Photos: three approaches to memorialising

I have been without any working internet connection for a couple of weeks now, so no photographs of the last trip yet. Have some old ones, instead, for the 11th; these are from a trip to Normandy earlier in the year. Three national war graves; three approaches to commemoration.

Britain

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The entrance to a British cemetery – one of many scattered around the countryside – in Bayeux.

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Monumental architecture.

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The lists of names, for those never found, and the ubiquitous poppy.

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The lines of white headstones – all differently carved, but identically shaped – are offset by the plants.

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Those who died together were buried together, known or unknown.

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Bayeux Cathedral – which, by strange fate, came through the fighting untouched – looming over the cemetery.

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A second cemetery – smaller, and more pastoral, hidden down a dusty lane in a small village near the Orne.

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Note the variety of insignia, carved individually.

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An Australian airman, far from home.

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…and closer to home, a Frenchman. Buried here as a British soldier – “Commando Anglo-Francais No. 4” – but with a distinct headstone, presumably in the French style.

Germany

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German war cemeteries are… flat, and dark, and bleak. A fraught question; how should the conscript soldiers of a hated – and defeated – army be remembered in an occupied land? The answer, apparently, is “unobtrusively”, and as far from triumphalist as possible.

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Heinz Molesch was eighteen and three months. Konrad Kasprsyk – a Polish name? – was eighteen and four months. One of these headstones – men were almost always buried in pairs, under a flat stone – had the name of a soldier and another, given as “m├Ądchen” – young woman. There is a story there, lost to the decades along with her name.

United States

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The American cemetery – this is on the bluffs above Omaha Beach – is simply a sea of crosses, in white marble with inscribed names, rolling across the landscape.

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…or the absence of names. The headstone just behind is of one of the handful of women buried here.

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The graves make a strict geometric line; it’s almost mesmerising. Note the small scattering of Stars of David – five in these two pictures, I think – and the lines sweeping down to the coast in the background. The cemetery is built on the bluffs overlooking Omaha Beach; it’s concealed behind the rise of the cliff, perhaps a quarter of a mile away at most.

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