RoadPeace welcomes guest contributions to our blog from our members and supporters. Here we hear from Brigitte Chaudhry MBE, our founder, with a celebration of the RoadPeace Wood. Many thanks to Brigitte for writing this piece.
“It gives me great pleasure to remind everybody that today we celebrate not only our annual remembrance event at this special place, but that today is the 20th time since we began this tradition – a 20th Anniversary in RoadPeace’s 30th Anniversary Year, which makes this a truly wonderful occasion.
For the 20th time, the remembrance ceremony at this place has been part of several other events and campaigns held by RoadPeace during August, National Road Victim Month.
When RoadPeace declared August as National Road Victim Month in 1999, we did not know of the National Memorial Arboretum (NMA) because the NMA had hardly begun its existence.
These key points are from the NMA website:-
- The Arboretum was the idea of Commander David Childs CBE after a visit to Arlington Cemetery and the National Arboretum in Washington DC.
- Planting began in 1997.
- The Polar Bear Memorial, tribute to the 49th West Riding Infantry Division was the first memorial at the Arboretum and dedicated on 7th June 1998.
- The Arboretum was officially opened to the public in May 2001.
- From the start it was seen as a place of joy, where the lives of people would be remembered by living trees that would grow and mature in a world of peace.
RoadPeace was very fortunate to have active members in the Midlands, who immediately saw the connection of the Arboretum with remembrance of our crash victims, especially since we often in our campaigning called for the end to the ‘War on our roads’.
We were therefore alerted to this opportunity and I would like to give special thanks to Sandra Green, who started our involvement and subsequent negotiations that resulted in our own RoadPeace Wood – on the eastern boundary of the Arboretum, bordering the River Tame.
Planting of trees in the RoadPeace Wood started in the Spring of 2001 and the Wood was dedicated on 10th August 2002, the second Saturday of the month, which remained the day on which we hold this special Remembrance Event during August National Road Victim Month.
Many of our members from the Midlands were involved in helping on the day and throughout the year and Sandra Green, Julia and Jeff Wright and Josie Boughton were first among them.
For the dedication ceremony, a special plaque with the RoadPeace logo was commissioned, with a bench close by, to mark the entrance to our wood.
Sincere thanks are due to Julia and Jeff Wright – for not only organising these important markers, but also funding them and providing regular maintenance for almost the next two decades.
A slate memorial crafted by renowned carver and artist Martin Cook who has made pieces for Westminster Abbey, the British Museum and the Royal Family, has very recently replaced the plaque.
The slate was kindly donated by Honister Mine in Cumbria, the last working slate mine in England.
Although it may be a small memorial among the nearly 400 splendid memorials erected at the Arboretum during the past 20 years, it is the only one dedicated to the victims of the ‘War on the road’.
Many trees in our Wood have been sponsored in memory and have a plaque with the names of our loved ones attached. They were tiny saplings in 2002 at the first Remembrance event.
When I attended on 11th August 2013, with my little granddaughter, then 5 years old, the trees were already much bigger. By now they are part of a real wood.
It is wonderful that RoadPeace has this place of remembrance within such a setting, a setting that has become so prominent in recent years.
It is my hope that this fact will be used to the utmost for publicising the carnage on our roads, its impact and the work of RoadPeace amongst the many hundreds of daily visitors to the Arboretum – through permanent RoadPeace information here. And that this information may contribute to reducing the shocking daily toll of 5 deaths and 70 serious injuries on UK roads.
At the end of my address I want to mention the background to National Road Victim Month.
August was chosen because of the deaths, in August, of two well-known road crash victims – Bridget Driscoll, the first ever car victim, and Diana, Princess of Wales – and to warn people of the increased danger from traffic during the holiday period – to children and to holidaymakers at home and abroad.
Bridget Driscoll was killed on 17 August 1896 and the Princess of Wales on 31 August 1997 and both anniversaries are marked during this month, on 31st August with a special commemoration by RoadPeace North West.
The coroner is reported to have said at Bridget Driscoll’s inquest 126 years ago, that he hoped ‘such a thing would never happen again’.
But since then, some 50 million people have been killed and hundreds of millions injured on the world’s roads, with 3,700 deaths and countless thousands of injuries added daily*.
Road deaths and injuries are the leading cause of deaths and injuries of our young – a terrible loss all round.
We want to remember all who have lost their lives prematurely or been injured in a crash, but we want their memories to be the motivation for bringing an end to all preventable cruel road deaths and injuries, so that we do not have new victims to remember in future.
Many thanks to all of you for supporting our work and best wishes for today’s gathering.”
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Updated on: 13 August 2022