Our Founder and Chair Paul Cooling's Story
How it all began!
I was a serving soldier in the 1st Battalion the Queen’s Regt (Surrey) for nine years – Lance Corporal. My duties included working in Headquarters Intelligence. I also boxed for the Battalion for seven years and was Army Champion. I did three ‘tours’ of Northern Ireland whilst based in Bulford, Wiltshire and, later at Werl, in Germany.
In later years I found myself saddened and moved to see our troops, my former colleagues, being lost in action; particularly the televised bulletins showing the returning coffins of the lost soldiers. It affected me to an extent that I stopped watching television. But simply blotting out the matter was not enough;something within me told me I needed to do more. I started looking for land with a vague notion to provide a place to honour the fallen.
It was two and a half years later I found a plot of woodland near Dorking in Surrey which was up for auction. When I visited the site at Holmbury St Mary the wood was littered with rubbish, very neglected with high brambles everywhere. But, standing there in the total silence apart from the occasional bird singing and church bells ringing in the distance, I knew this was meant to be; I knew my vision would now be fulfilled.
As soon as I had possession of the land I contacted some Army ‘buddies’ and explained my vision. They have been incredibly helpful. I have since applied to form a Charity and, with generous help from the local residents who have donated picnic benches, flowers, trees and shrubs, not to forget their spare time “The Memorial Woodland” is available for all to visit.
It is a Garden of Reflection, a place where those who have lost loved ones or those suffering from the effects of conflict, can wander or sit and remember, in a natural environment. With the help from ex-soldiers (Queensmen) the support has grown and so has the “word”. Although ‘our’ Regiment has been disbanded, this is our way of showing support for our troops and help share the sense of loss, help those suffering from the trauma and gain solace from the tranquility of the place. Although I have purchased the woodland, it is for ALL of the service community, their families, friends and the local community.
We look forward to welcoming you soon.
Founder of the QRMW