The Bayeux War Cemetery and Memorial honours almost 6500 soldiers from the Second World War.
It’s the largest cemetery of Commonwealth soldiers in France. The cemetery contains 4,648 burials and they are mostly from the Invasion of Normandy. Opposite the cemetery stands the Bayeux Memorial. The memorial commemorates more than 1,800 Commonwealth force casualties who died in Normandy and have no known grave.
The sites are located on Boulevard Fabian Ware on the outskirts of Bayeux. There is no parking at either site. However, parking is available at the Memorial Museum of the the Battle of Normandy just a little further down the same road.
The Bayeux Memorial
The Bayeux Memorial is built in white stone and faces the cemetery. The Latin epitaph along the frieze of the memorial references William the Conqueror and the 1066 invasion of England. The inscription reads: NOS A GULIELMO VICTI VICTORIS PATRIAM LIBERAVIMUS. This translates as: “We, once conquered by William, have now set free the Conqueror’s native land.”
On this memorial are engraved the names of the 1,808 men from the Commonwealth. They died in the Battle of Normandy and have no known grave. At either end of the memorial is an inscription to the fallen. One is in French while the other is in English. Beneath the inscription is a small metal safe containing a memorial register. All the names of the soldiers with no known grave are included in the memorial register. In addition they are inscribed on the pillars’ walls. The majority of these names are of British soldiers.
The Bayeux War Cemetery
France assigned the cemetery grounds to the United Kingdom in perpetuity. This was in recognition of the sacrifices made by the British Empire in the defence and liberation of France during the war. Of the 4648 graves, 3935 are for United Kingdom soldiers. In addition, there are 466 graves of German soldiers, 181 Canadian, 25 Polish, 17 Australian, 8 New Zealand, 7 Russian, 2 from both the Czech Republic and Italy and 1 South African.
Locating A Grave
Two stone chapels on either side of the cemetery contain burial registers similar to the memorial registers held at the War Memorial. There are 27 plots numbered in roman numerals from I to XXIX (there’s no VI or VII). Furthermore, each plot contains a number of rows indicated by a capital letter starting at A. And finally each grave then has a number.
This is the entry in the burial register for a William Robinson and his grave. He’s not a relation of mine (as far as I know) but I always look for names from my family tree.
You can see the plan of the Bayeux Commonwealth war cemetery here.
You can also consult the records online at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. The list can be sorted in various ways; by surname, regiment and date of death.
Poignantly, the gravestones include the ages of the soldiers. They range from 17 through to 58. The cemetery is beautifully kept, incredibly serene and a sombre reminder of the sacrifices made.