03 Apr 2024

Public urged to help fund renovation of iconic ‘Shot at Dawn’ memorial

Shot at dawn.jpg

A new campaign has launched inviting the public to support the renovation and preservation of the Shot at Dawn memorial, one of the most visited and poignant memorials at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

The memorial was installed in 2001 with the support of public subscriptions, and now over twenty years later the wooden stakes that pay tribute to the 309 soldiers that were ‘shot at dawn’ during the First World War have deteriorated beyond repair.

This new campaign aims to raise £45,000 to ensure that the memorial will be preserved for future generations to explore, discover and remember.

Maria Howes, head of marketing and business development at the National Memorial Arboretum said: “Our visitors regularly tell us how deeply affected they are by the Shot at Dawn Memorial, from the symbolism of its location and layout to the individual stories of the young men who were killed.

“Sadly, due to its location next to the River Tame, repeated flooding events have exacerbated the deterioration of the grounds and posts which have had to be replaced several times over the years.

“With the support from the public, sponsors and local businesses, we will ensure that the Shot at Dawn memorial honours the legacy of these 309 soldiers for future generations.”

During the First World War, 309 British and Commonwealth soldiers were shot for desertion, cowardice, striking a senior officer, disobeying a lawful order, casting away arms, mutiny and sleeping at post. Most of them were sentenced after a short trial at which no real opportunity for defence was allowed.

Dedicated in 2001, the Shot at Dawn Memorial at the Arboretum is situated on the eastern edge of the 150-acre site where it is the first memorial to be touched by the sun’s rays at dawn.

At its heart is a central statue of a young, blindfolded soldier sculpted by artist Andy DeComyn.

In front of the statue are six conifer trees to represent the firing squad aiming for the target around the statue’s neck.

Behind the statue, 309 stakes bearing the names of the shot soldiers (including three additional names that were added in 2016) are arranged in the form of a Greek theatre to symbolise the tragedy that the events signify.

Whilst refurbishment work to the Shot at Dawn Memorial takes place at the Arboretum from 7 May for up to six weeks, the names of those who were ‘shot at dawn’ will remain accessible for those who wish to pay tribute to their service and tragic loss of life.

The 309 replacement posts will be made from durable, recycled material and will no longer need to be replaced every 4-7 years. Works will also focus on improving drainage, access and new interpretation boards to improve the visitor experience.

Donations can be made via the National Memorial Arboretum website

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