Les Fleurs de la Memoire

The tradition of placing flowers of the graves of soldiers from overseas, who have fallen liberating France dates back to the first world war. Families would adopt the grave of a serviceman who fell and was buried in their area. This duty would be handed down to the children and would pass from generation to generation. After the Battle of Normandy when the two American National Cemeteries were established, only around 15% of the Americans who died liberating Normandy were interred here. With all of the temporary cemeteries now empty many Frenchmen had no American grave in their area and flowers were placed at the French War Memorial on Memorial Day. The French place flowers on the War Memorial on VE Day and November 11th for their own fallen servicemen. Because it was felt that the tradition of placing flowers on the graves was in danger of dying out and that the younger generations who had not known war should be involved in the placing of flowers, the Association  "Les Fleurs de la Mémoire" was born. It was conceived in the town of St Lô, which after the bombing raids during the liberation became known as the city of ruins. The Association is quite new, only founded in 2000, and has a core of 750 members, who organise and recruit new members, last year around 45% of the American graves had flowers placed on them, by over 4,000 Frenchmen. Members of the Association, undertake to place flowers on the graves of fallen American servicemen in the two cemeteries at Colleville St Laurent and St James, if possible on Memorial Day and also at other times of the year. Members are allotted one or two graves, and if possible they have some connection, such as they live in the area where the American was killed. Often villages adopt several graves of men killed in their village and draw up a rota of local people to visit the graves.

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