Monday, August 4th, 2014

Saint-Symphorien WW1 Commemoration


# Cemetery Information

St. Symphorien Military Cemetery

On Monday 4 August 2014 the UK Government will commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. As part of the commemorations, a key event will be held at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's St. Symphorien Military Cemetery in Mons, Belgium. The CWGC has been working closely with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to develop planning for the event and wish to advise that, given the scale of preparations, breadth of involvement and the physical limitations of the site, there will be no access to St. Symphorien Military Cemetery for the general public from 0700hrs Thursday 31 July until 2000hrs Wednesday 6 August 2014. The CWGC apologises for any inconvenience that this may cause, but the decision has been made with due consideration to public safety, as well as the scale of operation needed to ensure the site is ready and then returned to normal on completion. The event is expected to be broadcast live in both the United Kingdom and Belgium and consideration is being given by the Ville de Mons to screening the event in the Grand Place some 3 miles from the site. The CWGC is keen to facilitate visits to the cemetery, which is open daily, and has planned an Open Day on Saturday 23 August 2014. The event will include a series of talks and demonstrations and will take place from 10.00 - 16.00. It will be followed at 17.25 by the annual commemoration service for the Battle of Mons, organised by the Ville de Mons. Further details will be made available nearer the time.


Casualty Record Detail

Mons, Hainaut
Identified Casualties:

Location Information

St. Symphorien Military Cemetery is located 2 Kms east of Mons on the N90 a road leading to Charleroi. On reaching St. Symphorien the right hand turning from the N90 leads onto the Rue Nestor Dehon. The cemetery lies 200 metres along the Rue Nestor Dehon.

GPS Co-ordinates: Longitude 04°00'38", Latitude 50°25'57"

Visiting Information

The location and design of this site makes wheelchair access impossible and can be difficult to access for visitors with limited mobility.

For further information regarding wheelchair access, please contact our Enquiries Section on telephone number 01628 507200

Historical Information

The cemetery at St. Symphorien was established by the German Army during the First World War as a final resting place for British and German soldiers killed at the Battle of Mons. Among those buried here is Private John Parr of the Middlesex Regiment, who was fatally wounded during an encounter with a German patrol two days before the battle, thus becoming the first British soldier to be killed in action on the Western Front. The cemetery remained in German hands until the end of the war, and afterwards came under the care of the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission. It also contains the graves of Commonwealth and German soldiers who died in the final days of the conflict, including George Ellison of the Royal Irish Lancers and George Price of the Canadian Infantry. Ellison and Price were killed on 11 November 1918, and are believed to be the last Commonwealth combat casualties of the war in Europe. There are 229 Commonwealth and 284 German servicemen buried or commemorated at St Symphorien, of whom 105 remain unidentified.

The Battle of Mons
By the evening of 22 August 1914, the men of II Corps of the British Expeditionary Force had taken up defensive positions along the Mons-Condé Canal, preparing for a major German attack expected to come from the north the next day. The opening shots of the Battle of Mons were fired at dawn on the morning of Sunday 23 August, when the 4th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment repulsed German cavalry who were attempting to the cross the canal over a bridge at Obourg. The early morning was misty and wet, and the British were still uncertain of the numbers of enemy troops on the far side of the canal. By 10 a.m., the day had brightened up, artillery fire had intensified, and it became clear that they were facing a large German force.

Despite being outnumbered, the British soldiers on the south bank of the canal fought tenaciously throughout the day. Many were reservists who had returned to the army just weeks before, but they were well-drilled and disciplined, with a high-level of rifle training. Their relentless fire inflicted heavy casualties among the Germans. Despite this stiff resistance, the sheer weight of German numbers and the accuracy of their artillery meant that the British struggled to hold their positions. By 10.30 a.m. the first German soldiers had crossed the canal and some British units had been forced back, and by mid-afternoon German infantry troops were crossing in force. By nightfall, the Battle of Mons was over and the British had begun a long, hard retreat towards Paris. 




Former Ennemies unite for World War 1 Commemoration :

Separated by only a small patch of yellow daisies at the Saint-Symphorien military cemetery lie two former enemies: British Captain Kenneth James Roy and German Gefreiter Reinhold Dietrich. Also between the two are some 9 million dead soldiers over four years. Roy died in the first month of World War I, trying to stop the early German onslaught through Belgium. Dietrich died two weeks before the war ended with a German defeat. On Monday, from Glasgow, Scotland to Liege and the small Saint-Symphorien in southern Belgium, leaders of the former enemies Belgium, France, Britain and Germany stood together in a spirit of reconciliation to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of conflict that became known as The Great War.


Former Enemies Unite For World War I Commemoration




BBC : WW1 Cemetery at Commemerations


WW1 Cemetery At Heart Of 2014 Commemorations
The graveyard where the first and last British soldiers to be killed are buried will be the focus of centenary memorial events.
In an immaculately kept cemetery, a few miles east of the town of Mons in Belgium, two graves face each other only yards apart.

They mark the final resting place of two Privates: John Parr, of the Middlesex, the first Briton to die on the Western Front, and George Ellison, of the Royal Irish Lancers, the last British soldier to die - killed just 90 minutes before the Armistice was signed.

That they should be buried so close to each other is, to the best of anyone's knowledge, pure coincidence.

The St Symphorien Military Cemetery was established by the German Army in 1914.

They were granted permission to bury their dead on the land by a local farmer, but on one condition: that they should bury the British dead with equal respect.

There are 284 German and 230 Commonwealth casualties buried on this site, which will be the focus of international commemorations on August 4 honouring the dead on all sides.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission looks after 268,000 graves in Belgium and France including St Symphorien.
In preparation for the centenary, the CWGC has been working literally day and night, cleaning existing headstones and making new ones.

"Our aim is to see that all casualties are adequately commemorated throughout out this centenary period," Carl Liversage, from CWGC, explained.

"What we have done in the past few months is increase the production with extra machines on site and made the day longer working 24/5 significantly."

The CWGC is also installing digital panels in many of the cemeteries so that visitors can interact using mobile phones. The panels will reveal the personal stories of soldiers and details of nearby battles.

At 8pm every evening in the town of Ypres, a ritual is observed as it has been since 1928.

The road under the Menin Gate, the great arch that recognises the Commonwealth soldiers whose bodies were never found, is closed to traffic.
Hundreds of tourists and locals gather all year round to listen to The Last Post, played by the town's firemen. It is sounded in memory of the Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Ypres Salient during World War One.

In the four major battles that took place around the town, more than 250,000 soldiers from Britain, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand Canada, India and Pakistan, lost their lives.

More than 100,000 of these soldiers have no known grave. The names of 54,896 of those are inscribed in the stone of the Menin Gate.

The sober ceremony under this awesome memorial has continued as Ypres's recognition of the soldiers' sacrifice.

"I do it with pleasure. Every night I do it with pleasure," said Brian Clays, from the Ypres Last Post Association. "I am Belgian, I'm not British but I do it with pleasure."

Politicians, historians and commentators might disagree on the legacy of World War One, but for most people who visit the Western Front, and walk silently among the graves, it is tragically simple: The Great War is now a conflict summed up by tales of unthinkable horror and the most phenomenal death toll - impossible to comprehend.


WW1 Cemetery At Commemorations





Tribute to all those who died



« Where the Rose is sown »

Big Country



we're at war all the papers say
we will win i read today
we are strong it wasn't us
we are right who started this?
leave your work i just left school
leave your home i am no fool
take up arms it left me strong
sound alarms the school bell rings
sons of men who stand like gods
we give life to feed the cause
and run to ground our heathen foe
our name will never die
this time will be forever

join up here i wave goodbye
we need you oh my breast sighs
have no fear i must try
god will be with braver men
take the vow i know its right
praise the flag the good fight
we're at war i'm on my way
we will win why do i pray ?
i wait here in this hole
playing poker with my soul
i hold the rifle close to me
it lights the way to keep me free

if i die in a combat zone
box me up and ship me home
if i die and still come home
lay me where the rose is sown
sons of men who stand like gods
we give life to feed the cause
and run to ground our heathen foe
our name will never die
this time will be forever


Big Country. Where the Rose is Sown


our name will never die
this time will be forever