Dick's Pics

By RichardDonkin

Remembered in D-Day sand

I made a note in my diary some time ago to come to this cemetery on June 6, anniversary of the Normandy landings in 1944. The crosses for US service men and women are the same as those found in the Normandy American Cemetery not far from Omaha beach where the Americans suffered heavy losses on D-Day.

But these headstones are in Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey. There are military graves here representing many different nationalities who lost their lives in and around the British Isles during both world wars. Those pictured occupy the part of the cemetery dedicated to American personnel, mostly sailors or troops lost in ships torpedoed in British waters during World War I. The SS Tuscania, sunk off Islay, Scotland, was one of them.

I was talking to one of the gardeners responsible for keep the cemetery in immaculate condition. He pointed to one of the gravestones where sand had been rubbed in to the engraved name. "The sand was brought from Omaha beach and we keep it here for ceremonies but I don't think anyone who died there is buried here," he said.

I was puzzled so went to the cemetery office where the American manager told me they keep a pot of sand so that visitors can take photographs of names on the headstones. "They rub the sand in to the inscriptions. The names wouldn't show up on the marble otherwise," he said. Yes, he said, it was Omaha sand because Americans relate to the losses of servicemen there.

My dad landed at Juno beach in the Normandy Landings. We took him there once, a few years before he died. If it stirred memories, he didn't say much. Like a lot of veterans, he kept a lot of what he experieced to himself.

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