Faces of Cambridge: Cambridge American Cemetery

10th April 2017

Memorial Day Weekend: Saturday 27 – Sunday 28 May  

Sgt Joseph J Rubin

Joseph Rubin’s comrades visit his temporary grave on the first Memorial Day, here at Cambridge, in 1944.

When you go home:

Tell them for us and say

“For your tomorrow

We gave our today”.

John Maxwell Edmonds

Cpl Jack R Flinn 381BG A2-22

Cpl Jack R Flinn – 533 Bomb Squadron, 381 Bomb Group – Grave: A-2-22


Cambridge American Cemetery honours the competence, courage and sacrifice of the Americans who, as part of the ‘friendly invasion’, served in Britain during WWII. They brought their film-star good looks, candy, music and jitterbugging to a nation starved of fun and lightened our darkest hour.

It was Winston Churchill who first popularised the phrase, “special relationship”, to describe the close, loyal and supportive bond between Britain and the US. Marching side-by-side, against a common foe, many Americans gave up their lives and are laid to rest in British soil.

On land donated by the University, Cpl Jack Flinn was the first to be interred in the temporary cemetery (7 December 1943). Come the end of the war, it was decided to make Cambridge the permanent WWII American Cemetery in Britain. Nearly 4,000 families requested their loved ones be laid to rest here. A Wall of the Missing was erected, the longest in Europe, inscribed with the names of soldiers, sailors and airmen lost in action and never recovered.

Caption: Sgt Joseph J Rubin – 487 Fighter Squadron, 352 Fighter Group – Grave: C-4-72

Caption: Sgt Joseph J Rubin – 487 Fighter Squadron, 352 Fighter Group – Grave: C-4-72

It had been a tradition to put flowers on the graves of Union soldiers who died in the American Civil War, on what was known as ‘Decoration Day’. This was later renamed ‘Memorial Day’, to honour Americans who died fighting in all US wars.

An annual Memorial Day ceremony is held here every May. Many come to pay their respects; old comrades, transported back in time, as they remember the young crewman lying beneath the headstone; family for whom there may be no closure, when the name they are searching for is carved on the Wall of the Missing because he was a sailor lost at sea.

Standing at the flagpole and looking over the sea of headstones, it is almost impossible to contemplate those lives cut short on such a magnitude. However, when you look at a headstone and remember the one, then the man to his right, and the woman to his left, it begins to become real.

In this, the 75th Anniversary year of the initial arrival of US troops in Britain (1942), for the first time – like ghosts from the past – over 3000 faces will be added to the names carved here. We invite you to come and meet them.


Cambridge American Cemetery contact information:

CAC0004 EastLife Adverts Alan Grant