“BRINGING THE CEMETERY TO LIFE: THE AMERICAN WAR CEMETERY AT MADINGLEY”
Talk by Arthur Brookes, 8 January 2018
We all know the expression ‘You could have heard a pin drop’. If you had the good fortune to attend this talk about the American War Cemetery at Madingley, you would have experienced it first-hand. True to his title – ‘Bringing the Cemetery to Life’ – Arthur Brookes, who worked there for many years and now knows more about it than just about anybody else, told us story after story about the men (and some women) who lie there. Most died on active service in the US Army, Air Force or Navy, and there are over 5000 names on the Wall of the Missing whose remains were never found: airmen whose planes did not return or sailors lost at sea. But Arthur also wanted to remember for us those whose role in the war or whose deaths were not ‘glorious’, nor were they famous like Joseph Kennedy Jr or Glenn Miller, but who all the same lost their lives to the cause of defending our freedom. If you were repairing a tank or other vehicle at a base here in Blighty and an accident caused your death you were serving all the same; if you were a black soldier killed in Wales in a fight started by prejudice, ditto. Arthur emphasised that all are commemorated in the same way: the headstones take no account of rank or prestige.
We saw their smiling faces, pairs of siblings, fathers and sons, ‘pals’ larking about for the camera. Their homes represented every US state, big cities and one-horse towns, and they ended up over here doing their bit – or giving their all – for our side. It was right that we sat in stillness to give them something of their due.