STONE 2 The Final Chapter, (I hope!)
As most of you will know the Dedication Ceremony for Stone 2 was held at the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire on 27 October 2018.
It started the day before for my stalwart, Mrs H , Janet, and myself. We loaded the inscription plate into our motorhome and set off for Alrewas.
Once there we installed the plate and gave the memorial a clean, not that it needed much, we also fitted a cover over it in preparation for the unveiling the next day. It was freezing cold and a strong north wind a portent of the weather for the following day! We retreated to the cafe and downloaded hot chocolate.
We pub stopped nearby, a pub Nick Nicholls and I had pub stopped at for a previous visit to install the memorial. Overnight the temperature got down to +1, and had reached the dizzy heights of +1.9 when we awoke next morning. Thankfully the MH has excellent central heating!
We were due to meet with Dave Kildea and Jim Stokes at the NMA's newest asset, ASPECTS, a brand new and excellent conference and dining facility, this is where we held the meet and greet, as well as the lunch and laterally the AGM.
Dave, Jim, Janet and I walked down to the memorial, to make sure its cover hadn't blown away, but also to practice the route we'd take the members and wives on to get to the memorial, we were reminded of the ambient temperature! During the day it peaked at 7c but with the strong North wind the windchill must have been close to 0.
The bus carrying the attendees arrived and coffee was served in Aspects. Then there was the minutes silence in the NMA Chapel, before we all returned to Aspects.
With everyone present, we all set off for the memorial site. Awaiting us there was the vicar, and a Bugler from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.
After a brief speech by the vicar, ( who, incidentally let us know that his step father had been a Lancaster F/E) we had everyone turn away from our memorial and face the main central memorial which is a major feature of the NMA. This gave Jim, Janet and I the chance to remove and stow the cover.
Jim then asked everyone to face our memorial, I have to say the response was, for me, overwhelming.
Jim Stokes giving his address to the assembled members and wives, he really does do good public speaking!
This was the first time anyone had seen the real thing, the mock-up has travelled a lot so many have seen it, but this was, as I say, the first viewing for all.
Once the ceremonial aspects were complete, then everyone had their chance to see it up close and take thousands of photographs! We really should have included an osteopath to be present as it was amusing to watch old guys (and ladies!) trying to see their names on the reverse inscription plate.....
Now that everyone was close to hypothermia, we adjourned to the Aspects lounge for much needed drinks pre lunch
I must add at this point that all of the organisation for the event was carried out by our Events Team, Dave Kildea, Jim Stokes and Ian Parker. This meant that the day ran seamlessly, and a major thanks is due to these 3 who, I know, who put a huge amount of effort into this complex organisation.
The lunch was superb, and then I was again overwhelmed by a speech from Nicholls and a presentation from the members, this resulted in a standing ovation, something I am not used to! It was a truly remarkable and notable day.
At the AGM, where I stood down as Chairman, and handed the baton to Nick Courtaux, we also created a new committee member post, that of S2 Custodian, that'll be me then!
I will look after it as best I can and I will appreciate feedback from any of you who do visit it.
I strongly recommend that you do, not just for our memorial, but the whole of NMA, it is a truly inspiring place. All I need to know is its condition etc, I have now done 5 return trips to NMA on this project and have little desire to add to those, I will, of course, drop by whenever Janet and I are passing by on one of our many MH trips.