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Along the via Aretina, on the banks of the Arno, lies the British Commonwealth War Cemetery.
It was July 1943 when allied troops from America and Commonwealth landed in Sicily. These armies reached the peninsula only on September 3rd, in conjunction with the armistice. 

cimitero del commonwealth

The nationality composition of the battalion was various: next to the British also Australians, Indians, Pakistani, New Zealanders fought and died on our motherland.
 
The Florence War Cemetery is wide, 1632 graves, located between the Arno and the county road: while walking on green and neat fields, you can find a universe of races, religions, languages but one common thread: the young age.
 
British, Australians, Canadians, Indians, New Zealanders and South-Africans: these are all the nationalities resting in the Girone valley, having the Arno flowing fast behind them. In one of the field wing, near to the rows of Arabic-inscription gravestones, there are several soldier graves of the Gurkha Rifles, Nepalese riflemen. It is an original unit of a Nepal region, which was independent from Great Britain, but so skillful at fighting to be enrolled as stable unit in their army and fought for them, many times, side by side, also during the Second World War.
 
There are also Stars of David, sikh emblems, Chinese and Arabic scripts, inscriptions and symbols of faraway countries. This humankind variety is the same you can find by reading the visitors’ book, coming from all over the world to honor the memory of a relative died many year earlier or just to visit places that are now in their history.
Most of the Commonwealth war cemeteries in Italy –forty-six all- were designed by the architect Louis de Soissons, born in Canada but who has lived in London, and managed by Commonwealth War grave Commission.
The cemeteries in our country have two recurring elements: there is the sacrifice cross, on which vertical part has a bronze sword, and a big- white marble altar, so called Remembrance Stone. The rest is just simple, grounded gravestones enhancing the symmetry of straight lines. The presence of growing plants, which stands near the marble slabs, is interesting. All the graves are decorated in the same way: name of the soldier, age, military rank, regiment emblem and an inscription, to preserve the memory, by the relatives. The gravestones must respect all the different believes.
 
The Florence War Cemetery is open every day.
Via Aretina, 38 – 50061 Girone Compiobbi

 

 

Published: 22/6/2013

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