The Dieppe Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery holds over 700 graves, not all from the Dieppe raid. Some are earlier and some are later wartime casualties. When these cemeteries were established, many isolated remains were exhumed and moved to the Commission Cemeteries for control and ongoing maintenance.
The Cemetery is very simply laid out with a stone wall along the road and hedges bordering the other three sides. A small stone structure houses the visitors' ledger. A central stone altar rests inside the gates in the wall. A stone cross with a bronze sword on one side overlooks the rows of graves. Some or all of these items are found in each and every one of the Commission's Cemeteries. The white headstones lie in simple rows, either back to back in a double line, or spaced in a single line of graves to fill a minimum amount of space for the number interred. Around the edges of the Cemetery are other small groups of headstones. The Cemetery is well-tended, with close-cropped grass and flowers along the base of each row of headstones. One section was cordoned off from our wanderings among the rows, the grass had been recently reseeded.
During our visit to the Cemetery we conducted a brief ceremony to lay a wreath at the stone altar. Following this each member was left to view the Cemetery alone, during which time all signed the visitors' registry.
Each Canadian headstone is adorned by an engraved, stylized, maple leaf (those of British soldiers have their Regimental, Corps or Service crest). Below is the soldier's name, rank and regiment. At the bottom of the gravestone is a simple inscription as requested by the family whenever it was possible to do so. Some headstones, too many, are simple inscribed "A Soldier of the Second World War; A Canadian Regiment; 19 August 1942" and "Known Unto God."
The simplicity of the monuments, the rows of white gravestones and the carefully tended gardening strikes an awe of respect into each observer. Within the boundaries of the Cemetery a quiet hush covers all, as each participant is left to his or her own thoughts of the men who died fighting to preserve the way of life our grandparents treasured and ensuring it remained for ourselves to enjoy. I would hope that if I fell in service to my country I might be laid in as peaceful a place, where sixty years later the view remains peaceful farmers' fields and cows still wander nearby.
Photos by Michael M. O'Leary - May 2000
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