at the spearhead tip placed in position. 12 2nd stone is lowered into the ground.
7 Work continues in the rain with Armed Forces Memorial in the far background. 8 Site is now ready for work to begin. 9 Site is cordoned off as digging foundation holes begins.
4 1.5t of rocks were generously donated by David Bonnar of the Clachan Quarry. 5 250,000 personnel were trained in amphibious landings on nearby training beaches. 6 Unloading the stones at the memorial site after a journey of 400 miles.
1 Memorial site looking east along the River Tame. A tranquil setting on a nice day. 2 Site looking west. The Arboretum's road network is moving into the area. 3 Clachan Quarry, Loch Fyne. Hand picking rocks for the wall bearing the 1m wide badge mosaic.

[Photos 1, 2, 25, 26 & 27 kindly provided by Simon Roberts and many of the remainder by Richard Stimpson.]

Diary of Events

04/07/13 The Dedication Ceremony!
05/06/13 The Dedication plaque is secured to the apex stone.
20/04/13 The information display is erected courtesy of Richard Stimpson.
20/04/13 General Richard Barrons, CBE, Commander of the Joint Forces Command will unveil the dedication plaque.
13/12/12 Air Chief Marshall Sir Stuart Peach, KCB, CBE, Commander of the Joint Forces Command, will unveil the dedication plaque at a ceremony to be held on Thursday July 4th 2013.
23/11/12 The memorial site was flooded over several days. Debris was removed and damage made good thanks to Richard Stimpson and Mike Colton. (Photos; Richard Stimpson).
22/11/12 Information Plaques delivered. Next step is the manufacture of the free-standing display stand.
14/10/12 Dedication and Information Display plaques ordered.
16/09/12 Display board and plaques approved by the NMA's Memorials Advisory Committee. Three quotations sought for the manufacture of the plaques.
15/04/12 Memorial almost completed.  Disturbed soil surrounding the memorial to be seeded, Sitka Spruce tree to be sourced and planted and the positions of the plaques to be recessed. Minor addition to the standing stone behind the mosaic wall to provide the recessed shape on the centre-line of the memorial.
02/04/12 Mosaic wall nearing completion.
14/03/12 Paving stones laid down and spearhead shape filled in with base material. Oak and ash trees in place.
14/02/12 The edging strips are concreted in place permitting us to clearly see the spearhead shape of the memorial for the first time.
21/11/11 The 3 standing stones were placed in pre-prepared holes and concreted in. Work was halted after two days when the access roadway near the memorial site was deemed unfit for very heavy goods vehicles. Work will resume in the spring when improved ground conditions permit access.
20/10/11 Memorial Site Marked Out. Position and orientation of memorial plot marked out and temporary information sign erected.
14/10/11 Contractor appointed. Work to start in November, weather permitting.
05/09/11 Seeking tenders for construction of the memorial.
14/08/11 Amended Plan Approved.
14/04/11 Amended plan submitted to the NMA to 1) improve the display of the mosaic by moving it from a horizontal position to a vertical position, 2) reduce the cost of construction and 3) reduce the need for long term future maintenance. Full details here.
28/02/11 Seeking tenders for construction of the memorial. (Postponed. See note above).
24/02/11 Memorial Site; National Memorial Arboretum confirmed location of the Memorial.
13/02/11

Mosaic; The photos show the final stages in the manufacturing process as the mosaic was set in a 70mm deep stainless steel circular frame and secured in place by a fine screed poured into the frame and over a reinforcing mesh. The quality of finish and attention to detail is of the highest standard befitting the purpose of the mosaic. [Photos courtesy of P & A Massey of Zantium Studios]

07/12/09 Mosaic; design artwork approved.
22/09/09 Mosaic; work commissioned.
19/08/09 Four Large Stones weighing around 15 tons uplifted from the Clachan Quarry on Loch Fyne, Scotland and transported 375 miles to the National Memorial Arboretum.
28/04/09 Plans approved by the NMA trustees.
06/01/09 First application to erect a memorial to Combined Operations in the grounds of the National Memorial Arboretum (NMA) in Staffordshire submitted to their trustees for consideration.

Design and Materials

There is a high level of symbolism in the design and content of the memorial. Combined Operations drew on the personnel, resources and best practices of Land, Sea and Air forces and in the design the Army, Navy and Air Force are represented by the 3 trees and 3 stones. The spear-head shape is indicative of the archetypal attack formation adopted during raids and landings - the tip representing the initial assault troops, the main part of the spearhead representing the support troops and reinforcements and the shaft reserves. The stones came from Loch Fyne in Scotland where hundreds of thousands of service personnel trained in amphibious landing techniques under the auspices of Combined Operations. Some Commandos were also trained in the rugged terrain of this area. Who amongst them ever forgot Inveraray!

The Four Large Stones, around 2.0m to 2.7m in length, were generously donated by David and Danny Bonnar of Clachan Quarries, Loch Fyne, Scotland.

The Trees

Three tree varieties were chosen for their symbolic association with the three services... oak for the Navy, ash for Army and Sitka Spruce for the RAF. Oak was used in the construction of the early wooden battle ships including HMS Victory, ash was used in the construction of wheels and limbers for the artillery, frames and wheels for field transport (RAMC and RASC lorries), pick-axe handles and the rings for rope ladders while the Sitka spruce was used in the construction of early 'stick and string' planes right through to the modern era. We are indebted to the RN Naval Historical Branch, the RAF Historical Society and Mr Dick Stimpson for their advice in the selection of the trees. They Sitka Spruce will be positioned a few metres behind the dedication stone, the oak will be positioned forward and to the right of the spearhead shape appropriately close to the river and the ash in a similar position to the left of the spearhead shape.

The Plaques

The dedication plaque is made of black, unpolished granite with white lettering. It will be recessed into the standing stone at the apex of the spearhead shape. The colourful, acrylic information display is attached to a hardwood base and will be positioned in front of the memorial to the left of the spearhead shaft on a wooden stand. To view the plaques click on the links below.

Dedication Information 1 Information 2 Information 3 Information 4

The Mosaic

The mosaic is contained within a 50 mm deep stainless steel band 1m in diameter. In the design the eagle represents the RAF, the Thompson machine gun represents the Army and the anchor represents the Navy. The red parts in the design are made of vitreous glass mosaic tiles and the remainder aquatic ceramic tiles. This combination provides the best contrast between the black and red colours.

 

The Mosaic Wall

The wall is faced with stones from the same quarry as the larger stones thus reinforcing the historical association with the No 1 Combined Training Centre at Inveraray on Loch Fyne.

The Paved Area

The paved stone was chosen to match the carboniferous limestone from Loch Fyne. It will allow easy access for pedestrians, wheelchairs and buggies. The outer edge of the spearhead shape comprises 28m of edging stone. The area within the triangle not covered by the slabs or occupied by the mosaic wall and the standing stones, has been filled in with crushed slate similar in appearance to the standing stones to provide a flat and level surface.

Dedication Ceremony - Guide for Guests

~ DEDICATION CEREMONY ~

THURSDAY 4TH JULY 2013 AT 1.30 PM

The original time for the start of the dedication ceremony has been brought forward by 30 minutes to accommodate additions to the ceremony. Revised timetable below. Recommended arrival time 11.30 am to 12.20 pm. Veterans, please wear your medals with pride!

 

 Invitations VIPs Travel/Parking Arrival/Reception Ceremony / Wreath Laying

Invitations

The formal invitation list is now closed. Thank you for your interest.

VIPs

General Sir Richard Barrons KCB CBE ADC Gen, Commander of the Joint Forces Command, will unveil the dedication plaque at the ceremony. It's very fitting for the service personnel of yesteryear who served in or alongside the Combined Operations Command, to be honoured by the presence of the Commander of their modern equivalent force.

The Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire, Mr Ian Dudson, CBE, accompanied by his wife, will also take part in the ceremony.

Travel/Parking

A National Memorial Arboretum leaflet, which includes information about travelling, accompanied the invitations.

Disabled "Blue Badge" holders may use the car park adjacent to the visitor centre, otherwise please use the overspill car park, beyond the main entrance, which will be sign-posted. This car park is a 10 minute walk to the marquee. However, passengers may be dropped off near the visitor centre entrance before parking in either location. Pay and Display charges will apply. [Aerial view courtesy of Google Earth.]

Arrival/Reception

For the majority, arrival at the Arboretum between 11.30 am and 12.20 should allow time to park, receive information from the Memorial Reception Desk in the visitor centre and proceed to the marquee for refreshments - a total distance of around 300 yards from the disabled parking area.

The Memorial Reception desk will be manned from 11.30 am to 1.00 pm. Late arrivals may wish to go directly to the memorial site for the start of the ceremony at 1.30 pm. The memorial is a good 15 minute walk from the visitor centre. On the day, two large "golf style" buggies with 5 passenger seats will be available to transport anyone needing assistance over this distance. Please let me know if you would like to use this service. If there is a heavy demand we'll need to start the shuttle service earlier than 1 pm.

If you require the use of a motorised scooter or wheelchair from the Arboretum, please make arrangements with them in advance - info@thenma.org.uk or 01283 792 333. Scooters - 5.00, wheelchairs free. Supplies are not unlimited so please book early to avoid disappointment.

Pre-ordered poppy wreaths are available from the Arboretum for uplift on the day of the ceremony at a cost of 18.00. For a further 2.00, an insert with a message and/or image will be added. Your text and/or image should be sent to the Arboretum by e-mail attachment (PDF). Please order well in advance to avoid disappointment. Contact info@thenma.org.uk or 01283 792 333.

For Sat Nav purposes the post code of the Arboretum is DE13 7AR.

Programme including Dedication and Wreath Laying Ceremonies

As further detail is added to the ceremony the schedule below may be subject to minor changes.

11.30 - 1.00. Arrive, check in at the Combined Operations reception in the visitor centre and assemble in the marquee where name badges will be issued and tea, coffee and biscuits will be served from 12 noon to 1.00 pm.
1.00 1.30. Make way to the memorial site.
1.30 2.15. The ceremony will start with the arrival of the Official Party and Standards.

 
i) Welcome and introductions, brief history of the memorial project and symbolism in the memorial design and materials. Geoffrey Slee, Combined Operations Memorial Fund.
2) Combined Operations in WW2 and the Joint Forces Command in 2013. General Richard Barrons, CBE, Commander, Joint Forces Command
3) Remembrance and Learning for Future Generations. Lord Lieutenant for Staffordshire, Mr Ian Dudson CBE.
4) Dedication service. The Reverend Prebendary Tony Wood.
5) Unveiling of the dedication plaque. General Barrons.
6) Dedication of the memorial. The Reverend Prebendary Tony Wood.
7) Laying of wreaths. Groups and individuals.
8) Last Post and Reveille. Bugler Adrian Harper.

2.15 3.00. Official and family photos/return to the marquee.
3.00 4.40. Reception - afternoon tea, displays, guest book, social mixing, announcements.
4.40 5.00. Dispersal. The Arboretum closes at 5.00.

Guest Book

A leather bound guest book will be circulated during the reception which everyone is very welcome to sign. Half of the book will be used to display photos and messages received by post or e-mail following the event. The book will become a permanent record of the day's events.

Visit the memorial sub web for other information about the memorial.

Why a Memorial?

Combined Operations was set up by Churchill post Dunkirk to think, plan and train for offensive operations. They were the only ones doing this at a time when the "regular" armed forces were rightly concerned with the defence of the country. The resultant planning and preparations for battle were organised under the contiguous commands of Keyes and Mountbatten.

The many major battles and campaigns of WW2 are well documented and amply represented in museums at home and abroad and in books and films but few realise that without Combined Operations the results might have been very different. Combined Operations trained hundreds of thousands of men in amphibious landing techniques, set up the Commando Units and oversaw the Mulberry Harbour project, PLUTO (Pipeline Under the Ocean), Hobart's Funnies (innovative adaptations to tanks for beach clearing), seaborne radar and communications (Fighter Direction Tenders) and even experiments in the design of ships made of ice, not to mention the design, procurement and subsequent modification of around 40 different types of landing craft.

The strength of Combined Operations had its origins in the three services working closely together under a single command. Their aptly chosen motto "United We Conquer" needs no  explanation.

Many thousands died while serving in the Combined Operations Command or in support of its raids and landings. The memorial will therefore;

  •  remember those who served in Combined Operations or were trained by them and especially those who were killed in action or in countless realistic amphibious training exercises,

  •  pay tribute to all who served in Combined Operations from the three services of many Allied nations,

  •  celebrate the wider achievements of Combined Operations including Mulberry, PLUTO, Hobart's Funnies etc.,

  •  preserve the memory of Combined Operations by providing free access to information about Combined Operations on www.combinedops.com

  •  encourage young people to use the website for educational and/or family research purposes.

The memorial will be prominently featured on the Combined Ops website so those unable to visit the physical memorial will find a focus for reflection and remembrance and the website URL will be displayed on the memorial.

Those who served the Allied cause in Combined Operations deserve to be recognised and remembered. After all they trained together, they served together and they died together. It is time to remember them.. together.

News & Information

 

Memorial Maintenance

We have a small band of volunteers who take turns to visit the memorial each month, particularly during the growing season, to undertake routine maintenance such as weeding keeping the stones and slabs clear of bird dropping, lichen etc. and reporting on any issues. If you live near the National Memorial Arboretum and would like to find out more, please contact us.

Remember a Veteran

You can pay a personal tribute to veterans who served in, or alongside, the Combined Operations Command in WW2 by adding their details and optional photo to our Roll of Honour and They Also Served pages on this website.

Read the Combined Operations prayer.

Forthcoming Events

To organisers: Reach the people who will be interested to know about your Combined Operations or war related event by adding it to our forthcoming events page free of charge.

To everyone else; Visit our forthcoming events page for things to see and places to visit. If you know of an event of possible interest, that is not listed, please let us know.

To notify an event click here.

To visit the webpage click here.

Facebook

Why not join the thousands who visit our Facebook page about the Combined Operations Command in appreciation of our WW2 veterans.

See the 'slide shows' of the dedication ceremony and the construction of the memorial plus the 'On this day in 194?' feature where major Combined Ops events are highlighted on their anniversary dates with links to additional information.

You are welcome to add information, photos and comment or reply to messages posted by others.

Find Books of Interest 

Search for Books direct from our Books page. Don't have the name of a book in mind? Just type in a keyword to get a list of possibilities... and if you want to purchase you can do so on line through the Advanced Book Exchange (ABE). 5% commission goes into the memorial fund.

WW2 Combined Operations Handbook

This handbook was prepared for Combined Operations in the Far East. It illustrates the depth and complexity of the planning process necessary to ensure that the 3 services worked together as a unified force.

Restoration of Geoffrey Appleyard's  Memorial 

Click on the image if you'd like to contribute to the improvement of the memorial to Geoffrey Appleyard, DSO, MC and Bar, through the purchase of a limited edition print of a book about him. Geoffrey achieved so much in service with No 7 Commando, No 62 Commando, the Small Scale Raiding Force and the Second SAS Regiment. He was posted Missing in Action in July 1943, aged 26.

www.bramleywarmemorial.com/major-geoffrey-appleyard-book-now-available-for-purchase/

The Gazelle Helicopter Squadron Display Team

The Gazelle Squadron is a unique team of ex-British Military Gazelle helicopters in their original military colours and with their original military registrations. The core team includes four Gazelles, one from each service; The Royal Navy, The Royal Marines, The Army Air Corps and The Royal Air Force. A fifth Gazelle in Royal Marines colours will provide intimate support for the team. Their crest includes the Combined Operations badge. The last, and possibly, only time the badge was seen on an aircraft was in the early mid 40s. A photo of the Hurricane concerned is included in the 516 Squadron webpage.

Legasee Film Archive

As part of an exciting social history project, the film company Legasee is looking for veterans from any conflict who would like to have their stories filmed for posterity. Films are now available on line. www.legasee.org.uk

New to Combined Ops?

Visit Combined Operations Explained for an easy introduction to the subject.

About Us?

Background to the website and memorial project, and a look to the future; plus other small print stuff and website accounts etc. Click here for information.

 

Print too small or large?

Easy solution when browsing. I) PC. To increase hold down Ctrl and shift and press +. To decrease hold down Ctrl and press -. 2) MAC. To increase Command + and to decrease Command -.

 

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