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Military Families Blog

"THEM AND US" - EVEN IN DEATH

15-10-2007

The Queen opened the new memorial at the National Arboretum in Staffordshire on Friday, dedicated to the memory of the soldiers who've perished in action since World War Two. But as military mum Carol Jones reports, even here, traditional class divisions were maintained.

When I first went to Alrewas a couple of years ago, there was just a patch of dirt where the new memorial was to be built. I was so excited, to think my sons would name would be engraved on it, I was so proud.

Over the months I watched the memorial being built.

I was told the opening service was ticket only. I wrote to Gordon Brown, asking him how we could apply for our tickets, I asked for 5, for my immediate family. I was told that it was only two per family. That was fine - I accepted that. With 16.000 names on the memorial they had to limit the tickets.

Finally, the 12th October came, and those of us in the Military Families Support Group agreed to go together. 4 days before the opening we received our tickets advising us that we had to go to Littlewoods car park in Burton, to be searched and catch a coach to the Aboretum.

We live just ten minutes from Alrewas, but as the Queen was opening it, we understood why this was necessary. I rang the Legion to see if there were special plans for disabled but was told there were none. We left Tamworth at 8.45am and arrived at the car park at 10am. The traffic was horrendous, and it was 10.45 before we arrived at Alrewas.

We should have queued to get a time to view the names on the memorial, but instead we had to rush over to the stands as we had to be seated by 11am.

We were told it was 'red' ticket holders on the left, 'green' ticket holders (which included us) on the right. I was under the impression the Queen was opening the memorial but only Prince Phillip spoke, while the Queen walked around the memorial and got into her car and drove off.

I didn't see Prince Charles or Camilla or even the Prime Minister. We then had to go to the 'green' marquee where we were given a plate of food, and had to stand to eat it. The 'red' marquee had tables and chairs and there was waiter service.

When we finally viewed the memorial, we were shocked that our lads' names were not ranked or their regiment was shown, just a name and initials.

On leaving the memorial we had to stand in a queue of hundred until a coach came to pick us up and take us back to Burton to get our cars. Except for the people with 'red' tickets, that is, who got priority for the coaches and walked to the front of the queue. Oh, and while most families were restricted to two tickets, some got 4 or 6. Don't ask us how - maybe it's a case of "who you know".

The memorial is unique and I am very proud of my son, but why do we still have to have this 'them' and 'us' attitude. I would have loved to have got a glimpse of the Royals but the way the stand was situated we had to watch a wide screen TV.

Why couldn't we all have mixed together on such a special day?



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