Following a suggestion by Michael Fabricant last year and taken up with alacrity by the National Memorial Arboretum along with the Armed Forces Memorial, the NMA is currently hosting a 5 day exhibition at the Palace of Westminster sponsored by Michael Fabricant. It’s Opening was held yesterday evening, 19th January, with Michael Fallon, Secretary of State for Defence, planting “a mighty oak”.
Michael Fabricant says “Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, performed the opening and before him I introduced Colonel David Whimpenny, trustee of The Royal British Legion and chair of the National Memorial Arboretum Board and Admiral Sir John Dunt, Chairman of the Armed Forces Memorial Trust. I told everyone how proud I am that the NMA is based in the Lichfield constituency and how moving it is when at 11am on the 11th November, the sun casts a beam of light onto a bronze wreath at the Armed Forces Memorial.
“At the end of the Opening, I invited the Secretary of State, Lieutenant Colonel David Whimpenny, and Andrew Robathan, a former Defence Minister, to plant a mighty oak – well, actually, acorns which will be transplanted at the NMA and will eventually grow into ‘mighty oaks.’ Everyone who has visited the Exhibition so far says it is one of the best ever in the House of Commons. It includes an actual oak tree, leaves on the ground, and the sound of birdsong. Something quite unusual in the Gothic Palace of Westminster.”
In his speech, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “The Arboretum has huge significance for our Armed Forces but it’s also something which the whole country can be proud of, something that was demonstrated by them voting the Arboretum as their favourite Lottery-funded project.
“We’ve mentioned Remembrance Day, but the Arboretum is a year round centre of Remembrance, which I think is one of its great attractions. Secondly, it helps us remember all conflicts in which our armed forces have served, over 300 memorials, 40 in the pipeline and notably the memorial at Camp Bastion which I know there was enormous interest in preserving. I saw it for myself on my recent visit to Camp Bastion in the autumn, and I’m delighted it is now there being preserved and being rededicated in June.
“We must also keep planning for the future and it is the success of the Arboretum itself, in the increase in visitor numbers, that has triggered the need for an appeal to raise £15m. I’m delighted that you have already raised so much of that total, over £10m already, and I wish everyone involved the best of luck in raising the rest of that funding – I know that this will lead to a spade first breaking the ground this summer.
“It’s an ambitious plan and I’m particular honoured to be asked to make a very small contribution to it. I’m delighted to be able to donate on behalf of the House of Commons six Red Oak acorns to the Arboretum, which I will plant very shortly. I hope that all Members, Lords and colleagues will not only visit the Arboretum, but will consider making their own contribution too.”
Michael Fabricant adds: “The National Memorial Arboretum has become internationally famous and I was delighted to arrange this Exhibition. Both the Sarjeant at Arms of the House of Commons and Ministry of Defence were very helpful to me in its planning. The Opening was a huge success with numerous Members of Parliament and Lords attending including former Ministers of Defence, and Colonel Bob Stewart MP – who was officer in charge of military operations in Bosnia a few years back, and General Lord Richard Dannatt, formerly Chief of the General Staff. The exhibition itself is being held in the very centre of the House of Commons and was meticulously planned by the NMA’s managing director, Sarah Montgomery, and her team.”
Michael Fabricant left with NMA volunteers (l to r) Aysha Afridi, Sarah Oakden, and Ange Ham; and
(l to r) Lieutenant Colonel David Whimpenny, Defence Secretary Fallon, and former Defence Minister Andrew Robathan about to plant the acorns.