The Bayeux War Cemetery – The lives that could have been

I walked where in their talking graves, and shirts of earth five thousand lay, When history with ten feasts of fire, had eaten the red air away.

Charles Causley

By Shuchita Jha

The Second World War shook the world in a way humanity can never forget. Keeping alive the memory of the martyrs, the Bayeux War Cemetery pays homage to the soldiers who died in the war. 

The largest cemetery of the commonwealth soldiers lies in a Quaint town of France, Bayeux, away from the hullabaloo of the big cities, so that the departed can rest in peace. 

The Bayeux Memorial also immortalizes countless other soldiers who died in Normandy, but do not have a known grave.

Bayeux War Graves. Photo: Shuchita Jha/Ground Tales

The memorial became the topic of one of the poems of Cornish poet and school teacher Charles Causley. He wrote the poem ‘ At the British War Cemetery’ after paying a visit to the Bayeux War Graves. His father had died as a result of the First World War, which prompted him to pay a visit to the war cemetery, where he was shocked out of his wits. 

“I was deeply shocked when I went there. Absolutely awful. They had tried to make the landscape sort of rather British there – English flowers and all that but it didn’t matter. I went to Singapore to give some readings and I visited the cemetery there where a lot of the British boys had been buried, you know, and I went with a young chap there and he said to me, ‘They’re just kids – they’re so young.’ Awful.”

The War Memorial is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), an intergovernmental organisation of six independent member states, namely, Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

The epitaph on the graves, with the insignia of the infantries that participated in the war have some heartfelt messages from the loved ones of the departed… 

It makes you think of the people, who could have been, who could have seen more life, who could have raised their own children or spent some more time with their wives and mothers.

The cemetery has graves of 4,648 martyrs from different nations- 3,935 from United Kingdom, 466 from (Nazi) Germany, 181 from Canada, 25 from Poland, 17 from Australia, 8 from New Zealand, 7 from Russia, 3 from France, 2 from Czech Republic, 2 from Italy and 1 from South Africa.

The cemetery grounds were assigned to the United Kingdom by France in recognition of the sacrifices made by the British Empire for the defence and liberation of France during the Invasion of Normandy in 1944, also known as Operation Overload.

Every year on June 6, the anniversary of D-Day invasion, The French government and CWGC pay their respects to the departed in a grand ceremony.

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