If these winter-wheat fields could talk, they would tell you about the night of February 28, 1943. On this night, the British Armed Forces finally defeated the German army that had tried to occupy Beja 15 days earlier because of its strategic location to the rest of Northern Tunisia and Algeria.
There are eight British Commonwealth cemeteries dotted around Tunisia and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Cemeteries were erected at the sites of battles, which gives the surrounding fields and olive groves a particularly hallowed feeling.
When I look at the ages of some of these soldiers, my heart feels unbearable sympathy. I am sure there are parents who were never able to come to Tunisia to see where their son was laid to rest. I think what they would have given to trade places with me and experience the peace of this place.
I have quoted this before, but it is fitting to post it again, today. It is from the book Cemeteries and Memories, The Second World War in Tunisia that was a gift from the British Ambassador when we first arrived. In the forward, Lillian Craig Harris writes,
I dedicate this book to the Tunisian farmers who, motivated by the basic need to feed their families, bravely drove their mules before the plough in the spring of 1943 as battles raged around them. (2007)
Can’t you just picture it?
Harris, Lillian Craig. “Preface.” Cemeteries and Memories: The Second World War in Tunisia. Oxford: Michael Tomkinson, 2007. 5. Print.