Memorial cherry tree ceremony to mark the humanitarian role of the Armed Forces in Srebrenica
Shropshire Council is holding a special cherry tree dressing ceremony outside Shirehall in Shrewsbury at 11am on Tuesday 6 July 2021. This is in the week leading up to Remembering Srebrenica Day, which falls on Sunday 11 July, and for which the 2021 theme is ‘rebuilding lives’.
Thanks will be given to the Armed Forces representatives for the role that local Armed Forces played in the liberation of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in World War 2, and for their role in humanitarian efforts in Bosnia.
The ceremony will be conducted with members of the Armed Forces, along with people representing the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths. The Lord Lieutenant of Shropshire, Anna Turner, has also kindly agreed to come along to the ceremony.
Children from Mereside CofE Primary Academy, where the first memorial cherry tree was planted in 2015, will be sharing what their tree means to them and to their school, before helping to dress the Armed Forces tree with leaf messages and ribbons.
Ian Nellins, Armed Forces Covenant councillor lead for the council, said:-
“This tree has been planted as a memorial to mark the humanitarian efforts of our Armed Forces in Bosnia, as part of the Remembering Srebrenica activities in which we reflect upon this genocide. It will grow as part of our cherry tree orchard of remembrance for the Holocaust and other genocides.
“Just as we will be giving thanks to the Armed Forces on the day, it is right to say thank you ahead of the ceremony to the officers of the council that planted the tree, during a pandemic lockdown.
“Our arboricultural officer, John Blessington, has said that all he had asked was for help to carry the very large root ball to site and hold the tree in position, but four colleagues took turns in digging what I gather was rock hard soil, and helped to get the tree securely in place. This is a real example of officers working together and making the extra effort, and I am very pleased to thank them accordingly.”
The names of the people who helped to plant the tree are: Tim Croton, Eddie Griffiths, Karl Jukes, and Patrick Smith.
This event forms part of the ongoing work between the council, the interfaith forums, and schools, helping local children to learn about the Holocaust and other genocides in ways that are age appropriate and to understand the importance of different faiths working together. The focus of our work is the creation of a cherry tree orchard of remembrance across the county, to which we add each year.
Shropshire Council is joining with other organisations to remember the events of 26 years ago in Bosnia, where over 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were murdered because of their faith. Remembering Srebrenica Day is on Sunday 11 July 2021.
The council is marking the genocide together with the local Armed Forces through the Armed Forces Covenant, and with Shrewsbury Inter Faith Forum and the South Shropshire Interfaith Forum, with whom Shropshire Council works closely on ways to commemorate the Holocaust and other genocides.
Mark Michaels, for the South Shropshire Interfaith Forum, said:-
“I have been to Bosnia myself as a member of one of the UK delegations organised by Remembering Srebrenica. I share what I have learned from this experience in our ceremonies with local children, so that the focus is upon remembering not only those who died during the Holocaust, but also those who died in subsequent genocides, and how people of different faiths worked together then and work together now.”
The image used is the Srebrenica Flower: this is a symbol of remembrance of the Srebrenica Genocide. Its 11 petals represent the day the genocide began, while their white colour represents the innocence of its victims. The flower’s green centre represents hope for justice and recognition of the genocide.
Remembering Srebrenica is a charitable organisation funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and supported by the Foreign Office. Its aim is to raise awareness of the genocide in Bosnia and bring people together to tackle hatred and help build safer, stronger communities in the UK.
Shropshire Council identifies a primary school each year, where the tree for that year is planted in a special ceremony on or around Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January. We are seeking to spread the orchard across the county and to cover all points of the compass in so doing.
For Mereside C of E Primary Academy, the Day was the focus for a number of interlinked activities in 2021. Ffion Carr, Assistant Principal, told us that the children studied the online resources and Year 6 children wrote a poem. They read the poem around the tree when they went out to measure it: it is now around 2m 95cm, with hundreds of buds on it.
Each child chose a person to remember and they did illustrations with the person’s name on it with candles and “we will remember” on them.
The children then displayed their work in their windows at home that evening, with a candle to remember them.
A short video has been produced and kindly shared by the school, for which the link is as follows. It is also on the school website.
As well as marking HMD itself through online events and resources, and lighting of candles, the council is taking this opportunity to mark the more recent genocide in Srebrenica, for which the 2021 theme is “Rebuilding Lives”. This builds on the January online resources researched for us by Shropshire Archives.
There are two cherry trees for 2021, one of which was planted in the north east at our chosen school for that area, Longlands Primary School in Market Drayton.
This follows on from the planting in 2020 of two trees at two rural federated schools in the south west, Onny and Lydbury North.
This brings the total number of trees to 14 at the moment, with flowers and fruit on the first trees.
For more information, please see resources on the following websites:-
Remembering Srebrenica website: www.srebrenica.org.uk
HMD Trust website: www.hmd.org.uk