A Royal princess has made her way to East Staffordshire to officially open a new £50 million SuperHub and unveil a memorial dedicated to those who died or suffered as a result of war.
Princess Anne had a busy day in the area as she first headed to Palletforce to open the state-of-the-art SuperHub, which is expected to create 70 new jobs in Burton, before heading to the National Memorial Arboretum, in Alrewas.
She was returning to Palletforce exactly eight years after visiting for the opening of the original distribution hub also at the company's Burton site. Since then, the company has expanded its staff from 80 to 400 and turnover has grown from £8million to £100million.
Meanwhile, more than £65 million has been invested across its network – in infrastructure, technology and people – since its acquisition by EmergeVest in 2015.
The Princess Royal was greeted by dignitaries, including the Lord Lieutenant Ian Dudson and High Sheriff of Staffordshire Humphrey Scott-Moncrieff and Burton MP Andrew Griffiths, before being introduced to Palletforce chief executive officer Michael Conroy and John Brotherton, chairman of the Palletforce advisory committee.
She then met with the company's executive directors before being taken on a tour of the 620,000 sq ft custom-built facility, which is the largest of its type in Europe and capable of handling 30,000 pallets of freight every night.
Equipped with the very latest technology and software, including a state-of-the-art computerised weight-checking system, the SuperHub is expected to create around 70 new jobs locally within Palletforce itself and an estimated 700 across the express distribution firm's wider network when fully operational.
Mr Conroy said: "It was, as always, a fantastic day. Princess Anne was really good and on form. She is a knowledgeable lady who knows about many things. She certainly knew what we do.
She spent a lot of time with people and she was really interested in the academy and the young people of Burton working for us. We touched on our success in Europe and our opening in China; she had a really keen interest. It was an excellent day for Palletforce's staff and members."
While at the SuperHub, the Royal toured the site, met with the staff and directors, saw the new technology and also saw a display of vintage vehicles and machinery, including a horse and cart. Having unveiled a plaque to mark the SuperHub's official opening, The Princess Royal was presented with a model Palletforce truck by Connor Wilkinson, a member of the Palletforce Apprentice Academy.
Mr Conroy said: "I think that Burton is a really nice place and that is because of the people. There is a good work ethic in Burton. We have been here since 2009 and we now want to keep growing the academy and invited young people to come and work for Palletforce.
"We need young people to come and work for this business as they are the future so we are happy to educate them. We have seven or eight lads in the academy at the moment and we want to keep growing that. If they are hard-working, want to learn a skill and are prepared to put the effort in then we will give them a career."
The princess, who is patron of the Townswomen's Guild, then headed to the National Memorial Arboretum, in Alrewas, for the unveiling of a new memorial.
This memorial is dedicated to those who have died or suffered as a result of war and members of the popular women's organisation attended the service of dedication.
The sculpture at the centre of the event was funded by the Townswomen's Guild, which raised more than £15,000 through coffee mornings, along with some more imaginative initiatives, including "Eat Smarties and Fill The Tubes with Cash".
Jenny Rideout, Townswomen's Guild National chairman, said: "So many of our members responded enthusiastically to this project. As mothers, wives and daughters, Townswomen have been affected by conflict through the ages.
"Our memorial is in remembrance of parents, spouses and children who have died or been wounded while on active service in conflicts worldwide. The memorial will also commemorate those civilians who have died or suffered as a result of conflict.
"The project has its genesis in 2015, and Townswomen's Guild involvement with First World War commemorations. We were delighted to be invited to become involved with the National Memorial Arboretum, alongside so many other prominent national organisations.
"Our members are familiar with local memorials in towns and villages across the UK, but the idea of a Townswomen's Guild memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum really caught their imagination."
One such member is Beverly Oliver, who will be remembering her grandmother whose life spanned many conflicts, including two world wars. She wrote to the appeal: "My Guild made a contribution to the National Memorial Arboretum appeal but I am sending another donation on behalf of my late grandmother.
"As a child, she was a mill worker in Southport. Although she lived into her late nineties, she never had money of her own and her life like so many women was severely restricted. Her generation would not believe how far women have progressed since their day."
Sarah Montgomery, the managing director of the arboretum, said: "The National Memorial Arboretum is home to more than 350 memorials that commemorate people from all walks of life that have served, sacrificed, or suffered on behalf of our nation.
"We were delighted to welcome Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal to the arboretum for the dedication of the memorial for the Townswomen's Guild. This new tribute to the service of guild members and their families also recognises the wider impact of conflict and how civilians can suffer as a result."
The Townswomen's Guild is one of the largest women's organisations in the UK. With around 600 guilds and 24,000 members, it is experiencing something of a renaissance through a "new generation" of members, attracted by the events, friendship, crafts and campaigning on social issues offered collectively and by individual Guilds around the country.