A History of the Purchase and development of the RAF Regiment Memorial Garden at the National Memorial Arboretum
The National Memorial Arboretum was conceived in Washington in 1988 when a visit to Arlington Cemetery and the American National Arboretum by the man who became the NMA’s Director, David Childs, convinced him that these concepts could be merged into something meaningful in Britain.
Nothing would have happened to the idea had he not then become influenced by conversations with Group Captain Leonard Cheshire VC CH DSO** DFC. Leonard Cheshire was the founder of the eponymous homes and services, had expressed concern that the debt that that was owed to those who had died in the wars of the twentieth century might be forgotten. The Arboretum seemed to be a way to address his concerns. The idea to create the National Memorial Arboretum to remind people of the 80 million lives lost in the conflicts of the 20th Century, although conceived in 1988, the project did not get underway until November 1994, when the then Prime Minister John Major, launched an appeal to raise the necessary funds.
The Arboretum owes its inspiration to the life and example of the late Group Captain Lord Cheshire VC OM DSO DFC, who, during World War Two, served almost without interruption in Bomber Command, flying a record of one hundred bombing missions. He was the most highly decorated bomber pilot of the second world war, and received the accolade of the Victoria Cross. At one stage, he dropped a rank to take command of the famous 617 Squadron, the Dambusters.
Back as a civilian, he set up a community for ex-servicemen and women at his home Le Court in Hampshire and so started the work which today is carried on in his name with disabled people in Homes across the globe. Towards the end of his life Leonard Cheshire became concerned that future generations would forget the debt they owed to the past. After his death, it was felt that the National Memorial Arboretum would not only address his concerns but could also pay tribute to all the war time generations of the 20th Century to whom we owe our present freedoms. When the Appeal was launched the project had no money and no land. The latter was provided by the generous gifting of 82 acres of reclaimed gravel working alongside the banks of the River Tame, by Redland (now Lafarge) Aggregates.
This gift has now been extended to a further 70 acres, including the wildlife lake. Additional support from the Millennium Commission and the National Forest addressed the financial question and these three organisations gave the NMA the impetus that was needed.Finally the project was first supported by the armed services and veterans associations but the first planting, in the Spring of 1997, was funded by a grant from The National Forest, within whose boundary The Arboretum lies. The initiative was then short listed for a Millennium Commission grant of £1.8M provided such a sum could be match funded.
It was, and the result is the Visitor Centre and the country‘s only Millennium Chapel, the only chapel in the country erected to celebrate the millennium. The Arboretum was officially opened by The Duchess of Kent on the 16th May 2001.
At the Birmingham Branch meeting held on 10th April 1997, Branch Member Ted Caine gave Malcolm Baldwin, the Branch Secretary, a very interesting article taken from “Soldier Magazine” which referred to a “Grove of Memories” within the National Memorial Arboretum.
The Branch Secretary then wrote for information on the project to the Director of the NMA David Childs. On receipt of the information, the Branch Secretary then published a series of articles in the Birmingham Branch newsletters, suggesting that the Birmingham Branch should raise funds for a RAF Regiment Memorial which would be the only one, not only in the UK, but anywhere else in the world too.
The Royal Marines have their Memorial in London that stands by Admiralty Arch on the Mall but – although various plaques have been erected in many locations, commemorating the presence of the RAF Regiment – nowhere in the world was there a Memorial for the RAF Regiment. This was a superb opportunity to establish such a Memorial in the very heart of the UK.
On 28th July 1998, the Fund was kick-started by a £100.00 donation from Birmingham Branch member Chris Baxter that was quickly followed by another £150.00 in donations from Birmingham Branch members and then a donation of £250.00 from the RAF Regiment Association. From this early start, a Birmingham Branch RAF Regiment Memorial Appeal Fund was set up and so began the long process of collecting sufficient funds for the project.
With the enthusiasm for the project now being shown by Birmingham Branch and other Association members, the Branch Secretary asked David Childs to reserve what was the last plot then available at the NMA, for a RAF Regiment Memorial Garden and guaranteed that the Birmingham Branch would somehow find the money.
As the plot alone would cost £5,000.00 and as the Birmingham Branch Fund had by then only collected £800.00, this was a huge leap of faith but with the plot reserved, there was now some time available.
In July 1998, the Branch Secretary also began corresponding with the then RAF Regiment Secretary Squadron Leader Paul Bruning RAF (Rtd) with regard to the possibility of obtaining donations from the RAF Regiment.
In October 1998, as more and more donations began to roll in from Birmingham Branch members and others who had become interested, the Branch Secretary suggested to the RAF Regiment Secretary, that the money in the Memorial Appeal Fund set up by the Birmingham Branch, should be transferred to a RAF Regiment Fund.
At that time though, other than the RAF Regiment Secretary who was totally committed to the project, the RAF Regiment did not seem to have much interest in the project and this was not agreed. However, on 8th December 1998, at the RAF Regiment Secretary’s request, the Branch Secretary organised an on-site meeting at the fledgling NMA with David Childs. Subsequently, the RAF Regiment Secretary communicated the results of the meeting to the Commandant General.
The RAF Regiment Memorial Garden
The Go Ahead
As a result of the meeting on 8th December, on 17th December 1998, the RAF Regiment Secretary wrote to the then Commandant General Air Commodore Ian McNeil, proposing that the RAF Regiment should commit the £5,000 needed. This was agreed and on 15th January 1999, the RAF Regiment Secretary wrote to the NMA Director confirming that the project would be going ahead.
With that commitment, fundraising went ahead with renewed enthusiasm, knowing that the project was fast becoming a reality, for by March 1999, the Birmingham Branch Fund had raised £1,238.00 and the recently organised RAF Regiment Fund had raised £1,200.00.
In the meantime, the layout of the Garden was being discussed at a series of meetings organised by the Branch Secretary and chaired by the RAF Regiment Secretary, and it was agreed that there would be a central edifice with four benches arranged around it.
This meant that the total sum required for the RAF Regiment Memorial Garden – without the central edifice – would be £6,000.00. The details of the central edifice had not yet been established but at later meetings, it was agreed that a stone memorial should be erected.
On 14th December 1999, the RAF Regiment Secretary wrote to the Director of the NMA enclosing a cheque for £5,000.00 as the first part of our contribution to the setting up of the RAF Regiment Memorial Garden. He also asked him to go ahead with the planting of trees and the installation of the benches. In April 2000, the RAF Regiment Secretary approached H L Perfitt Ltd, stonemasons in Diss, East Anglia, whose company had been responsible for many war memorials for the RAF and USAF.
At a meeting held on 29th June 2000, the final design of the memorial was agreed and on 1st August 2000, the RAF Regiment Secretary placed the order with Perfitt Ltd. With the project now coming to fruition and with a date for the Dedication of the Memorial now fixed as 5th April 2001, on 18th December 2000, the RAF Regiment Secretary wrote to the NMA Director to ask him to fit brass plaques to the four benches. These were to be as follows.
- Donated by The Royal Air Force Regiment Association
- Donated by the RAF Regiment South East Asia Command Association
- Donated by The Royal Air Force Regiment (Comrades) Association
- Donated by the Association of Royal Air Force Regiment Warrant Officers and SNCOs
In the same letter, he also asked the Director to ensure that the benches were fitted in place before 5th April 2001.
Installation of the Memorial
In February 2001, the Memorial was installed in the centre of the RAF Regiment Memorial Garden, together with one flagpole on the left of the Memorial, which was donated by Fred Ringham of the Birmingham Branch. In addition, four granite slabs, donated by H L Perfitt Ltd to form bases for the four benches were also put into position.
In March 2001, the Birmingham Branch erected another flagpole also donated by Fred Ringham, on the right of the Memorial and commissioned a professional slab layer to lay 2 feet (0.061 metre) by 2 feet square paving slabs in the form of a Tee.
The slabs were professionally laid, as they form an important and integral part of the Memorial. The upright of the Tee forms the access path from the entrance to the Garden to the Memorial. The crossbar of the Tee was to enable the paving slabs to surround both flagpoles as well as the Memorial.
Thursday 5th April 2001 – Dedication of the Memorial
The great day had arrived. Our dream of creating a RAF Regiment Memorial was now a reality and it now stood tall and proud in the National Memorial Arboretum. The only blot on the landscape was the weather. It was absolutely dreadful which put paid to the plan to have a parade from the Chapel to the Garden. On arrival at the NMA, everyone was treated to tea or coffee, paid for and provided by the President of the Birmingham Branch and his wife, Peter and Avril Swash. They also paid for and provided tea, coffee, sandwiches and cakes for a light lunch afterwards.
It is fitting too that here a tribute must be paid to RAF Honington Station Warrant Officer WO Bob Loughlin and his SWO’s Work Gang, ably led by Tony Roe, for their support. They were superb, doing whatever was necessary to make the occasion as successful and efficient as it could be. The weather could not stop the Dedication however, which took place under the covered walkway leading from the Visitor Centre to the Chapel.
Even so, the weather was so bad with a bitingly cold wind that was blowing the rain almost horizontally, regularly spraying everyone with the very cold water flooding off the roof of the walkway.
The ceremonial was organised by the Project Officer Flight Lieutenant Andy Williams who was responsible for co-ordinating all the units involved in the Service of Dedication. The Queen’s Colour Squadron lined the covered walkway and members of the Band of the RAF Regiment provided the music for the hymns.
The Memorial was Dedicated at 12.00 hours by the Reverend Squadron Leader Paul Rennie from RAF Honington, assisted by the Reverend James Stewart, Vicar of St Anne’s church, Catterick, the Reverend Willie Downie, Vice-Chairman of the Association and the Reverend Flight Lieutenant Jonathon Wylie, RAF Honington.
After the Dedication Service, in spite of the truly atrocious weather, the Commandant General, now Air Commodore N A Bairsto MBE MDA MSc BSc CEng FIMechE FRAeS FIMgt, who had been appointed on 1st April 2001, unveiled the Memorial and at last our dream was fulfilled.
Nearly £12.200 had been collected out of which the Birmingham Branch Fund was over £7.500 and the RAF Regiment Fund was over £4,500. The Birmingham Branch, having donated £1,894, was the single biggest donor
The four corner plots each have four Prunous Amanogawa (Japanse Flowering Cherry) trees planted in them. They are a narrow upright deciduous tree ideal for restricted spaces. Many of the trees in the National Memorial Arboretum have been selected for their relevance to the memorials around them and these were selected to relate to the Rapier Missiles in service with the RAF Regiment.
The young leaves are bronze-green, turning green in summer. The large semi-double, soft pink flowers, which are slightly fragrant, are borne in dense clusters in April or May. When in flower this tree is a spectacular pillar of blossom. This is a good tree for lovely foliage shades in autumn. The tree will grow to 20ft x 6ft (6m x 1.8m) in 20 years, with an ultimate height of 25ft (7.6m). This upright, columnar Japanese cherry is one of the best ornamental trees for a small garden.
FINANCING THE PROJECT
When we had finished fundraising for the project, the Birmingham Branch Fund had raised £7,526.00. The RAF Regiment Secretary Paul Bruning’s RAF Regiment Fund had raised £4,631.00 – a total in the combined fund of £12,157.00 with the Birmingham Branch being the donor of the largest individual amount. The Birmingham Branch continued to financially support the RAF Regiment Memorial Garden with various donations until the Birmingham Branch set up the Memorial Garden Appeal Fund. The cost of purchasing and setting up the RAF Regiment Memorial and Garden was as follows.
- £5,000.00 for the plot
- £1,000.00 for the four benches and trees in the corner plots
- £5,000.00 for the Memorial stone which included the concrete base and erection of the stone.
- £11,000.00 in total
With regard to the other expenses for the Garden and the Memorial stone. The resurfacing of the approach road was funded by the Birmingham Branch at a reduced cost of £52.00 for three loads of scalpings (recycled tarmac) purchased from Redland Aggregates (now Lafarge Aggregates) at the adjacent quarry and delivered free of charge by them and £36.00 for turf – £88.00 in total. Labour was provided free of charge by the Birmingham Branch.
The two trees and Plaques installed to commemorate the Dedication of the Memorial cost £300.00 and was funded by a donation of £300.00 from the RAF Regiment Association.
The Buffet Lunch for the Dedication on 5th April 2001 cost £281.34 and was funded by the President of the Birmingham Branch and his wife Peter and Avril Swash.
On completion of the project, Paul Bruning asked the Birmingham Branch Secretary Malcolm Baldwin if the Birmingham Branch would take on the responsibility of maintaining and improving the Memorial Garden and this, the Birmingham Branch agreed to do. So the remaining £984.03 in the RAF Regiment Memorial Garden Appeal Fund was transferred to the Birmingham Branch, to assist in the maintenance and improvement of the Garden.
With this as a start, the Birmingham Branch set up a Memorial Garden Maintenance and Improvement Appeal Fund.
The two flagpoles were donated free of charge to the Garden by Birmingham Branch Committee Member Fred Ringham. The flagpole ropes and fittings cost £35.00 and were funded from the Birmingham Branch Maintenance and Improvement Appeal Fund.
The one hundred and ninety 2 X 2 foot slabs laid in the form of a tee around the two flagpoles and with a pathway up to the flagpoles cost £363.97. Digging out the foundations for the slabs by the NMA staff cost £370.00 and the slabs were laid by a professional slab layer at a cost of £400.00, a total of £1,333.97. This was funded by a donation from the RAF Regiment Association of £500.00 and £733.97 taken from the Birmingham Branch Maintenance and Improvement Appeal Fund.
The Memorial Garden Maintenance and Improvement Fund continued to fund the ongoing maintenance and improvement of the Memorial Garden until April 2005 when the RAF Regiment Secretary Martin Hooker on behalf of the RAF Regiment, took over control of the RAF Regiment Memorial Garden. Funding of improvements then became the responsibility of the RAF Regiment.
Malcolm A Baldwin
Birmingham Branch Secretary
12th August 2009
TIMELINE ON THE PURCHASE AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE RAF REGIMENT MEMORIAL GARDEN
A National Fund set up to establish the National Memorial Arboretum (NMA) was first announced by the then Prime Minister John Major in November 1994 who launched an Appeal to raise the necessary funds to create a living tribute to the people of the twentieth century, in particular, those who had given their lives in the Service of others.
The National Lottery Millennium Commission made a grant of £1.78 million – provided it was matched pound-for-pound. This was achieved a year earlier than expected and the grant was used eventually in 1999 to begin building a fine visitor centre and the only Chapel in the country to be erected to celebrate the millennium. The Chapel was completed by Easter 2000.
Eventually, the NMA was established in early 1997 and I published my first article about the NMA in my April 1997 newsletter in which I said that I had written to the Director of the NMA Commander David Childs RN (Rtd) for further information.
In my next newsletter, that of May/June 1997, giving information about the British Korean Veterans’ Association agreeing to sponsor a plot at the NMA, I said: “What about our Association sponsoring a plot to remember all those members of the RAF Regiment who have given their all”.
As a result of these two articles, on 31st July 1997, a Birmingham Branch member Neville Booth wrote a letter to me, enclosing the first and earliest photographs of the NMA that we have. At the time it looked as though nothing much was happening, although beyond the gate the area had been planted with hundreds of tree saplings, there were no roads or footpaths.
The following photographs taken in July 1997 are one of a field gate that became the main entrance to the NMA, and two of the inside of the field. The gate has a sign on it and in the field can be seen rows of very young tree saplings. On the gate was a sign telling everyone it was the: SITE OF THE NATIONAL MEMORIAL ARBORETUM and giving the telephone numbers of the NMA Director and the NMA Project Manager
July 1997 photograph outside looking north
July 1997 photograph inside looking north
July 1997 photograph inside looking northwest
For the next twelve months I continued to publish articles about the development of the NMA and pushing for the (first) RAF Regiment Association to become involved. However, at the July 1998 Branch Meeting, we decided that the Birmingham Branch would set up the Birmingham Branch Appeal Fund to purchase a RAF Regiment plot at the NMA.
On 28th July 1998, the Fund was kick-started by a £100.00 donation from Birmingham Branch member Chris Baxter that was quickly followed by another £150.00 in donations from Birmingham Branch members and then, the RAF Regiment Association having decided to get involved, voted to give a donation of £250.00 to the Fund.
The Fund was beginning to grow with money from Birmingham Branch members and others being constantly donated and in August 1998, Chris wrote to me again enclosing another generous cheque for £100.00 towards the £500.00 required for a bench in the RAF Regiment plot. Other donations soon followed including a donation from Group Captain Kingsley Oliver who said to me in a letter; “I am very taken with your campaign for a Regiment memorial in the National Memorial Arboretum and would like to make a donation towards this. Would you please accept the enclosed cheque for £50.00 towards the project but treat it as an anonymous donation. Meanwhile, I wish you and the Birmingham Branch, every success in this venture and look forward to its successful conclusion”.
With the enthusiasm for the project now being shown by Birmingham Branch and other Association members, I asked David Childs to reserve what was then the last plot available at the NMA, for a RAF Regiment Memorial Garden and guaranteed that the Birmingham Branch would somehow find the money. As the plot alone would cost £5,000.00 and as the Birmingham Branch Appeal Fund had by then only collected £800.00, this was a huge leap of faith by me but with the plot reserved, there was now some time available.
The £250.00 promised by the RAF Regiment Association was not yet deposited in the fund but as we now had half of the money – £250.00 – required to buy a bench and four trees, in donations from the Birmingham Branch, on 12th July 1998, I wrote to the RAF Regiment Secretary Squadron Leader Paul Bruning, to ask if the RAF Regiment could find the other £250.00 so that we could order a bench and the trees. I also said that I was hopeful that Association branches and RAF Regiment units will wish to purchase other trees.
With many more donations beginning to be given to the appeal, and with donations hopefully to come from RAF Regiment units and organisations, I suggested to the RAF Regiment Secretary Paul Bruning, that an account be opened by RAF Accounts at RAF Honington but was advised that for the time being, it would be better to leave matters as they were.
By this time, I was in regular communication by letters with the director of the NMA Commander David Childs RN (Rtd) and at this stage, with the Birmingham Branch Appeal Fund continuing to grow, the Birmingham Branch Committee decided to appoint Trustees for the Fund, so I wrote to Air Vice Marshal Donald Pocock CBE RAF, Air Commodore Tim Thorne AFC FRAeS RAF, Past Commandant General RAF Regiment, Air Commodore Ian McNeil RAF Commandant General RAF Regiment, asking them if they would take on such a position.
We now had only £600.00 in the Fund and in my November 1998 newsletter, as I sent all the Association branch secretaries my newsletters, I asked if the all other branches in the Association could consider making donations to the Fund as up until this point, we had not received any donations from other branches.
I also said that with nearly 2,000 members in the Association and with twenty-six branches, as an Association, we should be able to achieve something, for with only £5.00 per branch we could raise £130.00 and if the branches really tried, we could get more than that.
At the time, our intention was to purchase a suitable plot at the NMA to commemorate the RAF Regiment but no decision had been made as to what we should erect on the plot but by September 1998, momentum was building up to have a suitable memorial to all those members of the RAF Regiment who have given their lives for their Queen and country.
On 8th December 1988, at the RAF Regiment Secretary Squadron Leader Paul Bruning’s request, I arranged the first site meeting to discuss progress with the Director David Childs and his Local Co-ordinator Jackie Fisher. I attended with the Branch chairman Dave Gooding and our “man on the spot” Nev. Booth.
The meeting was also attended by the Paul Bruning who had been asked by the Commandant General Air Commodore Ian McNeil, to establish what the NMA was all about and whether the RAF Regiment should become involved.
The weather on the day was not kind to us and Jackie said that it was the worst day that she had experienced in all her years of involvement with the project. As there were no buildings on the site, we had the meeting in Paul’s car. At this meeting, a provisional date for the dedication was arranged for April 2001.
It was therefore a very fruitful meeting and we came away with a much greater understanding of what would be required to provide a suitable RAF Regiment memorial. I was also very pleased that month, for we had our first donation from another branch in the Association, the Essex Branch.
The Birmingham Branch Appeal Fund to establish a RAF Regiment Memorial and Garden was now truly up and running for the Commandant General Air Commodore Ian McNeil had decided that it was a very worthwhile project and as a result of this decision, had decided to guarantee the £5,000 necessary to buy the RAF Regiment plot. This did not mean that the RAF Regiment would provide the money, only that they would guarantee that it would be found. We now had to raise that sum of money. But with the RAF Regiment Secretary Paul Bruning fully behind the project, he and I saw no difficulty in raising it as we both had several ideas for doing so. And with the £5,000 guaranteed, the NMA was now able to release a similar sum from the Millennium Commission who was matching pound for pound whatever money the NMA raised.
We were promised a forty foot square plot, solely for the RAF Regiment Memorial, with, at David Childs suggestion, perhaps as a centrepiece, a Bofors Gun or Rapier field Standard C. At this stage, the plot was to have as tree at each corner and four benches, one commemorating the RAF Regiment, one commemorating the RAF Regiment Association, one commemorating the RAF Regiment (South East Asia Command) Association and one commemorating the RAF Regiment (Comrades) Association.
As also by this stage, all our proposed Sponsors had agreed to our proposal and so we were able to use their names in soliciting funds for the Fund. Therefore as I was asked to co-ordinate fund raising from commercial and industrial companies, I approached various aerospace companies with whom I was involved in my business life, asking if they could help.
The RAF Regiment Secretary Squadron Leader Paul Bruning, was asked to co-ordinate fund raising from the RAF Regiment and contacted the various units and organisations for help.
On 9th April 1999, the Commandant General Air Commodore Ian McNeil, sent a letter to all RAF Regiment units and to all RAF Regiment associations, announcing that we were going to have the RAF Regiment commemorated within the NMA and asking all of them for support. This of course greatly enhanced our fund raising efforts.
By June 1999 the Birmingham Branch Appeal Fund had raised £3,691.00 of which, the Birmingham Branch had raised £2,131.00. Active fundraising continued throughout the rest of the year as did development work at the NMA. In July 1999, building work on the Visitor Centre and the Chapel commenced with the aim of completing them by July 2000, when it was hoped to open the NMA to the public. By the end of 1999, all the roads have been created and a basic surface laid down on them.
A major step forward took place when on 14th December 1999, a cheque for £5,000 was sent by the RAF Regiment Secretary Paul Bruning, to the NMA Director David Childs as the first contribution towards the setting up of the RAF Regiment plot within the NMA. This ensured that a similar amount could be obtained from the Millennium Commission Fund. By now too, the new roads in the Arboretum were capable of taking wheeled traffic in all weathers and it was hoped that an improved system of drainage should keep the site drier than it had been this year that was a record one for rainfall.
In addition, we were now having discussions with Mr D Redvers, the Group Chairman of Bannocks of Solihull, Monumental Masons, with regard to the design of the central edifice of the plot. This was expected to cost in the region of £5,000.00 to £6,000.00. The Appeal Fund had by now raised £8,300.00 and £6,000 of that was needed for the plot, trees and benches. Whatever involvement other organisations and branches may or may not have in raising the additional finance, the Birmingham Branch was determined to raise whatever money was required, however long it may take.
On Wednesday 8th March 2000, I organised the second on-site meeting of what had become the Memorial Committee to discuss a central monument. The RAF Regiment Secretary Paul Bruning attended together with Flight Lieutenant Andy Williams who had been appointed by the Commandant General, as the Memorial Project Officer. Andy’s particular responsibility would be to organise the ceremonial for the dedication of the memorial.
Mr Redvers the Group Chairman of Bannocks of Solihull, Monumental Masons, also attended in order to make an assessment of the site of the RAF Regiment memorial. As former quarry land, the total site of the NMA consists of made up ground due to the extensive quarrying carried out there, we discovered that a concrete raft, capable of supporting a granite block of up to four tons in weight would be required.
I had been so involved in raising money for the RAF Regiment Memorial appeal Fund that up until this month, it had totally escaped my notice that I hadn’t properly thanked all the contributors to the fund but as a result of being asked by the Chairman of the RAF Regiment Association, Air Commodore Tim Thorne AFC FRAeS RAF (Rtd) for a full list of contributors, for the first time I put together such a list.
The reason for this was that we by now there were two bank accounts, one held by the Birmingham Branch at the National Westminster Bank, 34-38 High Street, Smethwick, Warley, West Midlands and one held by the RAF Accounts Flight at RAF Honington.
When I asked for and received, the two lists of donors, one from Birmingham Branch Treasurer Tom Magee who was overseeing the Birmingham Branch account, and the other from the RAF Regiment Secretary Paul Bruning RAF (Rtd) who was overseeing the RAF account, I was dumbstruck for the Birmingham Branch had so far raised far more money – 20% of the total required and 27% of the total raised so far for the appeal than any other organisation, association or branch.
The estimated total sum required was for the plot, benches, trees and landscaping, £6,000.00, for the ground works and concrete base £1,000.00 and for the memorial £6,000.00, an estimated total of £13,000.00.
In compiling this list of donors however, one fact stood out above all others and that was, that out of the twenty-eight branches in the association, only seventeen branches had so far contributed and in the March newsletter I asked if all the branches could make an extra effort for the appeal for so far, out of the required £13,000.00 we had only raised £9,419.00.
In April 2000, I had received a very informative and interesting letter from Birmingham Branch member Group Captain Kingsley Oliver containing quite a lot of information about memorials and monuments and their significance. In this letter that I reproduced in my May 2000 newsletter, he discussed the various possibilities and outlined what he thought should be design and layout of the proposed memorial. He also said in this letter that we all agree that “we must get the whole project 100% correct as whatever is done now will have to last for the next hundred years and more. You will want to discuss the implications of the points raised with Paul Bruning so I am copying this letter to him”.
Such was the relevance of Group Captain Oliver’s comments in this letter that the final layout of the memorial design incorporated all of his ideas.
My May newsletter also included a chronological description of the twenty-one articles that I had produced in my newsletters about the possibility and progress of a RAF Regiment memorial from May 1997 until May 2000.
At the third Memorial Committee Meeting I organised on Tuesday 29th June at the Crown, Alrewas near the NMA. The meeting was attended by the RAF Regiment Secretary Paul Bruning. The Birmingham Branch President Peter Swash and his wife Avril also attended and also the Chairman of the RAF Regiment (Comrades) Association Tom Renshaw. I had invited Tom to attend as a matter of courtesy as we were asking his Association to contribute to the appeal.
At this meeting ably chaired by Paul, the memorial design was finalised. Over many months, during which a lot of hard work was put into its design, including advice from many authoritative sources, we were very pleased with the result. The design was then submitted to the Commandant General RAF Regiment, Air commodore R C Moore for his comments and hopefully, for his acceptance and with one minor modification, the design was approved. The date for the dedication of the memorial was also given as Thursday 5th April 2001, at 11.00 a.m.
Malcolm A Baldwin
Birmingham Branch Secretary
12th August 2009