Saturday, April 29, 2006

The War Cemeteries

Last week, Kendra and I again took the tenth-graders from our Integrated Honors World History/English class on a World War II fieldtrip to the British War Cemetery near the Catania airport, the German War Cemetery near Misterbianco, and then to the World War II museum in downtown Catania.

The cemeteries are immaculately maintained by the countries whose men are buried there, England and Germany, and visitors, flowers, flags, and notes still appear on graves at each site. Over two thousand men are buried in the British Cemetery, with its neat rows of matching white tombstones and personal inscribed messages on each beneath the rank, name, unit, and dates of birth and death. A few Norwegians, Australians, New Zealanders, and one Pole are sprinkled among the Englishmen. What struck our students most was the ages of the men, many of them just 18, 19, or 20 years old, not much older than they are now. They spent a good amount of time walking up and down the long rows, reading the stones and reflecting. It had just rained, so everything was sparkling clean.

Afterwards, we went to the German cemetery near Misterbianco. The style of the place was completely different. You wouldn't even notice it or know there was a cemetery there if you weren't seeking it. It's open to the sky but behind high red brick walls. Each "room" inside the walls is dedicated to the men who fell at the various locations--Catania, Messina, and Agira. Over four thousand five hundred men are buried here. Each room has their names, rank, and dates inscribed on huge marble tablets laid into the floors. So, the entire look is quite different. There is a very moving bronze sculpture of a fallen soldier that is reproduced in the museum downtown. For some reason, though, the students were not as interested in the Germany cemetery. I don't know if it was the fact that the Germans were our enemy, the stark design of the place, or the fact that we were on our way to McDonald's for lunch afterwards, but they definitely did not want to spend as much time there.


At May 08, 2006 7:44 AM, Blogger grec007 said...

Thank you very much for your writing. I ESPECIALLY enjoy your photos. I have been to Italy several times and especially love the Sicilian coast, countryside, and architecture :)

I am considering a work position in Catania, but am uncertain. How large would you say is the american community in Sicily.

And do you know if the theme park (in/by Enna) will be done anytime soon (is it even started)? It's projected to be the largest in Europe. ???

At July 19, 2006 8:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband and I are going to Catania in September so that I can visit my father's grave (in the British cemetery) for the first time. We are travelling from the U.S. and are unsure of where exactly the cemetery is located. We are also wondering where we should stay while there. Any suggestions?
Jane McBride

At July 19, 2006 8:57 PM, Blogger Maryellen said...

Send me your email address, Jane, and I can give you specific information. Thanks. Maryellen

At July 22, 2006 4:31 AM, Anonymous Jane McBride said...

I sent an e-mail to the address on your page. Should I have gone elsewhere?

At February 26, 2008 2:56 PM, Blogger Miketw10 said...

I am planning to visit Catania this year to visit my uncle who fell on 24/07/43. The only problem is, I can't seem to locate the British war Cemetery which you mention above. The one near the airport...

I wonder if you would be so kind as to locate it on a map for me...
My email address is my username at



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