On the 28th of April 2009 the trustees of the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, England approved our plans for a Combined Operations Memorial. The National and International recognition so deserving of the Combined Operations Command in WW2, particularly during the critical years Mountbatten was in charge, will soon be realised.
The memorial has a spearhead shape comprising an equilateral triangle with 8m sides and a shaft at its base. The 1m diameter, circular mosaic of the Combined Operations insignia is set in a stone wall in the centre of the triangle. An Information board will be positioned forward of the memorial. (Click on the photo for an alternative view.)
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 they 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 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.
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 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.
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.
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;
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.
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