Rochdale Inner Wheel Club

Our plaque at the National Memorial Arboretum

For her trip in 2012, Sue chose to take us to the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas in Staffordshire and by the end of the day, we were all applauding her choice.

The National Memorial Arboretum is the UK's centre of Remembrance, part of the Royal British Legion family of charities and a lasting tribute  to men and women who have served their country or died in conflict.  It is certainly not a depressing place although it can make you feel sad and angry at the stupidity of the human race even while marvelling at individual courage.  The majority of the memorials commemorate service men and women and ancilliary services such as fireman, police, lifeboatmen, Bevin boys etc.  Some memorials were relocated to the Arboretum when regiments were merged or disbanded.

The Arboretum covers 150 acres of trees and memorials with a peaceful river walk on one boundary.   It will increase in size fairly soon thanks to the generosity of the local quarrying company.  Entry is free and the Arboretum is supported by donations.  The day before we were there, thousands of bikers had descended for their annual visit - they raise thousands of pounds every year. 

We were lucky to visit on a beautiful day but arrived too late for the daily service of Remembrance in the lovely Millennium Chapel of Peace and Forgiveness.  The most dominating memorial is the Armed Forces Memorial - hundreds of names carved on the walls and sadly space for many more - the same is also true of the Basra Wall memorial. The most poignant must be the Shot at Dawn memorial to the 346 British and Commonwealth serviceman executed for cowardice or desertion in WWI.  Today they would have had treatment for post traumatic stress.  This garden is at the most easterly part of the arboretum as a reminder of their last moments.  There is a single statue of a 17 year old soldier, stripped of  his regimental regalia and waiting to die.  Around the statue are grouped 345 wooden posts, each bare apart from a name plate. To our shame, it was not until 2006 that the government decided to award them posthumous pardons.

As well as military memorials, there are those to civilian organisations - including the Inner Wheel.  "Our" memorial grove is planted with yellow leaved trees and  those and the outline of the central flowerbed mirror our Inner Wheel logo.  There are gardens for the Rotary, Soroptomists, Boys Brigade etc etc.

There is room for humour too - the Marines garden is planted with alders.  Neither alders nor marines are afraid of getting their feet wet.....    And the oldest memorial is a carving of an enormous polar bear.  It commemorates the 49th West Riding Infantry Division.  They spent so much time patrolling in the arctic that their commanding officer referred to them as his polar bears.

If 150 acres seems daunting, the land train makes it easy to see a large part of the garden with the feet up!  And the cafe is much recommended.

2015:  Since this was written, the Inner Wheel memorial grove  has been upgraded and we have decided to buy a plaque to commemorate the work of our own club now that it has reached the grand age of 78.  Finally we raised sufficient funds, the plaque was purchased and in August, immediate past president Irene arranged a trip to see it. 

Many members of our Club  visited the Arboretum on Saturday 15 August 2015 which was the seventieth anniversary of VE Day when the Japanese surrendered in 1945.

We gathered together the four most recent past presidents  and the current president for a photograph.  Our thanks go to Irene for organising the trip and to Lis Kay who, along with Irene, has got our plaque sorted out and in place.


Contact Information

Inner Wheel Club of Rochdale

Meeting times

We meet every 4th Wednesday of the month for a meal followed by the formal meeting, including fund raising planning and often a speaker. 6.30pm for 7.00 pm for a meal then the meeting at the Royal Toby.

We have four Executive meetings a year. A monthly Book Club and a Craft Club.

Secretary  Nichola Helliwell