Wednesday, 11 November 2009

White crosses as far as the eye could see

Last month when we were in France we visited the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville sur Mer. It is situated on a cliff overlooking the eastern end of Omaha beach and the English Channel and covers 172.5 acres.


As we drove back to the main road from Omaha beach we noticed a sign to the cemetery. We followed the sign partly out of curiosity and because we were there. Having parked our car in an emptyish car park we then walked initially in the direction of the coast before turning west to walk parallel to the beach. We must have been walking for a good ten minutes when the path turned to the left and there before us were white crosses fanning out in all directions as far as the eye could see. I was quite taken aback to see so many graves. There are 9,387 graves of American military and air force personnel who died as a result of the D Day landings and in the ensuing operations. In addition the Walls of the Missing bear the names of 1,557 service men
who do not have graves. Each grave is marked with an absolutely pristine white cross - the Latin cross for Christians and the Star of David for those of the Jewish faith. It was not possible to work out the age of the fallen servicemen as the crosses bear only their name and the date of their death. Even on a grey and windy day the cemetery looked immaculately groomed with the usual silence of a cemetery being broken only by the waves of the English Channel breaking on the beach below. This satellite photo shows the sheer size if the cemetery. We had not known quite what to expect as the only other war cemetery that we had visited was at Souda Bay on Crete, which is much smaller.

20 comments:

Maggie May said...

I can remember stopping at a similar site when we were on a coach tour through France to Italy. It was just as you described..... bright white crosses and I can remember standing dumbfounded at the immensity of the deaths.......... and that was just one tiny place.
We should be ever so grateful always..... for our freedom and the sacrifice they all made.

Nuts in May

jinksy said...

And men still fight...

Gilly said...

Whoever keeps the graves and grounds neat and tidy deserves a huge thank you. We need to be able to see the terrible cost of war.

French Fancy said...

It must have been impossible to have been there and not felt caught up with the emotion of it all. So so sad.

Akelamalu said...

I felt humbled when we visited the cemetary in Kanchanaburi, Thailand where the bodies of many victims of the Death Valley Railway are buried. It broke my heart to read the names and ages of the fallen.

Trubes said...

We too have visited the very place a few years back. Did you visit the Church that is painted blue inside, The name escapes me, at present.
I think there are dedications to the local fishermen who lost their lives during the liberation of the town. The Pegasus Bridge comes to mind too.

May all the brave souls who perished in the conflict,
RIP.

Di.

A Brit in Tennessee said...

What a breathtaking and poignant tribute to all those servicemen who lost their lives.
I am humbled and grateful everyday for their ultimate sacrifices.
God Bless them all.

Carol said...

It is a jaw dropping sight isn't it!!

C x

Hilary said...

May they never be forgotten. A touching post for yesterday's Remembrance Day (as it's called in Canada). Thank you.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

A fitting and beautiful post! And very humbling when you consider all those who have sacrificed so much for us...I'm awed and grateful! Thank you, dear CW! Have a wonderful week!! God bless you!! ~Janine XO

Rob-bear said...

A thoughtful post, CW. And thanks for the pictures.

I have an uncle buried near Boulogne -- WW1 soldier. I don't think I'll ever get to see the grave, but I know where it is.

imbeingheldhostage said...

wow. It just stops you in your tracks doesn't it.

Jan said...

Your post was moving, illumianating.
The older I get, the more important it seems that we remember..
Carol Ann Duffy's new poem is fantastic.

Jenny said...

The War Graves Commission do wonderful work maintaining these places as memorials to the sacrifice of the fallen, each a loved family member in a foreign land. We visited the graves at Casino in Italy, so very moving.

Gloria said...

Fabulous, fabulous captures . . . want to go see for myself now!!

Sandi McBride said...

Such a sad post...brave men and women we honor each year...sadly...
Sandi

jinksy said...

Thanks for your latest comment on my blog - your skating days may be over, but mine have never even begun! (I don't have an email address for you, so had to resort to a reply here.) :)

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