Irish Infantry Grove – Remembering Ireland’s Soldiers
A fitting tribute to Ireland’s infantry war dead has been gracefully completed in Staffordshire at The National Memorial Arboretum. Depicted within this impressive and iconic memorial is artscape, used to create a map design as a monumental reminder of the sacrifice that Irish Infantry Regiments have made in service with the British Army since 1689, including both the recent World Wars and subsequent conflicts.
A historical sanctuary
The National Memorial Arboretum, the UK’s year-round centre of remembrance, spans over 150 acres and is home to over 300 dedicated memorials. Located in Alrewas, Staffordshire, it is a spiritually uplifting place which honours the fallen and recognises service and sacrifice. One of those poignant sacrifices over successive centuries was by the various Irish Infantry Regiments. Since 1689, Irish Infantry soldiers have served under the colours of the British Army and, until now, they did so without any significant, lasting memorial in Britain.
The Royal Irish Regimental Headquarters and Committee Trustees recruited a team to design and deliver a landscaped memorial that befittingly captured the Regiments throughout history, both before and after the imposed 1920 Partition of Ireland Act.
Irish Ranger Veteran – Hardscape’s Glenn Bradley
As a Royal Irish Ranger Veteran himself, Head of Global Supply Chain, Glenn Bradley, based in our Belfast offices, was approached by the Regimental Committee of the modern day Royal Irish Regiment and asked to devise a team that could bring the brief to life, managing the process right through from selection to installation.
Much of the work by Glenn and the team at Park Hood in Belfast, led by landscape architect Mark Johnston, was initially completed on a voluntary basis as all parties held belief in the necessity of the project. Once an acceptable design was created and a programme of ‘how to complete’ was achieved with funding approved, both Hardscape and Park Hood were ‘contracted’ by the Royal Irish Regiment to complete and deliver.
The design brief was to create a symbol that was uniquely Irish, and which would be visible from the air (for google mapping purposes) to provide an extraordinary memorial to all Irish Infantry Soldiers throughout history.
Green for Ireland
In total, Hardscape supplied materials to an area of approximately 1200sqm, valuing to about £50,000. Using artscape production techniques that included water-jet technology, the masonry team created a 78 sqm map of Ireland in Kobra Green granite (the Emerald Isle) surrounded by a sea of Azul Platino to depict the surrounding waters (the Irish Sea and Atlantic Ocean).
Inset in to the map are water-jet etched panels outlining each Recruiting Depot and Regiment name at the original location in Ireland, leaving a touching, dedicated memoir. There is also natural stone street furniture around the memorial, again inset with Regimental details in artscape.
At the entrance are two 2.4m high polished memorial stones in Pencil Black, which is another granite but a much darker tone in comparison to the green and grey.
On one stone, using laser-etching, each Regimental Crest and a potted history of the Regiment is detailed. Whilst on the other boasts’ laser-etching details of the Irish recipients of the Victoria Cross.
Creating a lasting memory
One of the main challenges was working out how to create an Irish ’emblem’ that would be enduring. Through cutting-edge artscape technology in the form of water-jet and laser-etching, Hardscape was able to customise and manipulate stone to meet the required longevity needs.
Personalised, dedicated messages were included as part of the design to ensure that the Regiments will be remembered forever. The team also wanted to ensure the memorial would be visible from a birds-eye view, to achieve this the Hardscape team in Ireland created one of the largest-scale artscape pieces they have ever worked on.
Another challenge from the outset was to generate initial funding for the project to bring it to completion. Once the plans were set out and the vision was clear, with the project being close to the hearts of many people involved, funding was achieved.
As an Irish Infantry Veteran myself, I supported Colin Gray, the Regimental Secretary of the Royal Irish Regiment on a voluntary basis to bring the project to fruition. It was a real an honour to be involved in this work, although at times it was quite emotional too, but the historic importance to remember Irish soldiers kept us all going.
The Irish Infantry Grove places a little part of Ireland in Britain and creates a lasting symbol and reminder of the sacrifice Irish Infantry Regiments have given in service to Britain. The project has become a firm ‘must-see’ fixture with visitors to the National Memorial Arboretum, and rightly so, as it is an outstanding landscape memorial harbouring a deep meaning and historical trace to a lot of Irish genealogy.
The Grove will officially open in 2019 with a fitting ceremony by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II or her appointed representative.