The onset of the Great War (WWI) was a dark time for Mons, and evidence of the past remains today for us to witness. The St. Symphorien Military Cemetery is a popular tourist destination to commemorate the fallen soldiers of the Great War. Visit the site during your stay at our hotel in Mons city centre for a time of reflection and discover a bit of the history of Mons.
Story Behind the Cemetery
The St. Symphorien Military Cemetery was established in 1916 and inaugurated on 6 September 1917. The Battle of Mons, one of the first official battles of WWI, took place nearby the burial site.
On 23 August 1914, British soldiers were camped just outside of Mons to anticipate the arrival of the German army. When the army arrived early the next morning, the battle began, initiating the war. The British soon realized that they were largely outnumbered and began to retreat, delivering the first victory to Germany in the war at the Battle of Mons.
The following year, German officials returned to the battlegrounds to dig up the bodies to give them a proper burial. Initially, casualties from the battle were buried in different location such as local church grounds or nearby cemeteries. The German officials wanted to better preserve the legacy of the battle by consolidating the fallen soldiers in one location.
The current cemetery site was donated by the owner who had one condition: both sides of the war must be honored equally in the cemetery. After agreeing to the term, the St. Symphorien Military Cemetery was founded.
What to See at the St. Symphorien Military Cemetery
While the St. Symphorien Military Cemetery isn’t the largest military cemetery, it’s often considered one of the most beautiful. The intimate cemetery is professionally designed to give each burial proper respect and honor. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission currently manages the cemetery for preservation and maintenance.
The St. Symphorien Military Cemetery holds the graves of 513 soldiers from the war – 284 Germans and 229 English (referencing the Commonwealth that includes soldiers from across the UK and even Canada). Unlike many other military cemeteries, the graves are organized into smaller arrangements based on rank or unit.
The overall cemetery is designed for simplicity in a peaceful garden setting, featuring engraved headstones and monuments. A symbolic obelisk marks the entrance.
Visit the St. Symphorien Military Cemetery
The St. Symphorien Military Cemetery is listed among the top tourist sites to visit in Mons. It is the recipient of two stars in the Michelin Guide, making it highly recommended during your visit.
The intimate setting of the cemetery is ideal for reflection and discovering some of the hidden stories buried underneath the grounds. One of the highlights of the cemetery is that it features two significant burials. The tombstone of John Parr marks his death on 21 August 1914, making him the first person killed in battle during WWI. Coincidentally located nearby is the tombstone of G. E. Ellison, with his death marked 11 November 1918. He was the last person killed in battle during the war.
The St. Symphorien Military Cemetery makes the tragedies of war a reality. If you have an interest in visiting notable sites from the Great War, it’s a must-see during your stay at our boutique hotel in Mons centre.