This section details information on military cemeteries with a D-Day connection not mentioned in the main text. For the British cemeteries only those with a significant number of D-Day burials or a D-Day connection are listed.
BAYEUX WAR CEMETERY
Burials: British 3,935, Canadian 181, Australian 17, New Zealand 8, South African 1, Polish 25, France 3, Czech 2, Italian 2, Russian 7, German 466, unidentified 1.
Location: The cemetery lies on the south-west side of the main ring road around the city of Bayeux. It is about 100m from the junction with the D5 to Littry, and almost opposite the Museum of the Battle of Normandy, which is well signposted throughout the Bayeux area.
Bayeux was entered by British patrols on 6 June 1944, but was formally liberated the next day. Charles de Gaulle established his first seat of government here until Paris was liberated, and it became the main staging post for the British Army in Normandy with supply depots, medical facilities and rest centres. The streets of Bayeux were too narrow for most military vehicles, and so in June 1944 the Royal Engineers and Pioneer Corps constructed a ring road round Bayeux to make the flow of traffic more smooth; the ring road is still in use seventy years later, although it is now maintained by the French authorities!
Burying the dead at Bayeux, 1945.
Bayeux War Cemetery is the largest British military cemetery of the Second World War in France; the original graves here were of soldiers who died of wounds in the military hospitals at Bayeux. Both during and after the Second World War graves were moved in from all over the Normandy battlefields, as the Graves Registration Units headquarters were here and they had active teams searching the Normandy battlefield for isolated burials, and later they closed and moved many small battlefield cemeteries.
As the largest British cemetery in Normandy, Bayeux gives a good cross section of the sort of men and units that took part in operations on D-Day and later. Every day of the Normandy campaign from 6 June to the breakout is represented on the graves. Every rank from brigadier downwards is in evidence; aside from the brigadier there are eleven colonels, giving an indication of the heavy losses sustained in senior officers in Normandy. With so many graves, and so many names and stories, it is difficult to select some, but for those who like to know a little of the men buried in a huge city of the dead like Bayeux the following serve as some good examples.
Bayeux War Cemetery, 1946. (Ken Smith)
Senior Officer: Brigadier John Cecil Currie was a regular soldier whose career had started in the First World War. He had been commissioned in the Royal Artillery in 1914, served on the Western Front, been decorated with the Military Cross and post-war served in Iraq. He commanded armoured troops in Persia and later played a heroic part in the battle of El Alamein and commanded 4th Armoured Brigade in Normandy until he was killed by shell fire on 26 June 1944.
Normandy VC: Corporal Sidney Bates VC was serving with the Norfolks when he took part in action at Sourdeval in August 1944, which resulted in the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross. From Camberwell, in London, Bates was badly wounded in the action, dying of his wounds the next day. His citation reads:
In North-West Europe on 6th August, 1944, the position held by a battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment near Sourdeval was heavily attacked. Corporal Bates was commanding a forward section of the left forward company which suffered some casualties, so he decided to move the remnants of his section to an alternative position from which he could better counter the enemy thrust. As the threat to this position became desperate, Corporal Bates seized a light machinegun and charged, firing from the hip. He was almost immediately wounded and fell, but he got up and advanced again, though mortar bombs were falling all round him. He was hit a second time and more seriously wounded, but he went forward undaunted, firing constantly till the enemy started to fall back before him. Hit for the third time, he fell, but continued firing until his strength failed him. By then the enemy had withdrawn and Corporal Bates, by his supreme gallantry and self-sacrifice, had personally saved a critical situation. He died shortly afterwards of the wounds he had received.
Poignant Inscriptions: With the establishment of permanent cemeteries after the First World War, headstones replaced wooden crosses and a space was reserved on the headstone for a personal inscription. Controversy followed when the families were forced to pay for the inscription, a policy eventually abandoned by the time of the Second World War. As no payment was required, although families could make a donation, the majority of graves have personal inscriptions and some are very touching, giving a brief glimpse into the loss some families suffered. A handful of examples for Bayeux are:
An aerial photograph of Bayeux War Cemetery, late 1940s.
Gunner Joseph Ferneyhough (I-C-8), 116th Field Regiment Royal Artillery, 30 July 1944, aged 26. Son of Frank and Margretta Ferneyhough, of Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent; husband of Harriett Ferneyhough, of Hanley.
‘Only those who have loved & lost know war’s bitter cost.’
Lieutenant William Herbert James McIlroy (X-L-16), 5th East Yorkshires, 6 June 1944, aged 22. Son of James Alexander Crossett McIlroy and Margaret Cecilia McIlroy, of Westbury Park, Bristol.
‘He gave the greatest gift of all, his unfinished life.’
Sergeant Gordon Maitland Pickford (XII-A-4), 49th Reconnaissance Regiment, died 16 August 1944, aged 34. Son of Frederick Albert and Agnes Mary Pickford; husband of Ivy Alice Winifred Pickford, of Egham, Surrey.
‘A Grenadier Guard Drummer who blew silver bugle at Menin Gate Ypres 1929.’
Private Bernard Percy Joseph Alexander (XIV-K-18), Kensington Regiment, died 18 June 1944, aged 24. Son of Robert George and Irene Winifred Alexander, of Eastcote, Middlesex.
‘A Scouts promise fulfilled, to do my duty to God and the King. God bless you.’
Bayeux Memorial to the Missing.
BENY-SUR-MER CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY
Burials: Canadian 2,043, British 4, French 1.
Location: The cemetery is reached from Courseulles-sur-Mer by taking the D79 to Caen. Or conversely, take the D79 from Caen to Courseulles-sur-Mer. At a crossroads of the D79 and D35 to Beny-sur-Mer, follow signs to Reviers. The cemetery is about a kilometre from here, and can be seen on high ground alongside the road.
The Canadian 3rd Division landed at JUNO Beach on 6 June 1944, and then fought their way inland. The objective was Caen, but this was not reached when the Canadians encountered battle groups from the 716. Division and 21. Panzer Division, and later the 12. SS Hitlerjugend Division. Heavy casualties were suffered in the fighting inland from JUNO and are reflected in the burials here. Of the total, nearly 300 graves bear the date 6 June 1944.
Because of the volunteer nature of Canadian units, large Canadian families joined the army in the same way as had happened a generation before in the First World War. It is therefore perhaps not surprising that among the burials here are nine pairs of brothers, a record for a cemetery of the Second World War. Incredibly, one family had a triple bereavement in Normandy. This was unknown in the British Army, as the practice of placing men from one family together in a unit had largely been discontinued after the First World War. The brothers are:
Gunner Edward Blais, Royal Canadian Artillery, 13 July 1944, aged 28 (IX-H-1)
Rifleman Raymond Blais, Regina Rifle Regiment, 8 July 1944, aged 20 (XIII-G-3)
Trooper Kenneth Boyd, 7th Recce Regiment, 9 July 1944, aged 21 (XI-A-3)
Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery.
Lieutenant Nairn Boyd, 27th Armored Regiment, 8 July 1944, aged 26 (XI-E-2)
Rifleman Gordon Branton, Regina Rifles Regiment, 6 June 1944, aged 24 (XI-E-16)
Rifleman Ronald Branton, Regina Rifles Regiment, 8 July 1944, aged 28 (XI-E-15)
Private George Hadden, Canadian Scottish, 10 June 1944, aged 19 (XIII-B-14)
Rifleman James Hadden, Regina Rifles Regiment, 19 July 1944, aged 20 (XIV-F-14)
Private John Hobbins, Stormont Highlanders, 8 July 1944, aged 30 (VII-F-3)
Private Michael Hobbins, Stormont Highlanders, 8 July 1944, aged 23 (II-E-11)
Lance Corporal Frank Meakin, Royal Winnipeg Rifles, 8 June 1944, aged 20 (XVI-B-3)
Corporal George Meakin, Royal Winnipeg Rifles, 8 June 1944, aged 23 (XIV-F-10)
Rifleman John Skwarchuk, Royal Winnipeg Rifles, 4 July 1944, aged 28 (XII-C-15)
Trooper Metro Skwarchuk, Royal Winnipeg Rifles, 6 June 1944, aged 25 (I-G-16)
Private Owen Tadgell, North Nova Scotia Highlanders, 8 July 1944, aged 29 (XIV-A-16)
Signaller William Tadgell, Royal Canadian Signals, 29 June 1944, aged 24 (X-H-3)
Rifleman George White, Royal Winnipeg Rifles, 8 June 1944, aged 27 (VIII-B-4)
Rifleman Robert White, Royal Winnipeg Rifles, 8 June 1944, aged 24 (VIII-B-5)
Rifleman Albert Westlake, Queens Own Rifles, 11 June 1944, aged 26 (III-D-8)
Private George Westlake, Nova Scotia Highlanders, 7 June 1944 (VIII-F-12)
Rifleman Thomas Westlake, Queens Own Rifles, 11 June 1944, aged 33 (III-D-7)
LA DELIVRANDE WAR CEMETERY
Burials: British 927, Canadian 11, Australian 3, Polish 1, German 180, unidentified 1.
Location: Take the main road northwards from Caen, the D7 to Langrune-sur-Mer. After about 12km, the war cemetery will be found on the right of the road, a few hundred metres before reaching La Delivrande crossroads and its twin-spired church. There is parking to the rear of the cemetery, down a side road that leads to the town civil cemetery. It is recommended you park here.
The burials in La Delivrande War Cemetery mainly date from 6 June and the landings on SWORD Beach, particularly Oboe and Peter sectors. Others were brought in later from the battlefields between the coast and Caen. There are now 942 Commonwealth servicemen of the Second World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery. Of the burials, sixty-three are unidentified but there are special memorials to a number of casualties known to be buried among them.
There are five lieutenant colonels buried in the cemetery, among them Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Owen Seymour Herdon (VII-C-9) who commanded the 2nd Bn Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He led them ashore at SWORD Beach on D-Day and was killed in the Lebisy Woods the next day, aged 38 and leaving behind a wife in Hassocks in Sussex. Among the D-Day burials, the majority are from the 1st Suffolks and 1st Royal Norfolks, but there are airborne graves too, including a glider load of men from 7 Para who crash-landed in the wrong area, and Lance Corporal Fred Greenhalgh (V-C-4) of ‘D’ Company, 2nd Oxs & Bucks, who died when he was thrown from a glider on landing near Pegasus Bridge and drowned in the marshland. His grave was moved here after the war.
La Delivrande War Cemetery.
RYES WAR CEMETERY
Burials: British 630, Canadian 21, Australian 1, Polish 1, German 326.
Location: Leave Bayeux on the D12 to the east, following signs for Ouistreham; at the village of Sommervieu go straight on along the D112, and after 3km turn right on to the D87. After climbing high ground and following the road to the left, the cemetery will be found on the left-hand side. There is a parking bay in front.
The cemetery was started on 8 June 1944, following the 50th (Northumbrian) Division landing on nearby GOLD Beach on D-Day, and reflects the fighting that took place in this area on 6 June 1944, and the subsequent advance beyond Bayeux; in fact, it was once referred to as a ‘GOLD Beach Cemetery’. Rear echelon troops who died on or near the beachhead following D-Day are also buried here, along with a large number of Navy and Merchant Navy personnel. Some soldiers buried here are recorded as having died of wounds, so it is likely there was an Advanced Dressing Station in Bazenville at some point.
Among the burials are two brothers buried side by side. Marine Robert Casson (IV-B-2) died with 45 Royal Marine Commando on D-Day aged 26, and his younger brother Joseph Casson (IV-B-1) died with 9th Durham Light Infantry three weeks later on 27 June, aged eighteen. They were the sons of David and Mary Ellen Casson, of Whitehaven, Cumberland.
Ryes War Cemetery.
German Cemetery La Cambe.
GERMAN CEMETERY LA CAMBE
Burials: In total, there are 21,222 German soldiers commemorated at La Cambe, of which 207 unknown and 89 identified soldiers are buried in a kamaradengraben – or mass grave – below the central tumulus.
Location: Exit the N13 at La Cambe and go south to the roundabout on the D113. Here follow the signs to the cemetery; the route takes you along a minor road that runs parallel to the N13 and to a car park in front of the cemetery. Park here.
The German war dead from the Normandy campaign were scattered over a wide area, many of them buried in isolated or field graves, or small battlefield cemeteries. In the years following the Second World War, the German War Graves Commission, Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge, decided to establish six main German cemeteries in the Normandy area, with the one of the largest at La Cambe. Work on this cemetery started in 1954 and during this period the remains of more than 12,000 German soldiers were moved in from 1,400 locations in the departments of Calvados and the Orne, covering a wide area of the Normandy battlefield; among them were many German soldiers who had died on 6 June 1944. The cemetery was finished in 1961, and inaugurated in September of that year. Since this date more than 700 soldiers have been found on the battlefield, and are now also buried here.
Since the mid-1990s there has been an information centre on the site. Here there is a permanent exhibition about the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge and casualties can be checked on a computer-based database; there are also toilet facilities. The cemetery is open daily from 0800 – 1900. The information centre is open daily from 0800 – 1200 and 1300 – 1900. There is parking at the main entrance and the cemetery is found by following the signs from the N13 Caen – Cherbourg main road.
As always, my walking guides are a team effort when they are in the research phase. For walking the ground with me and much constructive input I would like to thank: Tony Carr, Gary Cooper, Owen Dadge, John Hayes-Fisher, Marc Hope, Peter Smith and Andrew Whittington. Geoff Sullivan and his fantastic Search Engine have also been invaluable, and members of WW2 Talk (www.ww2talk.com) have been helpful in answering some specific enquiries.
Since I have been guiding Second World War tours for Leger Holidays, as far back as 1998 now, I have been lucky to meet hundreds of Normandy veterans. Many have become good friends, and in recent years I’ve been fortunate to spend time on the battlefields of Normandy with whole groups of them. In particular, I would like to mention: Bert Barritt, Ken Bell, Gordon Collinson, Ken Cooke, Alan Harrison, Douglas Haw, Dennis Heydock, Cyril Howarth, Frank Lodge, Fred Patrick, Roy Robotham, Ken Smith and Arthur Wragg.
In Normandy I would like to thank Vivian and Rodolphe Roger for their kindness, help and friendship, and also Paul Woodadge and his wife Myriam. Mark Worthington at the Pegasus Memorial has been very kind on visits there and thanks also goes to his wife Nathalie, director of the Juno Centre; the heritage of the Second World War could not be in better hands at two of Normandy’s best museum sites!
Finally, my family. My parents, and especially my father who compiled the unpublished ‘Normandy Roll of Honour’ in the early 1990s and took me on my first visit to the D-Day beaches. And of course to Kieron, Ed and Poppy who have spent more than a decade visiting Normandy and taking time out of family holidays to walk some ground or drive off to an isolated memorial. To them I say, as ever, toujours.