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Introduction

Bayeux is located seven kilometres from the coast of the English Channel and 30 km north-west of Caen. The city, with elevations varying from 32 to 67 meters above sea level – with an average of 46 meters above sea level – is bisected by the River Aure. The area around Bayeux is called the Bessin, which was a province of France until the French Revolution. The name of the city and the region come from the Celtic tribe inhabiting the Bajocasses region.

During the Second World War, Bayeux was the first city in France to be liberated during the Normandy Campaign, and on 16 June 1944 General de Gaulle made his first major speech in Bayeux in which he made clear that France sided with the Allies. The buildings in Bayeux were virtually untouched during the Battle of Normandy, the German forces being fully involved in defending Caen from the Allies.

Bayeux is a major tourist attraction, best known to visitors for the Bayeux tapestry, made to commemorate events in the 1066 Norman Conquest of England. The tapestry was made by Reine Mathilde, wife of William the Conqueror. It is displayed in a museum in the town centre. The large Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux, consecrated in 1077, was arguably the original home of the tapestry.

Bayeux Cathedral

Bayeux Cathedral (Stephen Stratford 2009).

Bayeux War Cemetery

Cross of Sacrifice

Cross of Sacrifice, Bayeux War Cemetery (Stephen Stratford 2009).

Bayeux War Cemetery is situated in the south-western outskirts of the town on the by-pass, which is named Boulevard Fabian Ware. On the opposite side of the road stands the Bayeux Memorial.

Stone of Remembrance

Stone of Remembrance (Stephen Stratford 2009).

Bayeux War Cemetery is the largest Commonwealth cemetery of the Second World War in France and contains burials brought in from the surrounding districts and from hospitals that were located nearby. Bayuex War Cemetery contains 4144 burials of the Second World War, 338 of them unidentified. There are also over 500 war graves of other nationalities, the majority of which are German.

Some of the graves

Some of the graves in Bayeux War Cemetery (Stephen Stratford 2009).

Example of units

Some of RAF, Navy and Army graves in Bayeux War Cemetery (Stephen Stratford 2009).

The graves in the above photograph were chosen as a sample of the graves contained within the cemetery. From left to right they are

  • 133078 Flying Officer Gordon Ian Henry McPherson was aged 25 years' old, when he died on 28 January 1944 whilst serving as a pilot with 2 Squadron, Royal Air Force. Flying Officer McPherson was the son of Gordon Hope McPherson and Lila May McPherson, of West Kensington, London. His remains are located in Plot 28, Row G, Grave 18.
  • 120117 Flight Lieutenant Dennis Newton Greenhalgh was aged 23 years' old when he died on 9 May 1944 whilst serving as a pilot with 234 Squadron, Royal Air Force. Flight Lieutenant Greenhalgh was the son of Charles James Greenhalgh and Hilda Greenhalgh, of Buxton, Derbyshire. His remains are located in Plot 28, Row G, Grace 19.
  • The next headstone just states "A Sailor of the 1939 - 1945 War" followed by the statement "Known unto God". The grave (Plot 28, Row G, Grave 20) contain the remains of an unknown serviceman; in this case a Royal Navy sailor.
  • 2879184 Corporal Lenin James Daly was aged 20 years' old, when he died on 9 August 1944 whilst serving as a soldier with 5/7th Battalion, The Gordon Highlanders. Corporal Daly was the son of James and Margaret Daly of Dundee. His remains are located in Plot 28, Row G, Grace 21.

Sapper P.J. Barr

Grave of Sapper P.J. Burr, Royal Engineers (Stephen Stratford 2009).

6355469 Sapper Percy John Burr was aged 21 years' old when he died on 6 June 1944 (D-Day) whilst serving as a soldier with 280th Field Company, Royal Engineers. Sapper Barr was the son of Frank and Minnie Mildred Burr, of Lewisham, London. His remains are located in Plot 14, Row B, Grave 18.

Bayeux Memorial

Bayeux Memorial

Bayeux Memorial (Stephen Stratford 2009).

Bayeux Memorial is situated in the south-western outskirts of the town on the by-pass, which is named Boulevard Fabian Ware (the grey road in front of the above photograph). On the opposite side of the road stands the War Cemetery.

The Bayeux Memorial stands opposite the Bayeux War Cemetery and bears the names of more than 1,800 men of the Commonwealth land forces who died in the early stages of the Normandy campaign and have no known grave. They died during the landings in Normandy, during the intense fighting in Normandy itself, and during the advance to the River Seine in August 1944. There was little actual fighting in Bayeux although it was the first French town of importance to be liberated; which is why the city of Bayeux is twinned with the Dutch city of Eindhoven.

Memorial Inscription

Inscription on Bayeux Memorial (Stephen Stratford 2009).

The inscripton across the Bayeux Memorial reads "NOS A GULIELMO VICTI VICTORIS PATRIAM LIBERAVIMUS" which translates as "We, once conquered by William, have returned to set free his native land".

Bayeux Eastern Cemetery

Bayeux Eastern Cemetery is on the south-eastern outskirts of the town, on the south side of the road to Caen. The Commonwealth graves are in the north-eastern corner of the cemetery, in Plot 9. There are the following five World War Two graves in this local cemetery.

Name Rank Number
Regiment
Died
Age
Grave
Caesar, JV Lieutenant 256117
Rifle Brigade
20 June 1944
20
1
Talbot, GSW Captain 184841
Rifle Brigade
20 June 1944
22
2
Dorrien-Smith, FA Major 186294
Rifle Brigade
20 June 1944
22
3
Beer, HA Corporal 6970029
REME
20 June 1944
24
4
Parnell, WA Rifleman 6920159
Rifle Brigade
20 June 1944
32
5

Corporal Henry Albert Beer was the son of Samuel and Ethel Sarah Beer, of Elstree, Hertfordshire. Corporal Beer was killed on June 20, 1944, when he was trying to reclaim a burning vehicle under heavy shell fire.

Lieutenant James Vaizey Caesar was the son of William Robert and Margery Caesar, of Chislehurst, Kent.

The husband and wife Major Arthur Algernon Dorrien-Smith and Eleanor Salvin Dorrien-Smith, of Tresco, Isles of Scilly suffered the loss of three of their four sons during the Second World War (with two of the three being killed on the same day):

  • Captain Algernon Robert Augustus Dorrien-Smith was killed on 20 May 1940 while serving with 15/19th Hussars (Royal Armoured Corps). Aged 30 years' old, his grave is located in Lapugnoy Military Cemetery (Pas-de-Calais), Plot 12, Row A, Grave 10.
  • Pilot Officer Lionel Roger Dorrien-Smith was killed on 20 May 1940 while serving with 79 Squadron (RAF) over the Arras area of France. Aged 21 years' old, he has no known grave and is commemorated on panel 8 of the Runnymede Memorial.
  • Major Francis Arthur Dorrien-Smith was killed on 20 June 1944, and is the third brother to have been killed in the Second World War (Grave details are shown in the table above).

Rifleman William Arthur Parnell was the husband of Matilda Parnell, of Rotherhithe, London.

Captain Gilbert Seymour Wyndham Talbot was the son of the Rt. Revd. Neville Stuart Talbot, D.D., M.C., and Cecil Mary Talbot; nephew of Lavinia C. Talbot, of Chelsea, London. Scholar of Trinity College, Oxford.

During the First World War, Revd. Neville Talbot and Revd. P.S.B. Clayton founded the Toc H organisation in Poperinghe (Belgium). They named a rest house (Talbot House) in Poperinghe after Neville Talbot's late brother Lieutenant Gilbert Talbot, Rifle Brigade, who was killed on 30 July 1915; commemorated by his grave (Plot I, Row G, Grave 1) in Sanctuary Wood Cemetery. After marrying in 1918, Neville Talbot named his son Gilbert after his late brother.

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