Combined Operations Memorial
To preserve the record of the memorial project, a
number of 'inactive' web pages have been brought together on this archive page.
Included are; a record of the construction; a diary of major
events in the life of the memorial; the design, materials and symbolism of the
memorial; the background to the memorial and the reason for building it.
On Thursday, July 4th,
in the presence of Her Majesty's Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire, Mr
Ian Dudson CBE and 200 guests including 25 WW2 veterans and 6 Standard
Bearers, the Combined Operations Command Memorial was unveiled
by General Sir Richard Barrons KCB CBE ADC Gen, Commander of the
Joint Forces Command and dedicated by the Reverend Prebendary Tony
No greater honour could be bestowed on the service personnel of
yesteryear, than for the Commander of their modern equivalent Force to
honour their memory and achievements in this way.
memorial is on the north bank of the River Tame in the grounds of the National
Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas in Staffordshire, England.
Entrance to the Arboretum is free and visitors are very welcome.
Electric scooters and golf style buggies are available for the less
photos and text, this page tells the story of the memorial's
development from its
tentative beginning in the mid "noughties" to the dedication ceremony
Diary of Major Events
[Map courtesy of Google Map
06/01/09 - First application to erect a
memorial to Combined Operations in the grounds of the
National Memorial Arboretum
(NMA) in Staffordshire submitted to their trustees for
Plans approved by the NMA trustees.
19/08/09 - Four Large Stones weighing
around 15 tons uplifted from the Clachan Quarry on Loch Fyne,
Scotland and transported 375 miles to the National Memorial
22/09/09 - Mosaic; work commissioned.
07/12/09 - Mosaic; design artwork
The photos show the final stages in the manufacturing process, as the
mosaic was set in a 70mm deep stainless steel circular frame and
secured in place by a fine screed poured into the frame and over a
reinforcing mesh. The quality of finish and attention to detail is
of the highest standard, befitting the purpose of the mosaic.
24/02/11 - Memorial Site; National
Memorial Arboretum confirmed location of the Memorial.
for construction of the memorial. (Postponed. See note below).
Amended plan submitted to the
NMA to 1) improve the display of the mosaic by moving it from a
horizontal position to a vertical position, 2) reduce the cost of
construction and 3) reduce the need for long term future
Full details here.
Amended Plan Approved.
for construction of the memorial.
appointed. Work to start in November, weather
20/10/11 - Memorial Site Marked Out.
Position and orientation of memorial plot marked out and temporary
information sign erected.
21/11/11 - The 3 standing stones were
placed in pre-prepared holes and concreted in. Work was halted after
two days, when the access roadway near the memorial site was deemed
unfit for very heavy goods vehicles. Work will resume in the spring,
when improved ground conditions permit access.
[This photo is
the 1st online Jigsaw Puzzle Challenge.
Click here to
give it a try.]
14/02/12 - The edging strips are
concreted in place permitting us to clearly see the spearhead shape
of the memorial for the first time.
14/03/12 - Paving stones laid down and
spearhead shape filled in with base material. Oak and ash trees in
02/04/12 - Mosaic wall nearing
15/04/12 - Memorial almost completed.
Disturbed soil surrounding the memorial to be seeded, Sitka
Spruce tree to be sourced and planted and the positions of the
plaques to be recessed. Minor addition to the standing stone behind
the mosaic wall to provide the recessed shape on the centre-line of
16/09/12 - Display board and plaques approved
by the NMA's Memorials Advisory Committee. Three quotations
sought for the manufacture of the plaques.
14/10/12 - Dedication and Information Display
22/11/12 - Information Plaques delivered.
Next step is the manufacture of the free-standing display stand.
23/11/12 - The memorial site was flooded
over several days. Debris was removed and damage made good.
13/12/12 - Air Chief Marshall Sir Stuart
Peach, KCB, CBE, Commander of the Joint Forces Command, will
unveil the dedication plaque at a ceremony to be held on Thursday
July 4th 2013.
20/04/13 - General Richard Barrons, CBE,
Commander of the Joint Forces Command will unveil the dedication
20/04/13 - The information display is
erected by Richard Stimpson.
05/06/13 - The Dedication plaque is
secured to the apex stone.
The Dedication Ceremony!
Design and Materials
There is a high
level of symbolism in the design and content of the memorial. Combined Operations drew on the
personnel, resources and best practices of Land, Sea and Air forces and in
the design, the Army, Navy and Air Force are represented by the 3
trees and 3 stones. The spear-head shape is indicative of the archetypal attack
formation adopted during raids and landings - the tip representing the initial
assault troops, the main part of the spearhead representing the support troops
and reinforcements and the shaft, reserves. The stones came from Loch Fyne, in Scotland, where hundreds of thousands
of service personnel
trained in amphibious landing techniques under the auspices of Combined
Operations. Some Commandos were also trained in the
rugged terrain of this area.
Who, amongst them, ever forgot Inveraray!
The Four Large Stones,
to 2.7m in length, were generously donated by
David and Danny Bonnar of Clachan Quarries, Loch Fyne, Scotland.
Three tree varieties were chosen for their symbolic association
with the three services... oak for the Navy, ash for Army and Sitka Spruce for the
RAF. Oak was used in the construction of the early wooden battle ships, including
ash was used in the construction of wheels and limbers for the
artillery, frames and wheels for field transport (RAMC and RASC lorries),
pick-axe handles and the rings for rope ladders, while the Sitka spruce was used
in the construction of early 'stick and string' planes right through to the
modern era. We are indebted to the RN Naval Historical Branch, the RAF
Historical Society and Richard Stimpson for their
advice in the selection of the trees. The Sitka Spruce will be positioned a few
metres behind the dedication stone, the oak will be positioned forward and to
the right of the spearhead shape appropriately close to the river and the ash in
a similar position to the left of the spearhead shape.
The Information Display Board
This improved Information Display Board below is a
replacement for the original, which was damaged in 2016.
The Dedication Plaque
The dedication plaque (far right) is made of black, unpolished granite
with white lettering. It will be recessed into the standing stone at the
apex of the spearhead shape. The colourful, acrylic information display is
attached to a hardwood base and will be positioned in front of the memorial
to the left of the spearhead shaft on a wooden stand. To
view the plaques click on the links below.
The Mosaic Wall
The wall is faced with stones (right) from the same quarry as the
larger stones, thus reinforcing the historical association with the No 1 Combined
Training Centre at Inveraray on Loch Fyne.
The Paved Area
The paved stone was chosen to match the carboniferous
limestone from Loch Fyne. It will allow easy
access for pedestrians, wheelchairs and buggies. The outer edge of the spearhead
shape comprises 28m
of edging stone.
The area within the triangle, not covered by the slabs or
occupied by the mosaic wall and the standing stones, has been filled in with
crushed slate similar in appearance to the standing stones to provide a flat and
The mosaic (right) is contained within a 50 mm deep stainless
steel band, 1m in diameter. In the design, the eagle represents the
RAF, the Thompson machine gun represents the Army and the anchor represents
the Navy. The red parts in the design are made of vitreous glass mosaic
tiles and the remainder aquatic ceramic tiles. This combination provides the
best contrast between the black and red colours.
Background to the
Towards the end of the 1990s, my late father in
law, John Glen, first talked about his wartime service in the Combined
Operations Command. By then the Command had all but faded from the collective
mind of the people, save for the few who had served in it or had a special
interest in military history.
On leaving school, John had gained qualifications
in radio repairs. With the advent of war, this caught the attention of the RAF,
who were secretly developing a new technology based on radio waves. This became
known as radar - radio
RAF trained John as a radar technician and he saw service at
various land based coastal
radar stations in Scotland and the north west of
England. The work was top secret, as was the conversion of three LSTs (Landing
Ships Tanks). The LSTs would provide extended radar cover, early warning, friend or foe identification,
communications and intelligence gathering off the Normandy beaches. They would
hand over to mobile land based radar units when they could safely operate on French soil. By then, a flight
sergeant, he was attached to the Combined Operations Command and reported
to John Brown's shipyard on the Clyde, where the three LSTs were being refitted
for their special tasks
and designated 'Fighter Direction Tenders' (FDTs).
As his story of D-Day and its aftermath unfolded,
I read Bernard Fergusson's excellent book "The Watery Maze" about the Combined
Operations Command. There was not a single reference to the Combined Operations
and its Command
on the Internet, so, with no serious intent or purpose, I constructed a small
website and published a few pages in 2001, just months after John's death.
Remarkably, veterans, their families and friends found the website and offered
material, photos, support and encouragement. The website grew like topsy and I
was surprised to learn there was no memorial to the Command. With a mild sense
of outrage, little preparation, no design, no place on which to build, no
committee, no bank account and no money, I launched the Combined Operations
There was so much goodwill and support, it would have been
difficult for the project to fail. Problems and obstacles were overcome and
those who attended the dedication ceremony all had a personal reason to be
there. The presence of so many veterans and tear filled eyes amongst the
onlookers was humbling.
It was a happy and emotional day.
Why a Memorial?
Combined Operations was set
up by Churchill post Dunkirk to think, plan and train for offensive
operations. They were the only ones doing this at a time when
the "regular" armed forces were rightly concerned with the defence of the
country. The resultant
planning and preparations for battle were organised under the contiguous
commands of Keyes and Mountbatten.
The many major battles and campaigns of WW2 are well documented and amply
represented in museums at home and abroad and in books and films but few
realise that without
Combined Operations the results might have been very different. Combined Operations trained
hundreds of thousands of men in amphibious landing techniques, set up the
Commando Units, oversaw the
Mulberry Harbour project, PLUTO (Pipeline Under the Ocean), Hobart's Funnies
(innovative adaptations to tanks for beach clearing), seaborne radar and communications (Fighter
Direction Tenders) and even experiments in the design of ships made of
ice, not to mention the design, procurement and subsequent modification of
around 40 different types of landing craft.
The strength of Combined Operations had its
origins in the three services working closely together under a single command.
Their aptly chosen motto "United We Conquer" needs no explanation.
Many thousands died while serving in
the Combined Operations Command or in support of its raids and landings. The
memorial will therefore;
those who served in Combined Operations or were trained by them and
especially those who were killed in action or in countless realistic
amphibious training exercises,
tribute to all who served in Combined Operations from the three services of
many Allied nations,
celebrate the wider achievements
of Combined Operations including Mulberry, PLUTO, Hobart's Funnies etc.,
preserve the memory of Combined Operations by providing free access to
information about Combined Operations on
young people to use the website for educational and/or family research
The memorial will be prominently featured on the Combined Ops
website so those unable to visit the physical memorial will find a focus for
reflection and remembrance and the website URL will be displayed on the
Those who served the
Allied cause in Combined Operations deserve to be recognised and remembered. After
all they trained together, they served together and they died together. It is
time to remember them.. together.
Dedication Ceremony - Guide for Guests
THURSDAY 4TH JULY 2013 AT 1.30 PM
The original time for the start of the
dedication ceremony has been brought forward by 30 minutes to
accommodate changes. Revised
timetable below. Recommended arrival time 11.30 am to 12.20 pm.
Veterans, please wear your medals with pride!
The formal invitation list is now closed.
Thank you for your interest.
General Sir Richard Barrons KCB CBE ADC
Gen, Commander of the
Joint Forces Command,
will unveil the dedication plaque at the
very fitting for the service personnel of yesteryear, who served in or
alongside the Combined Operations Command, to be honoured by the
presence of the Commander of their modern equivalent force.
The Lord Lieutenant
of Staffordshire, Mr Ian Dudson, CBE, accompanied by his wife, will also
take part in the ceremony.
A National Memorial Arboretum leaflet,
which includes information about travelling, accompanied the
Disabled "Blue Badge" holders may use the
car park adjacent to the visitor centre, otherwise please use the
overspill car park beyond the main entrance, which will be sign-posted.
This car park is a 10 minute walk to the marquee. However, passengers
may be dropped off near the visitor centre entrance before parking in
either location. Pay and Display charges will apply.
For the majority, arrival at the Arboretum
between 11.30 am and 12.20 should allow time to park, receive
information from the Memorial Reception Desk in the visitor
centre and proceed to the marquee for refreshments - a total distance of
around 300 yards from the disabled parking area.
view courtesy of Google Earth.]
The Memorial Reception desk will be manned from 11.30 am to 1.00 pm.
Late arrivals may wish to go directly to the memorial site for the
start of the ceremony at 1.30 pm. The memorial is a good 15 minute walk
from the visitor centre.
On the day, two large "golf style" buggies
with 5 passenger seats will be available to transport anyone needing
assistance over this distance.
Please let me know if you would like to use this service. If there
is a heavy demand we'll need to start the shuttle service earlier than 1
If you require the use of a
motorised scooter or wheelchair
from the Arboretum, please make arrangements with them in advance -
or 01283 792 333. Scooters - £5.00, wheelchairs free. Supplies are not
unlimited so please book early to avoid disappointment.
Pre-ordered poppy wreaths are available
from the Arboretum for uplift on the day of the ceremony at a cost of
£18.00. For a further £2.00, an insert with a message and/or image will
be added. Your text and/or image should be sent to the Arboretum by
e-mail attachment (PDF). Please order well in advance to avoid
or 01283 792 333.
For Sat Nav purposes the post code of the
Arboretum is DE13 7AR.
Dedication and Wreath Laying Ceremonies
As further detail is added to the ceremony
the schedule below may be subject to minor changes.
11.30 - 1.00.
Arrive, check in at the Combined Operations reception in the visitor
centre and assemble in the marquee where name badges will be issued and
tea, coffee and biscuits will be served from 12 noon to 1.00 pm.
1.00 – 1.30. Make way to the memorial site.
1.30 – 2.15. The ceremony will start with the arrival of the
Official Party and Standards.
i) Welcome and introductions,
brief history of the memorial project and symbolism in the memorial
design and materials - Geoffrey Slee, Combined Operations
2) Combined Operations in WW2 and
the Joint Forces Command in 2013 - General Richard Barrons, CBE, Commander,
Joint Forces Command
3) Remembrance and Learning for
Future Generations - Lord Lieutenant for Staffordshire, Mr
Ian Dudson CBE.
4) Dedication service -
Prebendary Tony Wood.
5) Unveiling of the dedication
plaque - General Barrons.
6) Dedication of the memorial -
Prebendary Tony Wood.
7) Laying of wreaths - Groups and individuals.
8) Last Post and Reveille -
Bugler Adrian Harper.
2.15 – 3.00. Official and family photos/return to the marquee.
3.00 – 4.40. Reception - afternoon tea, displays, guest book, social
4.40 – 5.00. Dispersal. The Arboretum closes at 5.00.
memorial sub web for other information about the memorial.