The Queen today opened a giant new war memorial in Alrewas, Staffordshire. It is a memorial for all British military personnel who have been killed since the Second World War. The memorial looks, from above, similar to Stonehenge. It has a giant obelisk which represents all British military personnel killed since World War II. On its curved, white stone walls are engraved the names of the approximately 16,000 British service personnel killed in action since WWII (amazingly, 1968 is the only year in which no British military personnel have died in action) and the rest of the walls are blank - enough space for another 15,000 names to be chiselled on. The names of all those who have died in action this year will be added soon.

A giant sculpture shows a dead soldier being carried on a stretcher by comrades, with his grieving wife and young son looking on. The stretcher is being carried to a slightly opened door, represented by a slit in the wall behind the figures. Sunlight shines through the ajar door, and on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month the sunlight will shine through the slightly open door on the wall, past the figures, and onto a large, bronze wreath on the floor nearby (see diagram at the bottom of the article).

Schoolgirl reads letter to 'daddy in heaven' at unveiling of National Armed Forces Memorial

12th October 2007
Daily Mail

Georgina's father, Lieutenant Commander Darren Chapman, died in Basra last year

A nine-year-old schoolgirl brought the unveiling of a national memorial for soldiers killed since the Second World War to a standstill today by reading out a poignant letter to her dead father.

Undaunted by the presence of the Queen, Prince Philip and the Prime Minister, Georgina Chapman read out the last letter she had written to her father while he was serving in Iraq.

The 6m stone circle in Alrewas, Staffordshire, lists the names of 16,000 British service men and women who have died since World War II - and there is room on the blank walls for 15,000 more names. The giant obelisk represents all those who have died for Britain since WWII.

The sculpture at the new war memorial shows a dead soldier being carried from the field of battle by his comrades as his grieving wife and young son look on. The sculpture stands at the centre of the memorial. The figures are around 8 feet tall. Behind the figures is a door (which can't be seen in this picture) which is partially ajar and is represented by a slit in the wall. The figures are about to carry the body through the door. Sunlight can shine through the door and the door has been designed so that at the two-minute silence at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the sun will shine straight through the gap in the door, past the figures, on to the central bronze wreath on the floor nearby.

Lieutenant Commander Darren Chapman, 40, never had chance to read it because he was one of five British personnel killed after a Lynx helicopter crashed in Basra in May 2006.

He was the Commanding Officer of 847 Naval Air Squadron based at Yeovilton, Somerset and described as the "consummate professional" in tributes after his death.

Today, Georgina read the letter he never got to hear, which said: "I'm having a very fun time at school with all my friends.

"Today is Thursday 9 November, it's a school day but I'm not going because I have a very bad cough.

"Tomorrow I'm not going to school either because we are going to London on a Sea King and we are going to land on a boat and we are going to sail to Greenwich until 7pm at night.

"Lots of love, Georgina."

Nine-year-old Georgina, with her sister Chloe by her side, read out the letter her father never got to hear in front of an audience which included the Queen and the Prime Minister

Earlier the Queen, accompanied by her husband, had unveiled the stunning stone-circle shaped National Armed Forces Memorial, which carries the names of 16,000 soldiers killed since the Second World War.

An extra 15,000 names can be added to the Portland stone circle, which has been built at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire.

Prince Charles and Gordon Brown were also at the unveiling, after which they met victims' families and paid their respects at the new monument.

Memorial: 16,000 servicemen are remembered, including Lord Mountbatten, the Queen's uncle, killed by the IRA in 1979

Money to build the memorial was only a secured after a Daily Mail campaign to secure lottery funding because lottery chiefs claimed the memorial did not "fit within the eligibility criteria" for a grant.

But after strong pressure from the paper, the Big Lottery Fund caved in and finacially backed the worthy cause.

The memorial includes the names of soldiers who died in Palestine, Korea, Malaysia, the Falklands, Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland.

The Queen reflects on the thousands of men who sacrificed their lives defending the country

Today, the royal party entered the ceremony attended by the families of many soldiers featured on the memorial as a military band played the national anthem.

They and the other guests then watched as prayers for the deceased were said by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Opening the ceremony, Vice-Admiral Sir John Dunt, chairman of the Armed Forces Memorial Trustees, said: "I hope that those who have been bereaved and colleagues of those whose names are engraved find this a fitting place to remember and reflect.

"There will be sorrow for family and friends who come here, but I hope they will also be uplifted and proud - proud that these men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice have done so by serving their country."

Prime Minister Gordon Brown discusses the significance of the memorial with senior military officers

His speech was followed by prayers and hymns and a reading by the Duke of Edinburgh.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, led more prayers before the royal party were escorted to view the memorial.

Following the ceremony, which included tributes to some individual servicemen and women killed in conflict read out by family and friends, the Queen, dressed in a purple coat with matching hat, and Philip were escorted to their car.

Charles and Camilla, dressed in a dark blue outfit with a large matching hat, followed closely behind.

Work began on the monument, which was designed by architect Liam O'Connor, in October 2006.

It is also home to the Millennium Chapel, where a two-minute silence is observed daily in remembrance of those who have died in conflict.

From the air the new memorial looks like Stonehenge

A centrepiece of bronze sculptures acknowledges the courage of family and friends left behind, the Ministry of Defence said.

Almost 7 million has been donated by the public to construct the memorial, but a further 1 million must be raised to ensure it can be maintained.

Tribute: Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, were also at the service

Speaking after the ceremony, 1956 Suez conflict veteran Gerald Fellows, who served with the RAF, said: "It's really good that this kind of memorial has been built to honour those who died after the Second World War."

When asked if the memorial was long overdue, the 67-year-old, from Shrewsbury, Shropshire, said: "The point is it takes money. Now the money is here it has been put to good use and I am sure the people who have been affected personally will be very pleased and can come here to meditate."

A march for the war dead at the National Armed Forces Memorial in Alrewas, Staffordshire. These shown marching are the RAF.

Many families of those whose names appear on the stone walls of the memorial attended the ceremony.

Among them was Maureen Norton, whose brother, Terence Griffin, was on leave from serving in Northern Ireland when he was killed by a bomb which exploded on a coach carrying service personnel and their families on the M62 motorway in 1974.

The 54-year-old, from Wigan, Greater Manchester, was introduced to the Queen, Philip, Charles and Camilla.

She said: "This means an awful lot to me. It means his name has been recognised, along with all the other names.

"Even though I will remember him every day, I can come to this beautiful place. It's so tranquil. I can lay flowers by his name. I feel very proud to be here."

The ceremony ended with a nine-plane fly-past, and the memorial will be opened to the public later this month.

A war veteran stands before the monument at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, surveying the names of those who never returned alive from the battlefield

The giant circle of portland stone stands atop a grassy mound in acres of quiet woodland.

At exactly 11am on November 11 - just as the country falls silent - a carefully-placed slit in one wall will allow a beam of sunlight to shine across a central plaque.