Thousands of crosses planted for Field of Remembrance service at the National Memorial Arboretum

Thousands of commemorative markers have been planted for the opening service of remembrance at the National Memorial Arboretum Credit: ITV News

Thousands of crosses have been planted for the opening service of the Royal British Legion's Field of Remembrance at the National Memorial Arboretum today.

The commemorative field pays tribute to all those who have lost their lives in conflict from the First World War to the present day.

It will feature around 8,500 tributes, each one holding a personal message dedicated to someone who has lost their life during service, in preparation for armistice day.

The service will include the planting of remembrance tributes, readings and a two-minutes silence.

Malcolm Smith is an ex-Army and Northern Ireland veteran says this is a special time to reflect and it is "very important to never forget the people, the sacrifices and what they did for us".

Today Mr Smith who was a Corporal in the 1st battalion Staffordshire regiment and then a Sergeant in the Mercian volunteers planted a cross for Lofty who became a father figure to him when he first joined the army.

He said: "Lofty was a gentle giant of a man. He was the first person that I looked up to when I first joined the regiment.

"He was the type of guy where you walk through the gate as a young royal recruit, and he was there to meet you."

"He took me under his wing from then. He got me all through my training so I owe a lot of respect but he had his life taken shortly."

"He got killed in Northern Ireland in 1972 by a booby trap bomb."

Malcolm Smith reflects on fond memories of Lofty (above) Credit: ITV News

He added: "I just think of the times when we had parades on Parade Square and teaching us how to march and how he used to bellow the orders out to us."

"Just shaking you up and preparing you, readying you for life and getting and passing us through all the training."

Malcolm reflected on a memory when he passed as a training sergeant and Lofty was posted to the same battalion shortly after.

"He always used to come and talk to me to see how I was getting on and how life was going in the regiment," he said.

"So he would be happy that I'm doing this for him."

The field will be open to members of the public to visit and pay their respects until 29 November.

The arboretum in Alrewas, near Lichfield, is one of of six Royal British Legion Fields of Remembrance.

More than 55,000 tributes will be planted across the six fields of Remembrance taking the form of a Little Remembrance Cross, Muslim Crescent, Star of David, Sikh Khanda, Hindu Om or Secular Tribute.

Entry to the Opening Service is free, but organisers say that numbers on the ground are limited and suggest booking in advance.