Saturday, 24 March 2012

Did I have fun?

Newfoundland Memorial Park
the trenches are in a zig-zag formation.
I got that very same question on Thursday, as I was leaving the American cemetery. Quite a strange question really, since cemeteries are not really big on the 'fun' front. Awe, yes. Overwhelmed, yes. Sadness, yes. Fun, no! So, I set him straight: no it wasn't fun, but it was very impressive to see. As were all the other graves and cemeteries we saw and passed during the week. Some in the area where WWI raged (around the river Somme), some in Normandy for WWII. I think we must have passed about 100 cemeteries big and small, both German and allied.

We visited two cemeteries and a memorial (which also had some graves, but I didn't see them). The cemeteries were German and American and the memorial was Newfoundland Canadian. The memorial was in the Somme area and had been preserved with trenches more or less intact: not completely, but the outline and some of the depth were retained. The German and American cemeteries were in Normandy and were both impressive. The German because of the stark and dark colours they used: antracite grey. It didn't look that big, but since there were two to five people to a gravestone it held over 21,000 men! Most of them between 18 and 22! Not nazis, just ordinary boys and men who had been ordered to fight for something they might not even have believed in. Of course there were also some higher ranking men who definitely were nazis.

The American cemetery didn't show the ages of the men, only their state of origin and their religion. Most Christian, some Jewish. And because they used larger white crosses (or stars of David) and only one person to a grave, it looked absolutely massive. I don't think I even saw a quarter of what there was. And the overwhelming thought was definitely: Why? As one of the teachers said later on the bus: one group of men from oversees come to a beach and fight with the people on the beach to get on. Another group of men from Germany are on a beach and fight with the people trying to get on to keep them off. Ridiculous!

Deutsches Soldatenfriedhof La Cambe
The flat stones are gravemarkers. Under each marker are 2 men

However, I did have some fun though. The kids were really nice and friendly and I talked to several of them over the course of the week. And because I was the only one speaking French, I had to help out several times in ordering drinks, because the serving staff at the first hotel barely spoke English. Especially if they wanted something more specific. The teachers were nice too and one of them had done the whole trip a few weeks earlier which was a great help as he knew where I could park etc. I had looked it all up though and I think I had to ask him once!

I had been hoping I would have a day off today, but alas, in just over an hour I am to leave for a small day-trip. So, I will tell more tomorrow!


  1. Most interesting. I didn't know about five men to one grave. War cemeteries are perhaps the most poignant of all cemeteries for the numbers and youth of those buried there.

  2. I would love to do the trip you just did. The numbers of people killed in war is so sad. I just don't see the sense to it. I know I have seen pictures of the graves at Normandy, they go on forever.


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