Oddfellows war memorial unveiled at UK’s biggest site of remembrance

On Thursday 1 August 2019, we unveiled a new memorial at the National Arboretum, Staffordshire, to honour the tens of thousands of Society members who have fought and lost their lives in combat.

More than 70 Oddfellows members came together from across the country to remember the fallen with a special ceremony and to officially mark the monument’s place within the UK’s largest site of remembrance. The polished blue granite memorial stands approximately six feet tall, and has been funded by a donation of over £11,000 from 62 Oddfellows Branches.

Reverend Bruce Nicole addresses guests at unveiling of the Oddfellows Memorial

The memorial’s inscription makes reference to how the Society’s Branches paid the contributions for Society members who were fighting in the First and Second World Wars, so their families would continue to be looked after.

Records from the Oddfellows’ historical archive state that in WWI alone, no less than 20,000 of its members died in military action. The number of members who lost their lives during WWII is unknown, although estimated to be in the thousands.

Despite the years that have passed, this memorial stands as testament to how our Society still feel incredibly indebted to those members who serve our country. Jane Nelson, CEO

In response to the impact such a loss had on the soldiers’ families, the Society established an Orphan Gift Fund in 1919 which provided financial help to those children left behind. The Fund is still in operation today and supports around 55 children and young adults who have lost one or both parents through death or desertion.

Oddfellows members attending the dedication ceremony of the Oddfellows memorial

Oddfellows CEO, Jane Nelson, reflected on the kind donations of the Branches which made the long-awaited memorial possible. She said: “Despite the years that have passed, this memorial stands as testament to how our Society still feel incredibly indebted to those members who serve our country. Thank you to all the Branches who made this memorial a reality. Its setting at the National Arboretum makes this tribute feel even more significant, being part of a community of others who will never forget.

“At our Annual Conference, without fail, we hold a wreath-laying ceremony at a local war memorial to keep the sacrifices our members made, and are still making within Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, front-of-mind. It’s wonderful that we now have a year-round, lasting tribute to honour them.”

Our friendly society has been established for over 200 years and continues to provide regular events and activities throughout its network of 124 Branches across the UK, as well as providing financial, care and welfare support to its 310,000 members.

The National Arboretum is an independently registered charity and is Britain’s largest site of remembrance. The Oddfellows memorial joins over 300 other monuments located across the 150 acre site.