Article and Photos by Doug Slowski
The Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery is a war cemetery containing predominantly Canadian soldiers killed during the later stages of the Battle of Normandy in the Second World War.
This cemetery lies on the west side of the main road from Caen to Falaise (route N158) about 14 kilometres south of Caen and just north of the village of Cintheaux. The village of Bretteville lies 3 kilometres south-west of the cemetery.
The Allied offensive in north-western Europe began with the Normandy landings of 6 June 1944. For the most part, those buried at Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery died during the later stages of the battle of Normandy, the capture of Caen and the thrust southwards - led initially by the 4th Canadian and 1st Polish Armoured Divisions - to close the Falaise Gap. Almost every unit of Canadian 2nd Corps is represented in the cemetery. The cemetery contains 2,958 Second World War burials, the majority Canadian, and 87 of them unidentified.
Bretteville-sur-Laize was created as a permanent resting place for Canadian soldiers who had been temporarily buried in smaller plots close to where they fell. At the time of the cemetery's creation, France granted Canada a perpetual concession to the land occupied by the cemetery. Of the 2,958 burials, 2,782 are Canadian of whom 87 remain unidentified, together with 80 British, four Australian and one each from France and New Zealand. There are records for 2,792 of the Canadian men.
A large number of dead in the cemetery were killed late July 1944 around Saint-André-sur-Orne and in the battle for the Falaise Pocket in August 1944. Soldiers from nearly every unit within the II Canadian Corps are represented in the cemetery.
Canadians killed earlier (June and early July) in the Battle of Normandy are buried near Juno Beach in the Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery.