Tag Archives: Normandy

Tolling of the Bell

 If you go looking for a bell in the cemetery the easiest discovery will be a gravestone engraved with the surname Bell. However, if you are looking for the symbol of a bell unrelated to the surname it will be a long search. A bell is one of the rarest symbols found on headstones and quite simply represents mourning.


The Dead Bell in the Middle Ages was believed to frighten away evil spirits.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_bell

When someone died the bell ringer passed through the streets of villages, towns or cities ringing the bell slowly and repeatedly while announcing the name of the recently deceased person and details of the funeral. The solemn ringing of the bell led mourners from the home of the deceased to the church where the funeral was held.

In 16th century Britain land for burial was sparse. Coffins were dug up and bones taken to the bone-house so that the grave could be reused. Upon opening the coffins, it was noticed that several had scratch marks on the inside. The realization that people were being buried whilst still alive led to the practice of tying a string on the wrist of the corpse which was attached to a bell above ground while a sentry sat in the cemetery overnight.

A little grave humour:
Harold, the Oakdale gravedigger, upon hearing a bell, went to go see if it was children pretending to be spirits. Sometimes it was also the wind. This time it wasn’t either. A voice from below begged, pleaded to be unburied.
“You Sarah O’Bannon?”
Yes! the voice assured.
“You were born on September 17, 1827?”
“The gravestone here says you died on February 19?”
“No I’m alive, it was a mistake! Dig me up, set me free!”
“Sorry about this, ma’am,” Harold said, stepping on the bell to silence it and plugging up the copper tube with dirt. “But this is August. Whatever you is down there, you ain’t alive no more, and you ain’t comin’ up.”

The Bell of Hope was a gift from London’s St. Mary-le-Bow, which is the sister church to St. Paul’s Chapel in Manhattan. Installed in the churchyard of St. Paul’s Chapel in September 2002, the Bell of Hope is rung at a ceremony every year on September 11th. It has also been rung after the bombings in Madrid, 2004; London, 2005; Mumbai, 2008; Moscow, 2010; and the Boston Marathon, 2013; and for the shootings at Virginia Tech, 2007 and in Norway, 2011.

Source: https://walkaboutny.com/2016/09/11/the-bell-of-hope-at-st-pauls-chapel/

The bell is inscribed:
“To the Greater Glory of God
And in Recognition of
The Enduring Links Between
The City of London
The City of New York”
“Forged in adversity—11.September.2001”

The La Cambe German Cemetery in Normandy, France where there are 21,222 burials with 207 belonging to unknown soldiers. A peace garden with 1,200 maple-trees is adjacent to the cemetery.

dday center
La Cambe German War Cemetery, Normandy, France. Source: http://www.dday.center/cemetery_de_lacambe.html

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Following the Fallen

We are in Normandy, France, to search for the grave of Albert Chenier, a Canadian soldier who gave his life in support of freedom. We know he died here, but little else.

We visit the Juno Beach Centre at Courseulles-Sur-Mer (a museum commemorating the Canadian liberation forces efforts, and a memorial to their lives.) We explain to the Guide that we have been searching the names on the memorial in the grounds for Albert Chenier who was injured upon landing and died several weeks later. He informs us that the names on the monuments are sponsored, and they do not represent all the Canadians who died there. He offers to search the website and returns within a few minutes with Albert’s regimental number and the cemetery in which he is interred, only a few minutes from this location: Beny-Sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, Calvados, France.

The cemetery was created as a permanent resting place for Canadian soldiers who had been temporarily interred in smaller plots close to where they fell during World War II. It contains the remains of 9 sets of brothers, a record for a Second World War cemetery. There is also a special memorial erected to a soldier of the Canadian Infantry Corps who is known to have been buried in this cemetery, but the exact site of whose grave has not been located.

We leave behind Juno Beach, the giant crucifix that towers over the area offering both redemption and caution ‘lest we forget’; the remnants of the Atlantic Wall, the German bunkers and tunnels, and the many monuments to Canadian war heroes: one of which denotes the D-Day Officer’s order of the day:

‘When the ramp goes down get out fast. Go like a bat out of hell, get in close and take cover…
Don’t stop to help the wounded even if he is your buddy, the medics will take care of them…’


Juno Beach

We follow directions to a large cemetery located in the middle of the open countryside where fine hedges decorate the entrance. The flanking registry buildings have platforms from which visitors can see the whole area, and they also house a tabernacle containing a guest book and a list of all the buried soldiers. Although 2048 headstones stretch out in pristine rows enclosed by pines and maples marking the dead of the 3rd Division and the graves of 15 airmen, it is a simple feat to find Albert’s grave thanks to the schematic of the cemetery.



As is typical of war cemeteries in France, the French Government granted Canada a perpetual concession to the land occupied by the cemetery. Local school children tend the graves and each is marked by flowers. It is a humbling experience to be present in this hallowed place and to read the inscriptions on the graves of so many young men.

Grave Reference: IV. F. 5.
In Memory of Private Albert Charles Chenier
H/16803, South Saskatchewan Regiment, R.C.I.C.
He died of wounds in France on 15 August 1944 and is remembered with honour.

France_Beny-sur-Mer_Albert Chenier (2)

A few verses recorded from the stones of the fallen:

Ever loving remembrance of our dearest and our best
Who gave his all so bravely
Peace, perfect peace – June 9, 1944.

He died for our freedom
May we be worthy of his supreme sacrifice.

Rest my son in thy far off grave
You died for your country like a hero brave.