~ DEDICATION CEREMONY -
4th JULY 2013 ~
The 130 photos below tell the story of a
memorable day of happiness and emotion as the long held dream of a
Combined Operations Command memorial came to fruition and absent
comrades and loved ones were fondly remembered. Click
on the thumbnails to enlarge the photos. There are no copyright restrictions.
contact me if you'd like a high resolution copy of any of the photos
on display or if you have any photos of the event that may be of
Coffee, tea and biscuits were provided
from 12 noon in the Arboretum's marquee adjacent to the visitor centre.
It was a welcome opportunity to recover from the journey, to exchange
news and information with other guests and to meet e-mail friends for
time. Veterans were soon engaged in animated chat as they recalled
events of 70 years earlier.
Four display boards were provided for
guests to add photographs and brief war service details of veterans and
to display posters of D-Day prepared by 11 year olds from Peel Primary
School in Livingston, Scotland as part of their WW2 curriculum.
All guests received a detailed programme
of the day's events and on cue, at 1 o'clock, they made their way down
to the memorial site. Scooters and golf style buggies transported the
The Official Party comprised Her Majesty's
Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire, Mr Ian Dudson, CBE and his wife Jane,
General Sir Richard Barrons, KCB
CBE ADC Gen, Commander of the Joint Forces Command,
Military Artist, David Thorp and his wife, Olwen, the Reverend
Prebendary Tony Wood and Geoffrey Slee and his wife, Margaret.
By the time the official party
arrived at 1.30 pm everyone with a job to do was in place including 6
Standard Bearers, a piper and a bugler. Seating was neatly arranged in
a cosy L shape.
Dedication & Unveiling
Proceedings were opened
by Geoffrey Slee, who organised the event, with a warm welcome and a
brief history of the Combined Operations website and the memorial project.
Around £15,000 had been raised through donations and fund raising
initiatives of which around £13,300 was spent on the construction of
He explained that there was a high
level of symbolism in the design of the memorial - the spearhead shape
being the archetypal attack formation adopted on Commando raids and
major landings with the sharp end representing the initial assault
troops, the main body of the triangle representing the supporting forces and reinforcements
and the spearhead shaft representing the reserves.
The symbolism continued in the
materials used in the construction of the memorial. The four large
stones and the smaller stones used to build the wall that bears the
mosaic, came from a quarry on the shores of Loch Fyne in Scotland
where 250,000 service personnel from the 3 services trained together in amphibious landing
techniques. Who amongst veterans will ever forget Inveraray!?
The memorial was enclosed by three
trees - oak for the Navy, Ash for the Army and Sitka Spruce for the
RAF, each of which had an historical association with the service
it represents. The WW2 pillbox in the background and close proximity of the
River Tame added to the ambiance as they provided elements that were familiar to many who served in,
or alongside, the Combined Operations Command - water and defensive gun
General Barrons provided a brief
history of the Combined Operations Command from the prickly
relationship Sir Roger Keyes had with the Chiefs of Staff through the
Mountbatten years to the end of the war and beyond under the
stewardship of General Laycock. The role of the present day Joint
Forces Command was, of course, very different but there was affinity
between the two commands as the wearing of the Combined Operations
badge by some units of the Joint Forces Command testified.
here to read General Barrons' speech.
Lord Lieutenant Dudson reminded
everyone that the Combined Operations Command website will remain the
educational component of the memorial while there is a demand for the
information it contains. The website is visited by 250,000 people each
year recording millions of hits. With the advent of mobile phones and
computer tablets, it will be possible, within a year, for visitors to
the memorial site to view a film of the amphibious part of D-Day,
effectively seeing what the memorial represents on their visit.
Laying of Wreaths & Other Tributes
HM Lord Lieutenant for Staffordshire
laid the first wreath followed by General Barrons. Two great
grandchildren of RAF Combined Ops veteran, John Glen, laid the next
wreath on behalf of all who supported the memorial fund. It was John
Glen's reminiscences of his service in the Combined Operations Command that
planted the seed from which grew the Combined Operations Command
website, established in 2000 and the Combined Operations Memorial Fund
set up in 2005.
The wreaths and other tributes laid
by veterans, their families and friends provided the most emotional
and poignant part of the ceremony. Many a tear was shed as thoughts
turned to absent comrades and loved ones. Much courage, determination
and dignity was on display that afternoon.
They shall not grow
old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the
years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we
will remember them.
When you go home,
tell them of us and say - for your tomorrow we gave our today.
For their help on the day, thanks are due
to Brenda Gordon and Elizabeth Hall (reception desk), Ken Hope, Ann
Hope, Mike Phillips and Sheila Phillips (marquee reception and name
badges), Mike Hall (MC/trouble-shooter), Colin Gillespie (arrangements
at the memorial site), David Thorp (VIP greeter), Richard Stimpson
(organisation of standard bearers),
Harriet Calfo (official photographer) with
additional photos by Mike Wright, Pam Wright and Sarah Slee. The general
factotum was David Slee. Thanks also to Mike McKenna (Piper),
Adrian Harper (Bugler) and the six
standard bearers whose presence greatly honoured and respected all
veterans who served in or alongside the Combined Operations Command.
Thank you so much for the many e-mail
messages, letters, cards and phone calls.
The memorial is in the grounds of the
National Memorial Arboretum (NMA) around 20 north, north east of
Birmingham near the village of Alrewas, Staffordshire. 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.
Combined Operations Memorial Fund