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The Digging of Bayeux Commonwealth War Cemetery

Discussion in 'Bayeux War Cemetery' started by Jim, Jan 20, 2008.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    On 8 June, Corporal Gunton, and other Royal Engineers posted to No.32 Graves Concentration Unit in January 1944, arrived in Bayeux to begin taping out the plot grids in a field outside the town. In a matter of days military hospitals, munitions depots and supply dumps, military encampments and the fuel lines out of Port-en-Bessin were taking shape. Bayeux was the heart of all this activity, and the Army war graves administration of all Commonwealth burials throughout Normandy would prove the most long-lasting aspect of the Commonwealth presence in the city.

    On this blustery and cold June day, despite the weather and the task, the men seem quite cheerful, exchanging jokes. Working in this unit, Gunton seemed to have been allowed to take photographs of the work unhindered, yet they have never appeared in any official post-war publications perhaps because of the degree of informality seen here.

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    But Army personnel were needed to fight the enemy, so French civilians were recruited to take over the grave digging, supervised by NCOs so as to control the order of burials. On the left among the trees is the porcelain factory which was used as a recruiting office for grave labour. To its right is the sous-prefecture, Bayeux Cathedral, and alongside it the roofline and small spire of the Benedictine nunnery can be seen.

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    Albert Francoise (1888-1963) had worked for 18 years at the porcelain factory until it was forced to close in 1941. He lived in the nearby Rue de Littry and stands on the left tugging at the brim of his hat: this grim work put him extremely ill at ease. Rene Parson, the NCO in charge, peers at Gunton through his glasses

    By the winter of 1944/45 the cemetery had already become the largest British and Commonwealth cemetery of the Second World War in France. The plots are burial mounds, each marked by a galvanised white metal cross which remained until I949. The wooden gates mark the site of the present main entrance, restored in recent times. The elms in the background all died in the 1970s.

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    The Entrance Today

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    Today there are 4,267 identified interments, including 3,602 British, 422 Germans, 178 Canadians, 25 Poles, 17 Australians, 8 New Zealanders, 7 Russians, 3 Christian French and 2 Muslim French graves, 2 Italians, and 1 South African; 388 graves bear no name.

    A total of 28,375 men are buried in Normandy in 27 Commonwealth cemeteries of the Second World War, and one or more Commonwealth interments, often aircrew are to be found in 153 communal and 209 churchyard cemeteries.

    The progress by early August can be seen in this corner of the cemetery. A temporary fence had been erected; the bypass was completed on 27 June and now there is a continuous stream of military Lorries out of Arromanches roaring past the graves; the men nicknamed the road the 'Merry Go Round'. Road ballast had been used for the footpaths and the final touches are being made to block 2 rows Land M, where a man is finishing the burial of 23-year-old trooper Tom Taylor (2:M: 19) of the Royal Tank Regiment, killed on 27 July 1944, the son (perhaps adopted) of Thomas and Martha Cox of Acocks Green, Birmingham, England.

    The Grave of Trooper Tom Taylor

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    Three plots in the foreground await the bodies of an unknown sailor and two unknown soldiers. Lance Corporal Edward Rostron, 22, of the Essex Regiment (2:L:26), was killed on 31 July 1944: all of his comrades' graves in row L in the foreground bear the same date.


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    The Three Unknown Soldiers Graves

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  2. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    A similar picture taken in 2005 where the spires of Bayeux Cathedral and Benedictine Nunnery can be seen in both pictures. The bypass in the back ground has since been replaced by the N13 section.


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  3. -Spitfire-

    -Spitfire- New Member

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    Always interesting to see how things are changed during the years. Thanks for posting! :thumb:
     
  4. crunkyjens

    crunkyjens New Member

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    Thank you for all the wonderful pictures...it still breaks my heart to just see how many of these are and I know it's no where near the right amount. I am very proud to see how well they upkeep them though in present time. Definitely 100 times nicer than what was there when they were first buried.
     
  5. Obltkg4

    Obltkg4 recruit

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    Bayeux CWG

    Jim,

    Very interesting thread about Bayeux Commonwealth War Cemetery wartime history.
    It is interesting to find Czech, Russian and Italians interred there as well.
    As the case with all CWGC locations, Bayeux is no exception with it being kept in impeccable upkeep. A fitting state for yesterday's soldier. I have visited every year since 2005 (from Canada) while the Normandy veterans are over for the Overlord ceremonies, with time spent at Bayeux's location.

    The surrounding resembles nothing of the images with residential development at the cemetery last few years. There is now a subdivision right next the cemetery.

    Would you have additional photos of it's early days?

    Regards,
    David
     
  6. Jim

    Jim New Member

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    Thanks for the input David, but unfortunately i don't have any earlier pictures of this area ...

    Jim
     
  7. Obltkg4

    Obltkg4 recruit

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    Thanks for the contributions nonetheless.
    It is respectful how the earth on top the grave is neatly piled. Much the same way the Germans did.
     
  8. tra

    tra New Member

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    I was recently sent this link of the grave site and the grave of Tom Taylor is my uncle and I think it's great that he is on this site his parents names are correct but he was not adopted and thank you for letting me join this site
     

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