Cambridge American War Memorial

Cambridge War Memorial mosaic

FINISHED MOSAIC, 76 by 20 feet, towers above Artist Bradford (seated) and monuments official.  Gabriel blows down toward green graves of countryside, while angels keep watch over bombers in sky.  Source: Life Magazine, August 24, 1953; author’s personal collection.

MEMORIAL IN MOSAIC TO U.S. WAR DEAD

A chapel in England honors American heroes

When Artist Francis Scott Bradford was asked to decorate a chapel commemorating U. S. World War II dead buried in the military cemetery near Cambridge, England, he decided the design would look best in mosaic.  Though he had never made a mosaic, Bradford went to Italy, where he procured chunks of blue glass and various shades of Italian marble he needed and chopped them up into some two million tiny pieces.  Then, taking along some Italian artisans to help, he returned to England and stuck the marble and glass piece by piece into the cement on the chapel wall and ceiling.  Last month, with the two millionth piece in place, Bradford completed the reverent testimony to the men who, in the words of Architect Robert Dean’s ceiling inscription, “from these friendly isles flew their final flight and met their God.”

War Memorial Chapel article

According to the article, the cemetery contained 3, 811 graves, and the wall at the right of the reflecting pool listed 6,000 Americans who were still missing at the time of the construction of the memorial.

Ceiling of Cambridge Memorial

Image courtesy The wub (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons, retrieved May 27, 2015.

The cemetery was erected as a temporary site in 1943 on land donated by the University of Cambridge (Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial, The American Battle Monuments Commission).  It was later declared a permanent American World War II military cemetery and dedicated in 1956, 3 years after Bradford completed his mosaic.  Many of the Americans interred in the cemetery were crew members for the British-based American aircraft, who flew sorties from the British Isles to Germany and over the Atlantic.

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7 Responses to Cambridge American War Memorial

  1. Beth says:

    This has got to be phenomenal to visit. What a powerful tribute to those who lost their lives, very touching. I found this link on the web, you may have already seen it. http://www.thejoyofshards.co.uk/visits/cambridge/cemetery/

    • Suzassippi says:

      I had not seen the link–thanks for sharing. Mosaics fascinate me, and to think the artist did this one as his first is pretty phenomenal for certain!

  2. socialbridge says:

    Suz, the use of a mosaic seems so appropriate and it certainly appears to be a beautiful memorial. Thanks for highlighting it.

    • Suzassippi says:

      I think perhaps, now that you mention the appropriateness, that it is symbolic use of the mosaic, when one considers the fragmented pieces of glass and stone. There is a reference in one source about the “ghostly” planes flying over.

  3. Photos cannot do this mosaic justice. It is really worth seeing the Memorial and Cemetery in person.

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