Private Henri Richard

A Visit to Bretteville-sur-Laize Military Cemetery - 1999

By Chantal Nikkel

It was a clear day and the sun shone brightly as two Canadian flags fluttered in the wind. Before Mémère died, I had promised that I would someday visit the cemetery where her brother lay buried. Now, this was it. I was finally here. Row upon row of white graves surrounded me. Most of the men were Canadians and as I read the inscriptions, I was struck by their ages - 20, 22, 23, 24. These soldiers who died were my age. They had their whole lives ahead of them, yet here they lay immortalized in the large white cross, the white memorial, the white headstones. Never was their sacrifice more real to me. The sharp whine of a lawnmower carried on the wind and I looked up. In a far corner of the cemetery, a maintenance man was busy cutting the grass. Off in the distance, my brother Paul was walking between a row of graves. He often paused to look at the headstones. I looked to my right. Over the cemetery's border of hedges lay golden fields separated by windbreakers made of trees. Mémère's brother fought in a different country, yet the place where he died so closely resembled the Prairies. Before I left the cemetery, I placed a bouquet of red and white flowers next to Henri's headstone. I knelt for a few moments and thought of his sacrifice, of all the soldiers' sacrifices. They had said, "Never again." The white card tucked in the bouquet of flowers said "Je me souviens" - I remember.

** Chantal, the Grand-Daughter of Henri's sister Marguerite, is a Grand-Niece of Henri Richard.

Accompanying Photos
Provided by Chantal Nikkel

The countryside surrounding the cemetery.

 

A memorial to the soldiers. "Their Name Liveth For Evermore."

 

A view of the cemetery with the columned entrance and memorial in the background. Canada owns the land on which the cemetery lies.

 

Hedges and trees form a boundary around the rows of straight, white graves.

 

Private Henri Richard's grave. The following words are inscribed at the base of the cross (hidden by the flowers on the photo): Née à Ste. Geneviève, MB. Foi sincère, dévouement sans bornes.