Bayeux CWGC War Cemetery - Basse Normandie
Bayeux CWGC War Cemetery - from a temporary to a permanent cemetery
The Bayeux CWGC War Cemetery is located southeast of the ring-road (Boulevard Fabian Ware - D.5) of Bayeux.
The city is worldwide known for a tapestry that relates the conquest of England by William the Conqueror.
British troops entered Bayeux on June 6, 1944, however, only captured the city the next day.
They immediately built a ring-road (the base of the current one) in order to facilitate the movement of troops and materiel because the medieval city streets were too narrow.
They also built several field hospitals and a temporary cemetery in order to give a decent burial to all Commonwealth soldiers - airmen and sailors but also German soldiers - who had been killed on the battle field and the wounded who died in the hospitals.
After the war, France bequeathed a large plot of land in perpetuity to the UK - in recognition of the sacrifices made by the Commonwealth troops.
This allowed the UK government to enlarge the Bayeux CWGC War Cemetery.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is in charge of the cemetery's maintenance.
There are 18 Commonwealth cemeteries in France (22,000 graves), but the Bayeux CWGC War Cemetery (4,648 graves) is the largest of WWII's Commonwealth cemeteries in the country.
Bayeux CWGC War Cemetery - War Memorial
There are several small side entrances, however, the main entrance to the cemetery is located opposite the War Memorial, on Boulevard Fabian Ware (ring road).
The elegant limestone building pays tribute to all Commonwealth soldiers who died between D-Day and the end of the Operation Overlord on August 25, 1944.
Its walls are engraved with an inscription related William the Conqueror:
"Nos A Gulielmo Victi Victoris Patriam Liberavimus"
"We, once conquered by William, have now set free the Conqueror's native land"
The walls are also engraved with the names and the regiments of the 1,808 Commonwealth soldiers (1,537 British, 270 Canadians, 1 South-African) with no known grave.
Bayeux CWGC War Cemetery
The entire Bayeux CWGC War Cemetery, including the alleys, is planted with grass.
1- The main alley leads first to a limestone Stone of Remembrance that bears the dedication:
"They Name Liveth For Evermore"
Two small limestone pavilions stands on both sides of the Stone of Remembrance.
2- The alley then continues towards the Cenotaph, located at the junction of the two main alleys.
The War Cross - Cross of Sacrifice that tops its can be seen from all the sections of the cemetery.
It looks over the graves of 4,600 soldiers, airmen and sailors of the Commonwealth forces (and a few Germans).
As in Coleville-sur-Mer American War Cemetery, there is no morbid feeling when strolling through the endless alignments of tombstones.
Each tombstone is inscribed with the name of the soldier, along with his rank, regiment and emblem and his date of death and his age.
The base of the stone is very often engraved with a verse or a dedication chosen by the family.
"In Memory of Our Dear Son, Blessed the Dead"
"Thy Will Be Done"
"In Memory of Our Son and Brother Who Gave his Life for His Country"
"My Only Child - He Gave His All - 'Till We Meet Again - Mother"
This is so moving...
Some tombstones mark the site of an unidentified soldier and are engraved with a simple cross and the inscription:
"A soldier of the 1939-45 War – Known unto God"
Other unidentified soldiers, who fell together, are buried side by side and their tombstones become almost one.
At first glance the tombstones appear identical, but they have slight differences.
For example, the Commonwealth Forces stones are slightly rounded at the top, while the Polish have pointed tops.
Each stone is however engraved with its national emblem.
Flowering plants were planted at the foot of each tombstone.
From a distance, the graves resemble a row of small English cottages, white and tidy with their small front gardens.
Many family visit the cemetery during the year, but especially on Remembrance Day.
They leaved a bunch of flowers, a small wooden cross, a poppy bought from the Royal British Legion, a flag or simply a message...
The Fallen are still in their heart, and their memory lives despite the passage of years.
It seems that the new generations continue the tradition of honouring a parent, grand-father or an uncle they often never knew.
A few German soldiers were buried in the Bayeux CWGC War Cemetery.
Their tombstones are engraved with a Maltese Cross with their name and date of birth and death underneath.
All the soldiers who died during the Battle of Normandy are now united in death, regardless of their camp.
For the Fallen
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.
Tip: Accessing the Bayeux CWGC War Cemetery is fairly easy; we didn't find any dedicated parking area (not sure there's any), however, there is plenty street parking along the cemetery's perimeter wall.
Department of Calvados - Bayeux - Boulevard Fabian Ware - D.5
Coordinates: Lat 49.274076 - Long -0.714095
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