Police Roll of Honour - Lest We Forget

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National Police Officers Roll of Honour

Honouring and Remembering British Police Officers who Lost their Lives in the Line of Duty ~ Lest we Forget

Article 1998

An article by David Childs, Director of The National Memorial Arboretum Appeal
(Registered Charity 1043992, Patron: HRH The Duchess of Kent)


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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

'The Beat' at the National Memorial Arboretum

"The Beat"

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 Millennium.

The Beat Plaque

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.

The 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.

Sergeant Anthony Rae meets Home Secretary Jack Straw

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'

Trees, 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.

Dedication Plaque                        Wooden Constable

Three 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 time off.)


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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Page updated 29 May 2012

National Police Officers Roll of Honour Copyright Anthony Rae 1985-2012

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