For the visitor to Mons, being originally a place of pilgrimage, most of the historic buildings are churches, chapels, convents or abbeys. But the beauty of Mons lies in its narrow paved streets and its traditional houses. The two most interesting non-religious buildings are the 15th-century Renaissance style Hôtel de Ville
(townhall) and the 87m tall Beffroi
(belfry), errected in 1661. The belfry is the only Baroque-style belltower in Belgium and was listed as a World Heritage site by the UNESCO in 1999.
On August 23 and 24, 1914, Mons was the site of the first battle fought by the British Army in World War I. The British were forced to retreat and the town was occupied by the Germans, until its liberation by the Canadian Corps during the final days of the war.
23 Nov 2008 - Mons (St Symphorien), BelgiumContinuing the military theme of this tour, we visited Mons, the scene of first and last actions of World War I for the British Army. More precisely, we visited the Saint Symphorien military cemetery located just outside of Mons.
St Symphorien Military Cemetery was made by the Germans in August 1914, after the Battle of Mons. It remained in their hands until November 1918, and has the distinction of containing the graves of some of the first and last casualties of the First World War. It contains 227 British soldiers who were killed in 1914 and 2 Canadians who were killed in 1918 - one of whom was the last Commonwealth soldier to die in World War I. The Germans have 284 of their soldiers here.
Saint Symphorien - Private George Lawrence Price 256265
George Price (15 Dec 1892 – 11 Nov 1918) is recognized as the last Commonwealth soldier killed during World War I. Pte Price and his patrol pursued some German soldiers into a house that they thought shooting had come from. The Germans escaped through the back and were pursued next door. This house was again empty and as Pte Price stepped out of the house into the street was shot - some say in the head, others say the heart - by a German sniper. It was 10:58 AM, November 11th 1918, just two minutes before the armistice ceasefire.
Saint Symphorien - The German fallen of Mons, 1914
Saint Symphorien by bizarre coincidence holds the remains of the first and last British combat deaths of the First World War. Private Parr, 16, a bicycle scout, and Pte George Ellison, 40, of the Royal Irish Lancers, were, respectively, the first and the last to die in action. Pte Parr was killed on 21 August, 1914, the day before the first rearguard action fought near Mons. Pte Parr is recorded as being aged 20 but recent evidence suggests he falsified his age to join up.
Saint Symphorien - Rank does not separate them
Like Private Parr, Private Ellison had fought in the first battles of 1914 and had somehow managed to survive four years of slaughter. At about 9:30 AM on November 11th, 1918, Private Ellison, was patrolling about two miles from where he is now interred and was shot by a sniper. I didn't realise until I returned from Mons that Privates Parr, Ellison and Price are all buried within 20 meters of each other. Parr and Ellison are only feet away from each other though separated by 4 years and 800 000 British deaths.
Saint Symphorien - More German graves
Even after hearing that the armistice was due to start at 11:00, intense warfare continued right until the last minute. Many artillery units continued to fire on German targets to avoid having to haul away their spare ammunition. The Allies also wished to ensure that should fighting re-start, they would be in the most favourable position. Consequently 2,738 men died on the last day of the war. It's estimated that across all armies something in the region of 11,000 men died.
Mons - The main square of Mons
Augustin Trébuchon was the last Frenchman to die when he was shot on his way to tell comrades that hot soup would be served after the ceasefire. He died at 10:45 AM. American, Henry Gunther is recognized as the last soldier killed in action. He died at 10:59 AM while charging astonished German troops. The last reported German casualty occurred after the 11 AM armistice. Lt. Tomas went to inform approaching American soldiers that he and his men would be vacating houses that they had been using. He was shot by soldiers who had not been told about the ceasefire.