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Service of Dedication at the National Memorial Arboretum - 5th October 2017

Service of Dedication at the National Memorial Arboretum

Thursday 5th October 2017

‘Invitation, identity, wristband. Invitation, identity, wristband,’ I chanted to myself as I travelled to the Arboretum. Along with Trustee Marilyn Lawton I was on meet and greet duty for those members who were invited guests.

‘You won’t recognise me from this,’ the smiling members greeted us as they gave us their passports, driving licences and bus passes, which included unsmiling photos, that we needed to use to identify each guest and check them off the list.

They were then either given a blue wristband, showing they were to have a seat at the ceremony, and order of service. Or a silver wristband, showing that they would meet Princess Ann after the ceremony, plus order of service and one of our new lanyards showing their name.

Everyone arrived in good time and Marilyn and myself went in a buggy to where the new TG monument had been placed. It is in a beautifully peaceful position, facing the river with a background of trees. We brought the rest of the orders of service with us and gave them to many members who had come to be part of the dedication but knowing they would not have a seat. They were pleased to have these so that they could join in and take them home as a memory of the day.

We took our seats and waited for Princess Anne to arrive, a little worried that the memorial would have unveiled itself in the strong wind. The NMA staff were busily adding clips to try to keep it covered. We were very glad that it was a ‘no hat’ event as a hat would have been a liability.

Right on time, Jenny Rideout, National Chairman, welcomed Princess Anne and all the other guests to the service and Sarah Montgomery, Managing Director of the NMA, welcomed us to the Arboretum. Margaret Key, the former National Chairman, who has seen the project through from the start to the unveiling, gave us a reminder of how the memorial had come about.

Singing ‘I am a small part of the world’ in front of the memorial was a very moving experience and I felt very proud to be part of this organisation with its roots in the Suffrage movement and history of women who made a difference.

It was dedicated by the Reverend Margaret Slingo and, following the National Anthem, Princess Anne completed unveiling the part of the memorial that the wind hadn’t. She viewed the memorial, spending some time reading the inscription and discussing it with Jenny Rideout, before returning to the NMA main building.

Six groups of eight members and guests hurried back to the Founders Room where they would meet Princess Anne. Each group leader introduced the rest of the group to the Princess and she spent time talking to each person. This included the stonemason who had been responsible for making the memorial.

I’m sure everyone else remembers their conversation with her. We talked about the Townswomen Magazine and who would be writing the report of the day for it, as she felt it should be dynamic. I admitted that I hadn’t thought of who would be asked, which made her laugh and she said that I’d better get on to it.

All too soon, she was ready to leave and, having signed the visitors book, she was presented with a posy and the applause of the room for the interest she had shown in TG and the time she had given us. Over a hot drink and a piece of cake we were then able to take time to reflect on what a wonderful day it had been

Beryl Hales, National Trustee

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