La Cambe cemetery

Last year I shelfed this post because I felt some might be offended by it’s latter content. As I found out, there is still some very strong feelings about this cemetery in Normandy, France.


I have an interest in the history of the second world war and Normandy of course was a battle ground during the months of June and July 1944. On the occasions I have been to France, I have seen and visited few sites where battles took place, museums and Allied cemeteries but I’d never been to the German cemetery in La Cambe. We stumbled across it by chance on our way back to the house we stay at in Vimoutiers.

 The Deutscher Soldatenfriedhof at La Cambe, Normandie

I’m always cautious and respectful when taking images around churches, cemeteries or graveyards. In the picture above, there’s a family ahead and when they passed me earlier at the entrance to the cemetery, I could clearly hear they were German speaking and wasn’t to sure how they might react seeing someone with a camera, let alone an Englishmen, but as the saying goes over here …“Keep calm, carry on”

Thankfully a Leica rangefinder is discreet, quiet and small although maybe some would say a bit sneaky! Years ago as I was taking pictures, I did have a woman take offence that I was using a camera in such a place, so I do like to be mindful of where I am and not to disturb others.


Before walking though the entrance a sign tells you, Until 1947, this was an American cemetery. The remains were exhumed and shipped to the United States. It has been German since 1948, and contains over 21,000 graves. With its melancholy rigour, it is a graveyard for soldiers not all of whom had chosen either the cause or the fight. They too have found rest in our soil of France.

I can understand why some in France still have ill feeling about the existence of this place.

As I start walking quietly though the main a gate your meet with a small marble hall with the large letters on the wall ‘HIER RUHEN DEUTSCHE SOLDATEN + ICI REPOSENT DESSOLDATS ALLEMANDS’ translated, Here lie German Soldiers.

Although very uniformed and tidy, unlike Allied cemeteries there are no headstones or white marble crosses, just stone plaques with the names of the fallen with roughly carved black stone crosses in groups of five dotted among the trees. On the overcast but very warm day I visited there where two national wreaths, one French, one German on stands in the middle of the cemetery. A few smaller wreaths lie on some plaques but no flowers or poppies but what stood out to me was among the bare graves, one plaque was covered in flowers and pictures.

Below is the grave plaque of one SS-Hauptsturmführer Michael Wittmann the German tank ace who was killed near Gaumesnil, Normandie.

Michael Wittmann grave in La Cambe cemetery

I was surprised that his plaque was surrounded by coins, some fresh flowers, some not so fresh as well as pictures of him in his wartime uniform. I am well aware of the exploits of this man, his achievements as a panzer commander and his subsequent demise in 1944. Although there is no record of Wittmann being involved with any crimes, he was still a member of the Waffen-Schutzstaffel who themselves carried out war crimes throughout the war and was born out of one of the worst authoritarian regimes mankind has ever known. I think one must forgive that some individuals still have the misguided belief of having a ‘cult’ status is ‘OK’ regardless of the crimes committed by the same organisation that this man belonged to throughout the conflict.


One final point, outside the La Cambe cemetery there are various plinths on which there are famous quotes. One stood out to me;

“The question of peace is not a globe question but a personal question for each individual”

Karl Jaspers

All pictures taken with my Leica M4-2, Summicron 35mm f/2 ASPH and taken on Ilford HP5 plus film in August 2020.

Unshipping the wheels

Now I know what it means!

No seriously, ‘unshipping’ means to load, unload a ship or the sailors progressed rapidly with the task of unshipping the packages and caged animals. “Unshipping the wheels” meanings Larboard battery, unship your rear wheels from the cannons to raise the angle of fire.

Think in this case it’s not to get an angle of attack, more like to prevent theft of boat and trailer from the sailing club yard.

Taken last March, on my Leica M4-2, Summicron 35mm f/2 ASPH and taken on Ilford HP5 plus film.

Medieval market

Saint Pierre Sur Dives – August 2020

This structure is the inside view of the 11th century market hall in the town which unfortunately was completely destroyed by fire during the battle for the town in 1944. Although the wonderful building was lovely reproduced after the war the timbers are clearly cut with modern tools unlike the original medieval beams. The building is still used to this day for food, livestock and antiques markets every Monday and first Sunday of the month. Well worth a visit if your in the Normandy area.

Taken on my Leica M4-2, Summicron 35mm f/2 ASPH and taken on Ilford HP5, rated at 800.

The outside of the 11th-century market hall taken on my phone.

Further reading and images; https://www.normandythenandnow.com/the-wooden-phoenix-of-saint-pierre-sur-dives/

The Alleyway

I have a thing about alleyways and especially when I find one like this one. Plain, simple image but with loads of tones, character, converging angles and great for film photography. I found this narrow passage in Le Sap, Normandie which is a tiny hamlet in the northwestern France.

Leica M4-2, Summicron 35mm f/2 ASPH and taken on Ilford HP5 plus, rated at 800.

Hiding

Vimoutiers, France. August 2020

Taken on a very dull morning this image is a bit grainy but it I think it works. This shy little boy was standing in front of his mother while she was talking on the street outside this cafe. Sitting at a table opposite while drinking a morning tea, waiting for a possible shot, the moment came when peered under his mothers hand for me.

Leica M4-2, Summicron 35mm f/2 ASPH and taken on Ilford HP5 plus, rated at 800.

The four

These four Starlings where sitting calling at the top of the telegraph pole. There was no other sound this morning, no people, cars or buses, only the sea was the only other sound to be heard. Strange times, good for landscapes as there no vapor trails across the sky unyet we cannot go far, good for the environment with pollution levels dropping… maybe this will become the norm one day, to help our planet recover.

The four

Leica M3, Summicron 35mm f/2 ASPH and taken on Ilford HP5 plus film expired 2006 and push one stop.

Outside

I shot this during my allotted exercise with my dog Charlie. At this time of the morning there’s a few people out along this stretch of seafront but there is no one around, no cyclists, runners or other dog walkers. A very strange feeling being alone, me my dog and my Leica camera. As we are only venture out and not go very far from home, it has made it an quite an interesting exercise trying to find subjects to photograph.

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Leica M3, Summicron 35mm f/2 ASPH and taken on Ilford HP5 plus film expired 2006 and push one stop.

Puppy love

Shot before the current curfew, on a dull overcast day, this lady was taking her Pomeranian puppy for his first outing at Minster Leas, Isle of Sheppey, England. Wasn’t happy with first image I uploaded yesterday, so with a little dodging and burning in Gimp the result I’m pleased with. To tell the truth I don’t like messing around with my pictures too much, some might say I’m lazy but if it’s not right, I scrap the image.

Puppy love

Leica M3, Summicron 50mm f/2 Duel range on Ilford HP5 plus expired 2006 from my father’s old stock in his fridge and push one stop.

Pathway

Mote Park, Maidstone, England. A very dull, wet winters morning.  The sunlight was silhouetting people, children and their dogs against the wet pathway. This shot I am amazed with as normally with a Summicron lenses you will get lens flare looking into the sun but this shot some how I avoided it.

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Leica M4-2, Summicron 35mm f/2 ASPH, with a yellow B&W filter and shot Ilford HP5 plus film at an ISO 800.

A Quite Spot

A quite spot for carp fishing on the lake fed by the River Len at Mote Park, Maidstone, England. I have been trying out some Ilford HP5 which I had rated at 800 ISO and although I’ve use this film in the past, I had never pushed this film in bright light before and so far I am very happy with the results and somewhat cheaper than Tri-X.

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Taken using my Leica M4-2, with a Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH.