Friday, October 4, 2013

The American Cemetery

Sometimes what we don't plan for ends up being what we needed to see, something memorable and heart-stopping.

We planned for some sightseeing on our first day in England--going to Cambridge to see King's College Chapel and to explore a little bit of that city, then on to Ely (pronounced EElee) to visit the cathedral there. But along the way we passed a cemetery that I didn't know existed, one that sent a shiver through my bones and tears to my eyes. It was the resting place of the American soldiers who lost their lives in World War II while stationed in England.

Imagine rows and rows of white crosses in he midst of quiet green fields and trees; imagine each cross with a name, except for those (and there were many) with no name and only an inscription to the unknown soldier sleeping below. Imagine a cool, gray day with a few drops of rain and a light mist hovering just above the trees. Imagine our quiet voices and our sad hearts as we read the names, walked among the graves, and thought about that grim and terrible time in our world's history. But for the grace of God, my father, my uncles, my husband's uncles could also have been beneath that soft green grass.

The British government maintains the site and is currently doing restoration work to the chapel and visitors center. (I took the photo at left through the glass door so it's a little crooked). It will, I think, be stunning when complete. As it is, the cemetery shows the love and gratitude of the British people by the care that is so evident in the neat lawns, shrubs, gardens and reflecting pool.

A granite wall lists alphabetically the names of all the soldiers buried on the site. We found several from West Virginia, bringing the war even closer to home. Such a place makes one proud of their country, and mournful too--such loss of life, and all because of a mad man. So many young men, and probably a few women were there too, who would never live out their lives, see their children grow up, see their countries flourishing because they were there to fight when needed.

I will never understand war; I will never understand the urges that drive men to seek dominion over others at all costs. But I do understand bravery and sacrifice, and I was humbled in its presence.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Wayfarin' Stranger said...

I get angry when I see these cemeteries. Angry that these young people died because of the political ambitions of men they never knew. Yes, WWII was worth fighting, but I am angry that it was necessary. My wife's father died in the Battle of the Bulge, twelve days before she was born. Fortunately, his remains were returned to the U.S. after the war and are interred in a cemetery near where they lived in southern West Virginia.

Rowan said...

I've passed the American Cemetery at Madingley many times but never been in there. I've had a similar experience to you though when we stopped at a British WW2 cemetery in North Africa. I didn't expect to be so emotionally affected as I was. I'm glad that you were impressed by the way we care for the place where so many of your countrymen lie - there were many US bomber bases in East Anglia of course during WW". There are still two USAAF bases at Mildenhall and Lakenheath in Suffolk.

warren said...

"I will never understand war; I will never understand the urges that drive men to seek dominion over others at all costs. But I do understand bravery and sacrifice, and I was humbled in its presence."


Granny Sue said...

Correction: my cousin Robert emailed me that it is the American government that pays for the upkeep of the cemetery.

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