It was, I think, 1997 and Ernie and I, our daughter Liz and her husband Jeff had been to England and were about to follow Ernie's dad's steps in the US Army in WW I, sailing from Portsmouth to Le Havre. No boat crowded with apprehensive soldiers, but a vessel crammed with gamblers. We arrived at Le Havre long before we could pick up our rental car and then set out. At this point we made up our own itinerary. My memory is so sketchy. I know we looking for a specific WW I grave. An author? A scholar? Maybe it was Wilfred Owen. We paid our respects to the soldiers of WW II by visiting the beaches of Normandy with their immaculate cemeteries, we spent a night in Caen and I remember we bought something in the town square (pommes frites?) and we were so busy talking that we walked away with out paying, pursued by irate vendors. Most of all, we explored anything that looked interesting.
In the middle of nowhere we came across this little Commonwealth cemetery, not many graves but immaculately cared for. Protected from the weather there was a book in which we could sign our names and the only other visitor was an elderly gentleman. We talked to him and he said he was from New Zealand and had made the pilgrimage to France several times to visit the tomb of his father. He then told us he was 82 and that this would be his last visit.
The beautiful poetry of Wilfred Owen or Sigrid Sassoon or Rupert Brooke will never make such human tragedy bearable.