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The cemetery at Bény-sur-Mer, located a few miles from Juno Beach, is one of two Canadian military cemeteries in Normandy. In total they harbour 4.800 graves of soldiers killed during the fighting in the summer of 1944. The tombstones demonstrate the importance of Canadian participation in the liberation of France and Northwestern Europe.
The Canadian War Cemetery called Bény-sur-Mer (but actually located in the town area of Reviers) overlooks Juno Beach, where the 3rd Canadian Division landed on 6 June 1944. The cemetery contains the remains of over 2.000 Canadian soldiers who fell during the first weeks of the Battle of Normandy, notably during the bloody confrontation with the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend before the liberation of Caen on 9 July.
A second Canadian cemetery in Normandy is located in Bretteville-sur-Laize, south of Caen. It is the final resting place of 2.800 Canadian soldiers who fell during the very laborious advancement of the 2nd Canadian Corps towards Falaise between July and August 1944.
Like in other Commonwealth war cemeteries, the light coloured graves are arranged in rows of tombstones. Each slab bears the number, name and surname of the soldier, his age, his rank, the name of his unit, the date of his death, as well as the emblem of his regiment (by default a maple leaf for Canadian nationals). If appropriate, a religious symbol indicates the soldier’s confession. Families were given the opportunity to add a personal thought or message. These affectionate words illustrate the magnitude of the human tragedy that accompanied the death of each of these men.
Fought between the iconic landings on 6 June 1944 and the liberation of Paris on 25 August, the Battle of Normandy is often overlooked. Yet this campaign decided the course of the war in Northwestern Europe. The losses were huge: more than 100.000 people were killed during the 80 days, 20.000 of them civilians.
The Memorial Museum of Civilians at War in Falaise opened in 2016 and covers over 1,000 m² of exhibition. Each of the three floors focuses on a different theme: Occupation, Liberation and Reconstruction. The museum is dedicated to both the life and survival of civilians during WWII. Testimonies of survivors and a collection of objects and archives are presented.