Madingley American Cemetery - Memorial Day

Memorial day is a United States Federal holiday held on the last Monday in May. This US national holiday is held to pay tribute to all of America's men and women who died while serving their country in military service both at home and overseas. The holiday was originally enacted to honour the Union soldiers of the American civil war but was later expanded after World War 1 to commemorate service men and women who died during any kind of military action. Memorial Day ceremonies are held at Madingley each year.

A U.S. Airman salutes the colors as taps plays during a Memorial Day ceremony at Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial in Madingley, England, May 26, 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Perry Aston

Madingley American Cemetery Memorial Day

Each year Madingley American Cemetery pays tribute to those who died in the service of their country by hosting a memorial day service comprising of a wreath laying ceremony, music performed by a United States military band, a reading of the president's memorial day proclamation and various other activities that pay tribute to the men and women who gave their lives in the service of the United States.

The British weather can be unpredictable at best and often gives rise to un clement weather around the memorial day holiday period. 2008 was to be no exception with cold winds and heavy rain through much of the ceremony.

A United States Air Force guard of honour from RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk presented arms during a rendition of Taps and later performed a 21 gun salute. Airmen presented wreaths to veterans and their families. More than 110 associations attended and laid wreaths in tribute to the fallen.

This year a fly past by a KC135 tanker belonging to the 351st Air Refueling Squadron from RAF Mildenhall and F15E Strike Eagles of the 494th Fighter Squadron based at RAF Lakenheath paid tribute to the fallen with fly pasts including a missing man formation by the F15's.

other aircraft to perform fly-by's included a B25 Mitchell and the locally restored B17 bomber nicknamed the "Sally B". The Sally B is based at nearby Duxford Air museum which also plays host to the American air museum which house a substantial collection of World War 2 and modern aircraft including another B17, a SR71 Blackbird and a B52 Bomber. Visitors to Madingley American Cemetery may well wish to visit Duxford and the American air museum as Duxford airfield is approximately 20 minutes drive from Madingley via the M11 motorway. Directions to Duxford can be found here.

The "Sally B" is the last remaining air worthy B17 bomber in the United Kingdom, based at Duxford she is a frequent visitor to air shows both in the United Kingdom and abroad. The "Sally B" performed a staring role in the film "Memphis Belle" a story loosely based on the real Memphis Belle which became the first US Bomber to complete twenty five missions over Europe and return to the United States. The Sally B is independently operated and relies on sponsorship and donations to keep her flying.

The illustration opposite shows airmen from the 48th Fighter Wing based at RAF Lakenheath preparing to lay wreaths during memorial day 2006. They are standing in front of the tablets of the missing which are inscribed with the names five thousand one hundred and twenty six of those missing in action, lost or buried at sea during World War 2. The Tablets Of The Missing include the names of the legendary band leader and Jazz musician Alton Glen Miller and Joseph P Kennedy, Jr. older brother of future president John F Kennedy. Although Kennedy had completed twenty five combat missions and was entitled to return home he volunteered for an Operation Aphrodite mission and was killed in an accidental explosion over England.

Glen Miller's aircraft disappeared over the English Channel while en route to Paris to perform for soldiers who had recently liberated Paris. Neither his body nor the wreckage of the plane have ever been found.

Opposite the USAF honor guard from RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk fire a 21 one gun salute in honour od the fallen, during the memorial day ceremony in 2004. The military bugle call Taps is being played while the twenty one gun salute is fired. The playing of Taps is a traditional part of United States military funerals, wreath laying and memorial services. The music for Taps was adapted by Union General Daniel Butterfield and was used as a "Lights Out" bugle call to signal the end of the day. It's use was quickly copied by other Union Army units and after the war became the official Bugle Call. Although somewhat similar to the British "Last Post" Taps use is Unique to the United States armed forces. The short but moving twenty four notes of Taps remains one of America's most recognizable and eloquent military bugle calls. The words to Taps are "Day Is Done, Gone The Sun, From The Lakes, From The Hills, All Is Well, Safely Rest, God Is Nigh."

U.S. Air Force honor guardsmen from Royal Air Force Lakenheath present arms as “Taps” plays during a Memorial Day ceremony at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial in Madingley, England, May 26, 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Perry Aston
US Air Force (USAF) F-15E Strike Eagle fighters flown by the 494th Fighter Squadron (FS), 48th Fighter Wing (FW), Royal Air Force (RAF) Lakenheath, England (ENG), fly over in formation during the Memorial Day ceremony held at the Madingley American Cemetery near the city of Cambridge, England (ENG). Photographer's Name: SSGT TONY R. TOLLEY, USA
Sally B a privatley owned B17 flies past Madingley American Cemetery on Memorial Day 2004
U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 48th Fighter Wing prepare to place wreaths during the Memorial Day ceremony held at Madingley American Cemetery near Cambridge, United Kingdom, May 29, 2006. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Sabrina A. Johnson)
The Royal Air Force (RAF) Lakenheath US Air Force (USAF) Honor guard performs a 21-gun salute while taps are played during the Memorial Day ceremony held at Madingley American Cemetery near the city of Cambridge, England (ENG). Photographer AMN CHRISTOPHER WALKENHORST USAF