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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 June, 2004, 10:06 GMT 11:06 UK
Veterans pay respects to lost comrades
By Tom Geoghegan
BBC News Online in Normandy

Frank Clark and friend Joan De-Vall
Frank Clark remembers his friends dying in his arms

The cemeteries are a must-do in the itinerary of D-Day veterans returning to Normandy.

And for Frank Clark, the visit to the Anglo-German graveyard at Douvres-la-Delivrande is particularly poignant.

Mr Clark, 80, from Leicester, watched two friends die in front of him two weeks after they took Sword Beach together in the King's Own Scottish Borderers.

The two graves are a few feet apart and he marks each with a poppy.

One of the men was 21 and had been married for only three months.

When you've sweated with them, eaten with them and shared food with them, then you're like brothers
Frank Clark

He said: "We'd just got out of the dugout and were walking up the road when the shelling started again.

"They shouted 'Nobby' and one had blood coming out of his ear, the other had blood out of his nose. They died in my arms.

"When you've sweated with them, eaten with them and shared food with them, then you're like brothers."

Some of the most emotional moments come in this way.

Equality

Another veteran finds the grave he has been searching for, bows his head for a moment in silence, salutes with his trembling right hand and receives a consoling hug from his son.

The cemetery has 927 British graves, 180 German, 11 Canadian, 3 Australian, one Polish and one unknown.

The Germans are buried in the quietest corner of the immaculately kept graveyard, away from the main road into Bayeux.

Canadian gravestone
The cemetery contains graves of fallen Allied and German soldiers

The headstones have the War Graves Commission shape of their British counterparts and unlike at other cemeteries, they are not black.

For the visiting British, this equality is not a problem.

Robert Gamble, 79, from Leicester, said: "We were all doing the same thing and they're someone's son, aren't they?

"My cousin married a member of a U-boat and I was in a Destroyer trying to sink U-boats!"

'It breaks me up'

The visitors are not just the elderly. Daniel Mangan, seven, from Liverpool, is there with his father Graham, 38.

Daniel said: "It's sad the soldiers died so young."

His father added: "We've come over for the commemoration. I'm an ex-soldier and I never drive past a cemetery without stopping.

Now I'm trying to instil in him the same respect. It upsets me every time I come."

Graham Mangan and son Daniel
The cemetery is immaculately kept

Five minutes drive away, there are 2,048 Canadians resting at Beny-sur-mer-Reviers.

Jan de Vries, 80, from Ontario, of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, is one of 10 veterans returning to lay poppies dropped from parachutes last year.

"What always get me are the inscriptions, they really break me up.

"When we go to Ranville cemetery I recall the names (of friends) and have to stop."

He said the Canadian contribution used to be overlooked but that was changing, thanks in part to a Juno Beach Centre he helped to set up.

"We have a population of 11 million and we had 1.1 million in uniform in World War Two. No other country did that."


WATCH AND LISTEN
Montage of the day's commemorations





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