A LIVING TRIBUTE TO MEMBERS OF THE POLICE SERVICE
'THE BEAT' AT THE NATIONAL MEMORIAL ARBORETUM
In November 1994 the then
Prime Minister launched an Appeal to create a living tribute to the people of
the twentieth century, in particular, those who had given of themselves in the
Service of others. The initial groups to become involved were the armed
Services and their Veterans Associations but it soon became apparent that the
concept was larger than one which could be confined to the purely military.
One of the first groups to
seek involvement was the Police. The idea of the National Memorial Arboretum
had been brought to the attention of Police Mutual Assurance Society whose Head
Office at Lichfield, in Staffordshire, is just five miles from the Arboretum
site. A discussion with the Project Director rapidly led to the setting up of a
working party, consisting of representatives from all staff associations and
facilitated by the PMAS. In turn this led to a proposition to every Chief
Constable that representation within The Arboretum might be the best way to
establish a national police memorial, to which there was unanimous agreement.
It soon became apparent that
the project needed to address certain specific areas if it was to achieve all
that was expected from a National Police Memorial. Firstly, it was agreed that
the memorial should be a tribute to all those that had served in or with the
police service; secondly, that a special tribute should be paid to those who
had lost their lives on duty; and thirdly space should be available for
individuals or groups to have commemorative trees planted or benches placed
both now and in the future.
The Working Party's
deliberations led to the idea of planting a 300 metre long Avenue of Chestnuts
with each tree being planted for and dedicated to a Police Force whose crest
would appear on a plaque by the tree. After a short discussion it was agreed
unanimously that this Avenue should be called 'The Beat'.
'The Beat' at the National Memorial Arboretum
Half way along The Avenue
would be a short path leading to a secluded garden in which a shrub would be
planted for each Police Officer whose life had been lost on duty. It was felt
that the names of these people should be recorded in some way and here the
Committee had an enormous piece of luck. It was brought to their attention that
Sergeant Anthony Rae of Lancashire Constabulary was compiling such a record and
he agreed to let the Arboretum have a list of the names for a Book of Tribute,
which would be kept within The Chapel that is to be built on the site for The
length of The Beat also allows for, indeed necessitates, dedicated benches to
be placed along it but it also gives the space for trees to commemorate
individuals to be planted nearby. Since the project started several police
widows, NARPO Branches and others have availed themselves of this opportunity.
time taken from the first meeting of the Committee to raising the funds and
then planting the trees was extremely short. It seems that in no time at all
the Home Secretary, the Rt Hon Jack Straw, was being invited to visit the site
to officially open 'The Beat'. This he did on Monday 8 September 1997 in the
company of representatives from every police force in the country. As a happy
coincidence he was able, at the same time, to plant a tree at PMAS Head Office
to celebrate their 75th Anniversary.
The then Home
Secretary, Jack Straw, talks with Anthony Rae, founder of the
National Police Officers Roll of Honour at the official opening of 'The Beat'
however, grow in their own good time and cannot be hurried along by a
Committee, however august. The Beat, which will consist of eight different
types of Chestnut to illustrate Force unity but not uniformity, will develop
over many years and not reach its maturity until well into the next century.
But it is a living thing emphasising that it is someone's life and the
contribution that they made that the memorial celebrates. As a living, growing
and adaptable project it also allows for future wishes and developments to be
reflected unlike monuments of stone and bronze. And it is also of a size and
nature that visitors can wander along and around it reflecting in peace while,
at the same time, allowing free reign to any younger members of their party.
days after the Home Secretary's visit the Millennium Commission announced that
they were awarding the whole Arboretum project some £1.78m for its development.
This figure has to be matched but, to date, over £1.4m has been raised. This
means that work on The Chapel and Visitor Centre will begin in 1999 with the
Chapel being completed by Easter 2000. By then, it is hoped, the Police Book of
Tribute will be available to be displayed*. The Arboretum itself should be open
to the public at about the same time. Thus in well under two years a National
Police Memorial was created with unanimous agreement from all Forces and
created in such a way to be able to grow along with the Forces and individuals
to whom it pays an enduring and living tribute.
This article was written in 1998 and is reproduced with
permission of the author.
* (Editor's note - The Chapel and Visitors Centre were
completed as planned and the Arboretum is now fully open. The trees, police
force plaques and individual memorials are in place but the enormous amount of
work involved in completing the National Police Officers Roll of Honour means
the production of the Book of Tribute for lodging in the Chapel is still some
Update December 2002: - .
The second phase of the Beat, a memorial garden and
hedges of field maple planted along both sides of the 300 metre avenue, has now
been completed and is expected to be dedicated in the New Year 2003.
The Police Roll of Honour Trust Chairman Anthony Rae has been in talks with the Arboretum Director, David Childs, regarding
the third phase of The Beat. Agreement in principle has now been reached for
the provision of a Book of Remembrance and construction of Memorial Walls for
engraving with officers' names.
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