Bayeux British Cemetery

It is a time honoured custom of the British Army that a soldier killed in battle is buried on the ground where he fell. Because of this there are over 2,500 cemeteries around the world, some quite small. There are sixteen cemeteries in this area which are the last resting place of the troops who died in the liberation of Normandy. In many cases British troops are buried in local churchyards, and during the German occupation of Normandy, aircrew who died over France were buried by the French. The British Cemetery on the edge of the town, is the largest Commonwealth WW2 cemetery in France. There was a field hospital in the next field on the days after D-day. The cemetery straddles both sides of the by pass, which was built by the British in under a week on the days after the liberation of the town. This cemetery is the last resting place for over 4,600 Commonwealth Soldiers, Airmen and Sailors, and some of the opposing forces. They come from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Poland, France, Czechoslovakia, Italy, France, Russia and Germany. The British cemeteries were landscaped after the war. At first simple wooden crosses marked the grave, and later the headstones were added. Each headstone has the name and rank and Regimental badge of the soldier together with his age and date of death. A simple personal message chosen by his relatives is often included at the foot of the headstone. One grave that of Pte. H. C. Howe, a soldier with the Welsh Regiment, who died on July 3rd 1944 in his brother in laws arms can be found at 12B 18. Although at first glance, all the headstones look the same, closer inspection reveals that there are many differences regarding the different nationalities buried here. The fallen of the British Commonwealth all share the same shape of headstone, but with detailed differences. For example the Canadian has the Maple Leaf at the top. Polish servicemen have a more rounded top to their headstones. The Czechoslovakian have a stepped front to their headstone, whilst the Russians have squared top corners. The French have a simple cross, but those of the Islamic faith have a stone with a very eastern feel to it. There is a touching reminder of comrades who died together and possibly could not be identified, because they died in a plane crash or a tank being destroyed. Their headstones are placed together with two or three stones depending of the number who lost their lives.

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