I captured these images earlier this year at the St Désir War Cemetery, 4km to the west of Lisieux, in northern France, when we were travelling through Normandy and the sites of the D-Day landings and subsequent conflict in Normandy. There are over 4,000 men are buried here, from both sides of the Battle of Normandy in 1944.
This is the smallest German cemetery in the Normandy region. Beneath the red granite crosses are the graves of 3,735 fallen German soldiers, many having lost their lives during the German retreat towards the Seine in August 1944. They were buried by the British Graves Service, and, unlike the Allied war graves, each headstone stands atop the remains of at least two German soldiers. In many cases, there are four or more soldiers, often unnamed, simply listed as fallen soldiers of the Fatherland (gefallenen Soldaten des Vaterlandes); one headstone listed eleven unnamed soldiers.
The fighting in the last days of the Battle of Normandy was so fierce, and much of the Allied bombing so heavy, that many German soldiers would have been almost obliterated and unidentifiable; what remained of them would have been collected, buried with their brothers in arms, and listed as unknown. The German headstones almost appear to be like silent sentinels, soldiers on parade in preparation for a battle from which they will never return.
Whilst remembrance day is the day when we remember those who fell in the first of the Great Wars, these images still speak to me of the sadness and futility of our ongoing wars against each other, and the cost that ultimately is borne by men and women who would otherwise live side by side in harmony. For all those who went to battle and never returned, lest we forget.