Imagine you are an ordinary boy, of 17years old when suddenly you are called upon by your country to defend everything you hold dear. To defend your very right as a human being to decide what you think and do. And to do all this not just for yourself, but also for millions of people living and in future generations. You may not think this would ever happen or indeed ever has happened but to men and boys alike it did. On June 6th 1944 across a 50 mile stretch of Frances Normandy coast it happened. The young men of Canada Britain and the USA were put up against Germany and Hitler’s Atlantic wall.
What was to follow would be forever remembered just as the names of men and boys who took part in it and laid down the ultimate sacrifice are forever engraved in huge war cemeteries across Normandy. When we visited Normandy, over 60 years later we went to three cemeteries, the American cemetery at Colleville sur Mer, the German cemetery at La Cambe and the British cemetery in Bayeux. The American cemetery is located on the cliffs above Omaha beach. This very significant as Omaha beach is where the Americans lost most of their men on D-Day.
The graves are in no particular order this signifies that all of the men who died were equal regardless of rank or religion. The graves are divided into sections, rows and columns so visitors can find their relatives’ graves. Each grave is marked with a cross or if Jewish the star of saint David, name, rank, date of death, age, service number and hometown. The servicemen who’s bodies were lost, destroyed or unidentified are remembered in the garden of the missing, which is backed by a wall with the names of these men on them.
There are also a few statues to commemorate the dead servicemen and two 50-foot flagpoles with the stars and stripes on them. The cemetery is laid out in the shape of a cross and has a very military atmosphere. Having every thing ordered and symmetrical has created this atmosphere. The German cemetery at La Cambe is literally in the middle of no-where. The graves are also laid out in parallel, focused on the central mound, which covers the mass grave of 296 unknown German troops. A small black granite slab with the names of the usual four occupants, their ranks and the date they were killed marks each grave.
There are also two memorials to the people buried here. On top of the mound there are two figures engraved in black stone and in the entrance there is a small chapel. There are 21,160 German service men buried here and every single one shares their grave with other men, this achieves the feeling of comradeship in death. The British cemetery is located in Bayeux. This is significant as Bayeux was the first sizeable town to be liberated by the Allies after D-Day. The graves are not arranged in any particular order i. e. rank, but each of them has a column number and row so that their relatives may find them.
The people who designed this cemetery wish to evoke a family and individual atmosphere. They have achieved this by letting the relatives of the dead decide what the epitaph on the grave is and also by putting flowers in front of every grave native to where that person came from. The unidentified bodies were given their own grave, which is marked A soldier/airman, ect of the 1939-1945 war, known unto God. Each person who was missing is also commemorated on the memorial of the missing in the cemetery. very grave is inscripted with their regimental badge, rank regiment, date of death and an epitaph if the relatives wish.