The French town of Bayeux is better known for its tapestry, but Paul Mulrooney finds another reason to visit.

Ernie Pyle is there, so is Larry Burrows and, of course, Robert Capa.

This roll call of journalism's finest is not so much a homage of these correspondents' lives, but a memorial for the way they died.

All were killed in the front line trying to meet their next deadline and all have been memorialised in a section of the Normandy town of Bayeux in northwestern France.

Its location is significant.


One day after the D-Day landings, Bayeux became the first French town liberated from German occupation during World War II.

Better known as the home of the Bayeux Tapestry — crafted to commemorate William the Conqueror's invasion of England in 1066 — the Normandy beachheads and the museums honouring the events of and following June 6, 1944, the memorial gives war buffs another reason to visit this intriguing little town.

Or at least it should.

It is on the Bayeux ring road between the D-Day Museum and the British cemetery, where more than 4000 Commonwealth soldiers lie.

Visitors can slowly walk a winding path of headstones, attractively laid out in a peaceful small parkland, memorialising journalists who have paid the ultimate price in every year since.

Some headstones have few or no names inscribed on them, others distressingly many.

Many are journalistic folk heroes.

Burrows, shot down in a helicopter over Laos while on a photographic assignment in 1971, the Australian photographer Neil Davis who unwittingly filmed his own death during a skirmish in Bangkok in 1985, and of course Capa, who took those first grainy images of the D-Day beach landings and almost exactly 10 years later became one of the first correspondents killed in Vietnam when he stepped on a landmine.

But first there was Ernie Pyle. During World War II his dispatches provided daily insight into the regular soldier's war.

He had arrived in London from the US before the Blitz, covered the invasion of Europe and doggedly continued his reports on to the Pacific where he was killed just four months before the Japanese surrender.

Others are only now gaining the recognition their work and the circumstances of their death deserve.

Correspondents like photojournalist Tim Hetherington, killed in Libya in 2011, British cameraman and documentary film-maker James Miller, gunned down in the night by an Israeli soldier in the Gaza Strip in 2003. He was trying to ask the troops if it was safe to leave the area when he was shot in the neck.

The slab for the same year carries the name of ITN reporter Terry Lloyd, killed by suspected "friendly fire" in the early days of the Iraq War, while the previous year carries the name of American Daniel Pearl, who disappeared in Pakistan.

Bulgarian dissident and BBC employee Georgi Markov, stabbed by a poison-tipped umbrella in London, is memorialised on the cairn for 1978.

Just a couple of rows back, on the day I visited, it was not hard to find the name of New Zealander Gary Cunningham, murdered in East Timor in 1975.

It runs alongside those of his Channel Seven and Channel Nine colleagues, all killed in an ambush which more than 30 years on is still shrouded in controversy of the kind journalists endlessly seek to expose the truth of.

Too many have paid the price in blood, with the memorial so far containing the names of more than 2000 journalists.

According to the United States-based Committee to Protect Journalists, more than 1200 have been killed as a result of their work since 1992.

Since January, 35 journalists have been killed while doing their jobs, along with seven media assistants.

The death toll is a reflection of the vagaries of life and death chasing deadlines on the front line.

A small plot of land in Bayeux poignantly makes that point.

Getting there: Cathay Pacific flies daily from Auckland to Paris, via Hong Kong. Bayeux can be reached on the TGV train system.

Further information: See for details on the memorial and Reporters Without Borders.