The Pity of War memorial’s formal unveiling ceremony

The unveiled Pity of War memorial with schoolchildren who unveiled it standing in front of it between the lord-Lieutenant on the left and the Bishop of Lichfield on the right. There are trees in the background and the heads of the front row of the spectators are at the bottom of the picture
The Lord-Lieutenant of Staffordshire, Bishop of Lichfield, and local primary school children in front of the unveiled memorial. Behind the children stands Barbara Mark, a Pity of War trustee.

Monday, the hottest day of the year so far, saw the unveiling of the Pity of War memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum (NMA). Over 60 people foregathered in the space opposite the memorial. The Lord-Lieutenant of Staffordshire, Ian Dudson, and Bishop Michael of Lichfield arrived at 2pm.

Peter Walker (sculptor) with the covered memorial

Kit Byatt, Chair of Trustees of the Pity of War Charitable Trust, formally welcomed the Lord-Lieutenant and Bishop. He then briefly outlined how Joyce Gee, a Quaker from Clun Valley, developed her concern about the lack of any memorial to civilians at the NMA. This concern was taken up by two other Quakers, Jan Arriens and Roger Bartlett. They, with Jeff Beatty and other local Quakers, established a working group which has developed the programme since.

When the group approached the NMA, they were put in touch with Peter Walker who had had a similar idea. Over the ensuing 11 years, Peter and the group refined their plans. The group established the ecumenical charitable trust and raised money for the memorial.

Peter then explained the genesis of the sculpture, its meaning, and the outreach programme. This includes maquettes (small bronze copies of the sculpture) now on display in several cathedrals in Britain, as well as in overseas venues, including two foreign embassies—in Paris and the UAE.

The Pity of War memorial will be a place where those who
wander through this remarkable place can stop and reflect and
bring to their thoughts those they have lost, those they may
never have met and those they see in images on the TV. It is a
place where we hold our brothers and sisters around the
world, no matter what nationality, race faith or gender in our
our thoughts.

Peter Walker, Sculptor

Linda Hale, a PoW trustee, then read a poem by a 10-year old Yemeni, Sawsan Alshamiri. Titled ‘Where Did Peace Go‘, it lamented the loss of everyday childhood life, and pleaded for a return to everyday life.

Hope for the future

A view of about 20 children choir in their light blue school uniform polo shirts and grey shorts or skirts (or light blue dresses), standing around the conductor who is kneeling on the grass on one side of a gravel path, playing a keyboard. They are singing. 
On the other side of the path there are people sitting and standing, watching them in the bright sunshine. in the foreground are seated  the Lord-Lieutenant, the Bishop and their wives
The children singing

Jan Arriens, a member of the working group, also from Clun Valley Quaker Meeting, then gave an account of Joyce Gee. A short recording that she had made early on in the project followed. In it, she explained how the initiative came about and what she hoped it might achieve. Aftweerwards, a brief silence was held to honour Joyce’s Quaker roots.

A choir of children from St Stephen’s Primary School, Fradley, ended the silence with rendition of ‘Imagine’, by John Lennon. Cathy Lamb conducted and accompanied them, producing a very moving contribution.

Bishop Michael reflected on the aims behind the memorial and charity, followed by Jeff Beatty, another trustee, who spoke passionately about the next phase of the charitable trust—the educational programme.

The Lord-Lieutenant then invited the children to help him unveil the memorial, which they did enthusiasatically!

Afterwards, there was time for those attending to chat with each other. Two of Joyce Gee’s sons and their family were present. They were delighted that we had been able to deliver their mother’s objective. Members of the working group thanked all who had helped towards reaching this milestone.

All agreed that the ceremony had been moving, and very much in the spirit of Joyce’s aim. It had provided an auspicious end to the first phase of the project. Many people had worked hard towards this point, and we appreciated the many generous donations.

Two men standing either side of the two metre memorial on a plain stone rectangluar plinth. The background is formed by woodland
Two of Joyce Gee’s sons in front of the memorial.

Once the dust has settled from this occasion, we look forward to focusing on the next steps. An educational group will look into how best to take things forward, and developing resources to support the charity’s second objective.

Watch this space!

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