Madingley Road | Madingley, Cambridge CB23 7PH, England
The beautiful and peaceful Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial is the only American Second World War Cemetery in the UK. Originally one of three temporary American cemeteries, it was set up on 17 December 1943 for the American casualties of the battle of the Atlantic, the strategic bombing campaign over Europe and the invasion of Europe. It is the final resting place of 3812 men and women, with a further 5,127 commemorated on the wall of remembrance. Besides personnel of the United States armed forces there are also buried 18 members of the British Commonwealth armed services, who were American citizens serving chiefly in the Royal Air Force and Air Transport Auxiliary. There is also the grave of an officer of the Royal Canadian Air Force and another of the British Royal Armoured Corps, whose graves are registered and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It is one of 25 overseas American cemeteries administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission.
After the war, on land donated by the University of Cambridge, the cemetery was developed as so much more than just a place where men and women are buried. It combines art, landscape and symbolism in a way rarely found elsewhere in this country. Built on a gentle slope overlooking the flat area to the north of Cambridge if affords fine views over the countryside including that of Ely Cathedral over seventeen miles away.
The memorial building is 85 ft (26 m) long, 30 ft (9.1 m) wide and 28 ft (8.5 m) high; it is made of Portland stone; the doors of teak are embellished with relief models of World War II military equipment. The memorial is separated into a large museum room with a small chapel at the far end from the doors. A great map on the wall shows schematically the air sorties flown from East Anglia, together with convoys across the North Atlantic and other actions in the war. The wall and roof have a mosaic of angels and ghostly aircraft.
Set in the wooded area at the west of the site, the Visitor Centre opened in 2014 and uses interpretive displays, photographs, film and interactive kiosks to chronicle the ‘friendly invasion’ by American personnel over the war years. This facility greatly enhances the visitor experience – telling the stories of those commemorated in the cemetery – and staff are on hand to answer any questions.
From the flag pole at the centre it is possible to view the entire site. Fan shaped burial plots radiate like the spokes of a wheel. Three reflecting pools, reminiscent of the Mall in Washington, and flanking the Wall of the Missing, lead to the Memorial Building. Inside the Memorial notable features include a mosaic ceiling, stained-glass windows commemorating every US state and a large map detailing the Battle of the Atlantic and the air campaign fought in the skies over occupied Europe.