There are 8 American military cemeteries in France, including Saint-James, covering an area of 14 hectares, which accommodate 4408 memorial headstones; most of the soldiers laid to rest here lost their lives in the Normandy and Brittany campaigns of 1944. The Saint-James cemetery, just like all the other overseas cemeteries and monuments honouring American troops who died in foreign campaigns, is managed by the American Battle Monument Commission (ABMC), a commission, which seeks to continue with the vision of its first Chairman, General Pershing.
On a cold and sunny April day, under a clear blue sky, I headed towards the Saint-James American war cemetery in the company of Yvon Cessou from the firm Arrosage System, who is responsible for renovating the site’s irrigation system. He has worked in collaboration with Elie Desrues, IDBS company, the project manager appointed by the ABMC to supervise the work. Arrosage System has also been awarded the contract for installing an irrigation system in the war memorials at Tours.
The ABMC is very strict about the appearance of its lawns, which must be perfect
The site’s irrigation system was obsolete, so it has been completely replaced by a Toro system with all the sprinklers being changed; and the site now has a full array of Toro sprinklers, ranging from sprinklers with a small diameter of 5-10 metres to larger 27-metre devices of the Infinity type.
Furthermore, a Lynx central control system with a weather station has been installed. By having Lynx®, the person in charge of maintenance can now have access to all the essential information relating to the irrigation system via an easy-to-use interface.
Lynx allows for measurements to be taken rapidly and precisely so as to be able to control and manage the irrigation efficiently by instantly accessing past, present and forecast information from multiple sources (particularly the weather station) and displaying it on a simple intuitive interface.
“Replacing the cemetery’s irrigation system is a delicate operation, because ABMC is very fussy about the appearance of the lawns, which have to be impeccable”, explained Mr. Cessou. Adding: “We are working on American territory so everything must be perfect”.
In fact, France has granted the United States a perpetual concession to the land occupied by the cemetery, without any charge or tax, for those who died during the liberation of Europe. The same applies with all the cemeteries and memorials located on French territory and dedicated to the American troops who died in Europe.
The work was completed in June; it will have taken 7 months.
We began our visit by proceeding along the path that runs alongside the memorial, which leads to the cemetery. In this part of the site, the team was busy working at the time of our visit. The lawn and small shrubs will be watered with an assembly of pipes and 7- or 8-metre spray heads and sprinklers, in the zones where the plot widens. Small red flags mark the future location of the spray heads and sprinklers.
We met the site manager, Sébastien, and his team there. They are in the process of digging trenches with a Ditch Witch trencher. Sébastien explained “the success of this operation requires good site organisation without forgetting the safety aspect on a site that attracts visitors from all over the world”.
Further on, the trenching machines and turf cutters were in operation and the technicians were also busy carrying out welding work on the water distribution networks and solenoid valves.
We then moved on towards the wall of the memorial, on which the names of those missing in action are engraved. MP Rotators are installed to water the flowerbeds located at the foot of the walls and the lawn is watered with the spray heads.
In the cemetery section, Toro Infinity 27 sprinklers were placed with extreme precision between four crosses, every 26 metres.
We finally arrived at the cemetery itself. The grass is precision cut and the whiteness of the crosses invokes a sense of admiration and reverence. The cemetery, awesome and dignified, is divided by a central aisle planted with trees and shrubs.
The system for watering the cemetery has already been successfully installed and this was the trickiest part of the project. In fact, this had to be done without damaging the crosses as replacing them would be very expensive. Furthermore, the sprinklers had to be installed at an angle that could be adjusted so that the water stream passes over the top of the crosses. The 27-metre Toro Infinity products have been selected so that the sprinklers can be placed 26 metres apart. Each sprinkler is installed very precisely at the central point between 4 crosses. If a sprinkler should be out of true, then there is a risk of the spray landing on a cross.
The lawn laid immediately along the edge of the central aisle (3 to 4 metres in front of the crosses) is, on the other hand, irrigated with spray heads or the T5s. One side of the central aisle is planted with trees and the other side has shrubs. On the side of the trees, small sprinklers (spray heads) are used because of the obstacles presented by the trees. On the side of the shrubs, traditional T5 sprinklers are placed between the bushes and T5 hip-hops are installed next to each shrub.
Finally, we retraced our steps and headed back to the entrance, to a building that houses the Grundfos pumping station. Entering this building from the left, we could see the fertigation tank. The 66 m3/h pumping station is managed by the Lynx central control software. The building also houses a new electrical cabinet and the pumps operate with speed-regulated motors.
The irrigation system is already working on most of the site and the lawn looks absolutely perfect. The new layout of the sprinklers, positioned closer together, should enable the site managers to make a considerable saving on water-use, as the cemetery is irrigated with the city’s water supply.
TECHNICAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE PROJECT :
Client : AMÉRICAN BATTLE MONUMENTS COMMISSION
Prime contractor : IDBD, ELIE DESRUES
Installer : ARROSAGE SYSTEM
Manufacturer : TORO
• 1026 pressure-regulated 570Z-4P-PR-COM series spray heads with PSN nozzle
• 146 T5PSSCK-RS ¾“ rotor with stainless steel nozzle base
• 107 INFINITY sprinklers with built-in decoder
• 11075 lm of pipework
• 46 P220 G solenoid valves
• 4937 lm of electric cable
• 1 Lynx central control system
• 1 weather station
• 1 Grundfos pumping station