On Sunday 15th June 2014, shipmates Bill Small, Karl Webb, and Derrick Morgan attended the dedication of the Naval Service Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum. The memorial, commissioned by the Royal Naval Association, marked the 60th anniversary of the granting of the RNA’s Royal Charter; the memorial is described as ‘an all-inclusive memorial that commemorates those who have served, serve today and will serve tomorrow regardless of rank, trade or fighting arm.’1
Two Branch Standards were carried by Huntingdon & District Branch members, their own and that of St Neots & District Branch as their Standard Bearer, S/M Keith Ridley, was to fall in with the National Council in his role as NCM for Area 6.
The dedication of the Naval Service memorial is by far the most significant event in the history of the RNA, the guests of honour were their Royal Highnesses Prince Michael and Princess Michael of Kent. In addition, VIPs included the ‘Minister of State for the Armed Forces, the Rt Hon Mark Francois MP, the First Sea Lord Admiral George Zambellas, the Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral David Steel, The Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire, Mr Ian Dudson and 15 Commanding Officers of front line Ships, submarines, Commandos, air squadrons and mine countermeasure squadrons.’2
Before the VVIPs arrived, Standard Bearers were fallen in and carried out a few drills to ensure everyone was aware of the format for the ceremony. As there were over 130 Standards being paraded, the squad formed five lines, this would cause a few problems as the dressing had to be a half-arm intervals.
With the practice completed, the squad was marched off and gathered in front of the Armed Forces Memorial. Once the band and Royal Naval contingent were in place, all participants awaited the order to march on.
The time had come, the parade marched on, watched by the crowds of family and supporters, the day was filmed by the BBC, ITV and locals — who posted footage to YouTube as shown below:
David Evans (2014) National Memorial Arboretum
With the Royal Marine Band, RNR Queens Colour, Guard, Contingents from HMS Collingwood and HMS Sultan, the National, Area and Branch Standards of the RNA, and fellow Associations in place, the VIPs arrived and took their positions.
The first act was the Royal Salute, the Guard ‘Presented Arms’ whilst the Standard Bearers ‘dipped’ Standards.
The RNA’s National President, Vice Admiral John McAnally CB LVO, gave the welcome address and introduction. The ceremony was also marked with a flypast of a Royal Navy Merlin and a Lynx (unfortunately, the Sea Fury which was to attend had gone ‘unserviceable’ that morning).
The Chaplain of the Fleet, the Reverend Scott J. Brown, led the service with the Bidding, Lesson and hymns before the National President invited His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent to unveil the Naval Service Memorial.
After HRH Prince Michael had addressed everyone at the Arboretum, he unveiled the Naval Service Memorial, the lone ‘figure’ was to remain covered for this part of the ceremony.
Everyone could immediately see how unique this memorial is to those already in place at the National Memorial Arboretum, it was chosen after an open competition for a suitable design to represent all of the Naval Services.
The bold design by Mr Graeme Mitcheson is of glass sails in the colours of the oceans of the world and a lone figure, head bowed in respect is on the theme of ‘at the going down of the sun, we will remember them’. The theme was initially developed by Lt Cdr Nigel Huxtable, an RNA HQ staff member, and won a design competition of 22 designs by professional artists and RNA members. It was received extremely well and the First Sea Lord reflected it was a cutting edge design for a cutting edge Navy.3
The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas followed the unveiling of the Naval Services Memorial with The Dedication.
Amongst the VVIPs was Mrs Gill Molyneux, the wife of Lt Cdr Ian Molyneux representing naval families who the memorial strongly embraces.
The ceremony continued with the laying of wreaths by HRH Prince Michael of Kent, Admiral Sir George Zambellas, Vice Admiral John McAnally, the Rt Hon Mark Francois MP, and followed by Commanding Officers, Fellow Associations, and others invited to lay a wreath.
The National Chairman, Chris Dovey OBE, unveiled the lone figure, and then gave the Act of Remembrance; after the reading of the Kohima Epitaph, the Chaplain of the Fleet continued with more prayers, hymns, and Blessing before the First Sea Lord gave the final address.
The ‘figure’, representing a person with head bowed, cap in hand, looks west towards the setting sun.
The National Anthem completed the ceremony, after the VIPS had departed, the guard, band and RNA marched off. Time for everyone to get a close look at the memorial, and to take some final pictures as a reminder of the day. BZ to all that took part, a great day for the Royal Naval Association and for all of our Naval Services.
To see a full set of photographs from the Dedication Ceremony, see the RNA HQ’s gallery pages:
The BBC coverage was posted on Youtube:
ITV Central had also covered the event: