Many visitors who wander along The Wall and then onto the lawns among the gravestones, are at first intrigued by who these people were, and many admit to a compulsion to read every name on the wall and to visit every headstone. They explain they feel that not to, is to respect some and not the others who also gave their lives. Quite often a pebble will be found balanced on a Star of David head stone, this is a Jewish way of letting others know that a grave has been visited. Many graves still receive flowers from the US and several hundred Americans still visit every year.
Intriguingly, there were about 40 Americans who served with the RAF, 8 of them Battle of Britain pilots who were Killed in Action but not buried at Cambridge. This is because for technical legal reasons they could not serve as Americans while America was not formally at war. This meant that to fight for the British, Americans had to forfeit their nationality and if they were killed could not be buried in the American Cemetery or recognised on The Wall. That all changed when America entered the war on the 19th December 1941. The remains of those who served as such are buried at Brookwood the American WW I Cemetery 28 miles SW of London. An apparent contradiction of this is that you will find a cross bearing the name Warren D Pearl with the rank of Flying Officer Royal Air Force. A possible explanation for this apparent anomaly is that Pearl was born in UK and then soon after was moved to the USA where he lived until returning to join the RAF. It is possible that he retained both US and British citizenship. Another possibility is that as he was killed on March 23rd 1943, just 16 months after the Americans entered the war, he may have been in a transitional gap between the changeover from RAF to USA. As the USAF was stationed at Duxford from 1943 to 45 it is probable the records will reveal that US airmen from Duxford are also buried or recorded here.
The concept of the Cambridge American Cemetery must have evolved very quickly after peace was declared, up until that time Americans were interred in temporary graves in Cambridge, Brookwood and Northern Ireland. Commencing in 1949 the remains were gradually brought to and stored at Cambridge where they were buried in their final resting place, culminating in the Dedication and opening of the cemetery to the public on July 16th 1956. As this was taking place just a few miles away from Duxford when many of our current Old Dux Association members were stationed there, it is a matter of speculation how many of us were aware of this significant and beautiful tribute to our allies.
Just recently, on Memorial Day, the staff of the cemetery dressed just over a half of all the graves and names on The Wall with photographs of the deceased, it was a wonderful gesture which translated graves into real people with faces and wives and families. Approximately three thousand people attended and the interest generated more photographs which will be displayed at a future event.
Just across from the flag pole is The Visitor Centre which opened in 2014 where you can explore events relating to individuals who are memorialised here through a permanent exhibition. The Centre which is free and open to the public will hold your attention for approximately an hour of exploration. It contains many artefacts and individual histories, all relating to those interred or remembered in the cemetery. It is difficult to make a judgement on whether to visit the Centre at the beginning or end of your visit. Most go to the centre first and then return after touring the site as it seems to round off the total experience. Another reason for returning is to meet the knowledgeable staff. Both Tracy Haylock and Suzie Harrison were extremely helpful in producing material both printed and oral for this article, and they are keen to help visitors appreciate the meaning and value of this tribute.
Finally, every part of this memorial faces the 72-foot flag pole bearing the Stars and Stripes. The flag is raised at 9 am each morning and lowered at "taps" at 4 pm, a duty that is carried out by the permanent cemetery staff. While this is doubtless considered an honour, it is worth recalling that the flag pole is on the top of a north facing hill and raising and lowering a very large flag is probably at times a memorable experience!
Apart from honouring the dead, our allies, many not much more than boys, who came to support us in our hour of need, and lost their young lives, the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial is a place of interest, history and beauty. Many who visit, return, each visit a different experience.
After the Victory in Europe in a broadcast to the nation, PM Winston Churchill said "I shall make it clear at this moment that we never failed to recognise the immense superiority of the power used by the United States in the rescue of France and the defeat of Germany"
Cambridge American Cemetery Telephone: 01954 210350 e-mail: email@example.com
Madingley Road, Coton, Cambridge, CB23 7PH, off Junction 13 M11
Open 9 am - 5 pm daily except December 25th and January 1st.
Refreshments at Coton Garden Centre, Turn left out of Car Park, 1 mile.
Duxford Air Festival Show - Recruitment Desk 27-28th May Weekend
Volunteers were Alan Garner, and Richard Hambly on Saturday. Sunday, there was Les and Anne Gange assisting Stan Dell. Stan gave his tannoy announcement to the crowd. And a good time was had by all. Volunteers get free passes onto the airfield plus free parking. We start at 9.45am and finish before 3pm with a few breaks between. It is not onerous and we get to see most of the show. Why not volunteer if you can? Please contact Stan Dell by telephoning 01494 863428 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. 4