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Ex-Belfast soldier unveils huge map tribute to Irish regiments at Arboretum

By Jonathan Bell

A former soldier has spoken of his pride at working on a tribute to Irish soldiers at the UK’s National Memorial Arboretum - which will see a permanent and large-scale map of Ireland viewable from the sky right in the heart of England.

Belfast man and former NCO with the Royal Irish Rangers Glenn Bradley worked on the memorial at the Irish Infantry Grove within the arboretum.

It features a 30metre by 25m map of Ireland in green granite against white granite with the crests of past and present Irish regiments placed where their headquarters would be on the map.

"It is a lasting tribute, memorial and reminder to all Irish soldiers of all ranks who served under The Colours pre and post the partition of Ireland," said Glenn.

Mr Bradley served in the Army for 10 years between 1984 and 1994 with tours across the world in the likes of Canada, Cyprus and Northern Ireland. His firm Hardscape Ireland did the stone work for the stunning memorial.

He said the original memorial was allowed to fall into a poor state and it was decided some years ago to give it some much-needed attention.

"We just helped with the design, sourced and cut the stones. Without former Royal Irish Ranger Joe Mills and regimental secretary Colin Gray it would never have happened. I was just fortunate to have been involved.

Crests of the former Royal Dublin Fusiliers, the Leinster Regiment, Connacht Rangers and the current Royal Irish Regiment are laser cut into the Carlow blue limestone. 

The map of Ireland sits at a slight elevation so those visiting it can get an understanding of the scale.

There are also large polished plinths at the entrance to the grove recording the regiments and recognising those soldiers who were awarded the Victoria Cross.

"We used the best material from around the world - all ethically sourced - and state-of-the art equipment was used to cut the stone. It's a professional job, very bespoke. With a bit of maintenance, it will last for years to come," continued Glenn.

"It is a tremendous tribute to infantry soldiers pre and post partition."

The National Memorial Arboretum is the UK's year-round centre of Remembrance and includes a maturing 150-acre Arboretum at its Staffordshire location.

Royal Irish Regiment Secretary Colin Gray praised the work of Glenn and Hardscape.

"It is fantastic and a credit to their work, it will look great in the summer. It would not have been possible without the support of the many people who donated both in kind and financially. Hardscape have been very generous along with many others.

"This project has been on the go for six or seven years now and when Google Maps updates you will be able to see a huge map of Ireland right in the heart of England."

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