Soldier under Training (SuT) Christopher Holland is currently undergoing Phase 1 Training at the Army Training Regiment, Bassingbourn. He is currently in the seventh week of the training syllabus, but his first two posts look back at earlier experiences. Here he recalls a visit to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.
The visit to the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire was a day of mixed emotions. The land, buildings and architecture were beautiful and the environment was relaxing and peaceful – but it gave me a deep feeling of sadness to think of all the brave men and women that have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their Country. On the coach journey to the Arboretum we watched a DVD called “In Living Memory” which featured stories of people whose names are listed on the Armed Forces Memorial, the centrepiece of the Arboretum. It makes you realise that behind the almost 16,000 names engraved in stone there is a life, a story and a history. I was struck by the blank spaces on the Armed Forces Memorial wall and knowing that one day they will all be full.
The visit to the Arboretum really began a day earlier in the Education Centre. We were split into about eight groups of four or five people and given a couple of hours to research short presentations to deliver to rest of the Troop at the Arboretum. My group’s topic was about the Royal Engineers on Operations, which we delivered at the Royal Engineers memorial. The day at the Arboretum began with a two minute silence in the chapel followed by a talk on why we remember. We then went up to Armed Forces Memorial to have a look round. The Troop Commander gave us a short brief then we went round looking at all the names on the wall. One moment that will probably stay with me is seeing my own surname on the wall and thinking whether I really want to put myself in a position where this could actually be me. The Padre then conducted a short service of remembrance, which was OK, but I think we should practise our singing if we’re going to do it in public again!
After lunch we visited a selection of the other memorials at the site where we delivered the presentations we had researched the previous day. It was interesting hearing about what soldiers before us have gone through and really made me think about what made them commit such brave acts. The Troop Commander finished by saying we were all capable of doing such things, but personally I’m not so sure. Going to the Arboretum was an eye opener and made me think that once all the training is finished we will become part of history.
After a moving day at the Arboretum the training staff relaxed with us a bit and took us paintballing. On the way everyone was excited not only about the activity but also it was our first real day out of camp since starting training over three weeks ago. The staff at paintball were all friendly and made us feel welcome. After a safety brief our Troop and Aden Troop each split into two making four teams. We played four games in total in which we were the overall winners. Then we played a game with Aden Troop v Balkans Troop, which turned out to be more about who had the most paintballs left. I had a couple of grenades; the first one I threw hit a tree and landed next to my own team mates so I think I will have to practise grenade throwing before we do it for real! Overall, it was a really good day and it was nice to be out of the military environment for a while.