Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sunday Morning and finally home

I got off the plane from North America; Toronto via NYC and finally London Standstead at 7 am on this grey English Sunday morning. I missed my turn on the drive to Cambridge and had to double back through Madingley.
Something jogged my memory regarding a signpost I'd seen in some other drive regarding the American WWII cemetery there.
I wasn't tired and so I pulled in driving a German car ( yes, yes the the irony lurking there isn't lost on me) and had a look around.
I'll let one of the numerous web sites dedicated to it describe the complex for some of its pictures and more text go here

The World War II Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial is located three miles west of Cambridge on the A1303 and sixty miles north of London. The site, thirty and a half acres in extent, was donated by the University of Cambridge. It lies on a north slope with wide prospect. Established on 7th December 1943, the American Cemetery at Madingley is the only American WWII burial ground in England. The 3,800 white crosses, and the Portland stone wall inscribed with 5,000 names, pay tribute to American servicemen and women who died in the war. The cemetery is now designated a site of special historic interest. The west and south sides of the cemetery are framed by woodland. There are 3,812 American military dead buried there. On the wall running from the entrance to the chapel are inscribed the names of 5,126 Americans who gave their lives in the service of their country, but whose remains were never recovered or identified. Most of these died in the Battle of the Atlantic or in the strategic air bombardment of Northwest Europe during World War II. Above the names is an extract from President Eisenhower's dedication enshrined in St. Paul's Cathedral, London. Along the Wall are four statues representing a Soldier, a Sailor, an Airman and a Coast Guard in their typical uniforms and weapons. The paving is of English York sandstone.
From the flag platform near the main entrance the great mall with its reflecting pool stretches eastward. From this mall the headstones in the burial area form a sweeping curve across the green lawn. Along the south side of the mall is the Wall of the Missing. At its far end is the chapel containing two huge military maps, stained glass windows bearing the State Seals and military decorations, and its mosaic ceiling with a memorial to our Air Forces Dead. The base of the 72-foot flagpole in front of the Visitors' Building carries an inscription taken from
John McCrae's poem - In Flanders Fields, '...To You From Failing Hands We Throw The Torch - Be Yours To Hold It High." The graves are laid out from the flag platform like a ribbed fan. No one else was there.
Just me and the 3,000 odd crosses.
A memorial to a war that as its vetrans slowly die away is destined to fade along with their last breath.
A bit dramatic I admit.
The whole world was galvanised from 1939-46 .
Today we're worried about our jobs and personal sorrows and the drip feed of depressing sadness in Iraq and Afganistan. I walked around for about 45 minutes and listened to the quiet, taking pictures and pondered that I'd just flown from NYC where I'd wager no one was aware this place existed.
Interesting that this trip ended here.
All month I've been struck to see hundreds of US Servicemen travelling through airports in their desert gear going to meet friends and family or heading back to a conflict that sits on the periphery of the national conciousness.
Especially today, Super Bowl Sunday.
Americans are patriotic.
Some irritatingly so.
Most (the ones I socialise with anyway) are self critical but still proud of the country they live in.
I've said it before and will say it again:
The US has done far more good in the world than bad.
The little episode today reminded me of the terrible cost ventures both noble and ill conceived, can demand.
Its not a fashionable sentiment, and judging from the cynical quips in the guest book, probably would draw a derisitory smirk had others been there.
But this agnostic wrote:
"God Bless America"
I got in my BMW and drove home.




Anonymous said...

I wonder if you would have seen some one else had it been Rememberence Sunday ? penny :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Ter that was pretty serious - how do you gather such info about a place in 45 mins do you photo the info and then summarise - or walk aroud with a note pad and write in short hand - very interesting stuff - you really should have gone into journalism andor photography -glad you are backwill call you this weekLove Sara