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Lottery winners dig in to honour heroes

By Mark Andrews | Stourbridge | News | Published:

A group of lottery millionaires, including a couple from Oswestry, teamed up with a decorated war hero to build a new pathway at the National Memorial Arboretum.

James and Sue Schofield, who won £1 million in the EuroMillions New Year's Day draw in 2013, were among 36 lotto winners who gave up their time to spend two days creating the new path at the arboretum in Alrewas, near Lichfield.

They joined forces with George Cross holder Lance-Corporal Matthew Crouch to build a 44-yard path linking the main avenue to the new memorials which have been built at the back of the park.

With a combined wealth of over £45 million, the winners spent two days working on the route, which has been named National Lottery Way.

Also among the millionaires taking part were Tom and Rita Naylor, from Wolverhampton, Stuart and Denise Powell, also from Wolverhampton, and Brenda Portch, from Stourbridge.

L/Cpl Croucher, a 33-year-old Royal Marine Commando from Solihull, was awarded the George Medal after he risked his life to save his comrades in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. The Cross is the highest British and Commonwealth medal for gallantry not in the face of the enemy.

He had thrown himself onto a Taliban tripwire grenade to save his comrades near Sangin in Helmand Province in February, 2008. He is one of only 22 living recipients of the medal.

Also among the lottery winners who helped out was Ken Wedgeworth, from Swadlincote, who is a volunteer at the arboretum. Ken had previously served with the Army for 35 years, rising to the rank of Sergeant Major. He won £1 million on the EuroMillions draw in December last year.

Matthew and Ken officially opened the route, surrounded by the other winners and veterans of the Women’s Royal Army Corps Association which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.

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The group, supported by staff from lottery operator Camelot, spent 48 hours excavating the route, pouring gravel, planting trees and shrubs and installing signs.

Matthew said he was amazed by how keen the millionaires were as they went about their work.

“I assumed we’d get a somewhat chilled group of wealthy people," he said.

"What I saw was a very hard-working group who wanted to make a difference. Indeed, they worked so hard some of them completed other tasks because it was all finished so quickly.

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"They all mentioned how they wanted to give something back after their good fortune and not only did they work hard but they were great fun with an amazing sense of humour.”

Ken added: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed welcoming my fellow winners to the arboretum. I’ve met a few of them before and I was delighted to hear they wereall coming to help this wonderful place.

"On behalf of everyone at the arboretum, I say thank you.”

Many of the winners used skills they had gained before hitting the jackpot.

Builder Alan Elliott, who with wife Kim scooped £1 million in 2012, said afterwards he had not been afraid to get his hands dirty.

"All the splinters and blisters have been worth it today," he said.

It is the third time National Lottery winners have turned out to help at the memorial park.

In 2013, they renovated the Shot At Dawn memorial, which commemorates 306 soldiers executed for desertion during the First World War, and later pardoned.

The following year they created a new Dunkirk Memorial at the entrance to the site which was visited by two veterans of the evacuation while it was under construction.

The arboretum, officially opened in 2001, has received grants totalling more than £10 million in lottery funding, most recently a grant of £2.85 million for the new visitor and education centre.

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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