Unique Act of Commemoration to Mark First World War Centenary at CWGC ST. Symphorien Military Cemetery, Belgium
04 August 2014
4 August 2014 - Royalty, Heads of State and families of the
fallen gathered at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's (CWGC)
St Symphorien Military Cemetery near Mons in Belgium for a unique
act of commemoration to mark the Centenary of the outbreak of The
First World War.
100 years ago, the First World War began. The conflict
that was to cost the lives of an estimated 9 million military
personnel and 7 million civilians, forever changed the world in
which we live. A century, and years of detailed planning later, all
eyes turned once more to the city of Mons in Belgium for this
special remembrance event that, for the first time, marked the
start of the war and set the tone for four years of
Among those attending the event were Their Royal Highnesses the
Duke and Duchess of Cambridge; His Royal Highness Prince Henry of
Wales; Their Royal Highnesses the King and Queen of the Belgians;
Prime Ministers David Cameron and Elio Di Rupo; and Presidents
Joachim Gauck of the Federal Republic of Germany and Michael D
Higgins of Ireland.
The CWGC's Director General, Mr Brian Davidson, said: "The CWGC
is pleased to partner the UK Government's Department for Culture
Media and Sport (DCMS) in the delivery of an event of international
"St Symphorien is a uniquely fitting place for us to gather in a
spirit of common remembrance. On land donated by a Belgian, in a
cemetery first built by the German Army and now cared for by the
CWGC, the fallen from both sides of the conflict lie together at
peace. Today we remember them all.
"I would like to thank the City of Mons and our friends in the
Belgian government, whose generous support has made this possible.
And I would like to express my thanks and admiration for the staff
of the CWGC who have worked so hard to prepare the cemetery."
Within weeks of Britain declaring war on Germany on 4 August
1914, forces from the two nations first clashed outside the Belgian
city of Mons. The British suffered some 1,600 casualties, the
After the battle, the dead of both sides were buried in numerous
sites throughout the twelve boroughs of Mons, but in the spring of
1916, a German officer approached a local landowner with a
proposition. The German Army was in search of a plot of land on
which to build a cemetery to bring together the graves of friend
and foe alike. From the outset, there was an understanding that the
graves of both nations would be treated with equal respect.
Today, St Symphorien is the final resting place of 229
Commonwealth and 284 German servicemen. It contains the graves of
the first and last British and Commonwealth soldiers to be killed
on the Western Front. Private John Parr is believed to be the first
British soldier to be killed, Privates George Ellison and Canadian
George Price are the last - both were killed on 11 November
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Notes for editors:
1. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (www.cwgc.org)
The CWGC maintains the graves of the 1.7 million Commonwealth
servicemen and women who died during the two world wars. It also
holds and updates an extensive and accessible records archive.
The CWGC operates in over 23,000 locations in 153 countries
across all continents except for Antarctica.
14-18: A series of high-profile worldwide events will take place
to mark the centenary of the First World War, many of which will
take place at Commission sites. The Commission will ensure that
these sites are maintained to the highest standard and is
installing information panels at over 500 sites to enhance the
visitor experience. Smartphone users will also be able to access
additional information, including the personal stories of some of
those buried at the site.
The CWGC provides teachers and youth workers with a
comprehensive range of educational resources and support materials
so that future generations remain engaged in the work of the CWGC
and continue to remember those who died in the two world wars.