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Webmatters : St. Symphorien Military Cemetery
Rough Map of Area

St. Symphorien Military Cemetery


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.

Decimal 50.432617 4.011072 Map

German Memorial to the Royal Middlesex Regiment

German Memorial to the Royal Middlesex Regiment
The Germans felt that their stand could only have been made by a Royal Regiment


Historical Information

Commemorative obelisk
In memory of the German and English soldiers who fell in
the actions near Mons on the 23rd and 24th August 1914

The Battle of Mons

By the evening of 22nd 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 23rd 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 1000 hours 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 1030 hours 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.

German and British graves

German and British graves


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 11th November 1918, and are believed to be the last Commonwealth combat casualties of the war in Europe.

The commemorative plaque

A tablet in the cemetery sets out the gift of the land by Jean Houzeau de Lehaie

The site for the cemetery, an existing but artificial mound, was the gift of local resident Jean Houzeau de Lehaie, and was laid out with great care to create the effect of a wooded garden or park.

At the highest point, there is a granite obelisk some seven metres high, erected by the Germans in memory of both German and British servicemen killed in the actions near Mons in August 1914.

Elsewhere, in the cemetery there are further German memorials to officers and men of the Middlesex Regiment (Plot III), Royal Fusiliers and Royal Irish Regiment (Plot VI).

At the Armistice, the cemetery contained the graves of 245 German and 188 Commonwealth servicemen, but further graves were brought in later from the following burial grounds :

  • Gembloux Communal Cemetery (where 22 British soldiers were buried in 1918-1919)
  • Havre Old Communal Cemetery
  • Norchain Churchyard
  • Obourg Churchyard
  • Spiennes Communal Cemetery
  • St Symphorien Churchyard
  • St Symphorien Communal Cemetery
  • Wasmes-en-Borinage Communal Cemetery

There are 229 Commonwealth and 284 German servicemen buried or commemorated at St Symphorien, of whom 105 remain unidentified.


This is an exceptional cemetery. Apart from its historical burials, the meanders, hillocks, pathways and various memorials make it a remarkable place to visit.

Royal Fusiliers and Royal Irish Regiment

Here repose 53 English soldiers of the Royal Fusiliers and Royal Irish Regiment

German graves

German graves

Looking down from the mound towards George Price's grave

Looking down from the mound towards George Price’s grave


This cemetery is popularly believed to contain the graves of the first (Private John Parr) and the last Empire soldiers (Private George Price) to be killed during the 1914-18 War.

These two casualties plus George Ellison have gone down in history as the first and last soldiers.

Private John Parr

Private John Parr L/14196
4th Bn Middlesex Regiment
Died on 21st August 1914 aged 20
Son of Edward and Alice Parr
of 52 Lodge Lane, North Finchley

Grave: I A 10

Believed to be the first British
battle casualty of the war

Private George Ellison

Private George Ellison L/12643
5th (Royal Irish) Lancers
Died on 11th November 1918 aged 25
Husband of Hannah Ellison
of 49 Edmund Street, Bank, Leeds

Grave: I B 23

Believed to be the last
British battle casualty of the war

Private George Price

Private George Price 256265
28th Bn Canadian Infantry
Saskatchewan Regiment
Died on 11th November 1918 aged 25
Son of James and Annie Price
of Port Williams, Kings Co. Nova Scotia

Grave: V C 4

Believed to be the last Canadian battle casualty of the war and thus the last Commonwealth casualty.
(originally buried in Havré Old Communal Cemetery)


Maurice Dease VC

Lieutenant Maurice Dease VC
4th Bn Royal Fusiliers
Died on 23rd August 1914 aged 24
Son of Edmund and Katherine Dease
of Levington, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath.

Grave: V B 2

One of the first British officer battle casualties of the war and the first posthumous recipient of the VC of the war.

The London Gazette
16th November 1914

Though two or three times badly wounded he continued to control the fire of his machine guns at Mons on 23rd August, until all his men were shot. He died of his wounds.

Four Victoria Crosses were awarded that day. Dease won the first and Private Sidney Godley who took over from him the second. (Godley survived the war).


Private Stephen Ryan

Private Stephen Ryan 6726
2nd Bn Royal Irish Regiment
Died on 23rd August 1914 aged 33
Son of Timothy and Mary Ryan
of Cashel, Co. Tipperary
Husband of Mary Ryan
of the Green, Cashel, Co. Tipperary

Grave: II B 15

Musketeer Oskar Niemeyer

Musketeer Oskar Niemeyer
8./I.R. 84
Died on 23rd August 1914

Grave: G1 R 6

During the battle for the Mons bridges Niemeyer swam the canal in order to operate the machinery which would swing the bridge back across for his company to follow. Though successful he was killed in the process.

The old bridge has been replaced and is now the road bridge to the right of the Dease and Godley Victoria Cross railway bridge.


Recent Additions

Brimont Churchyard

Braine Communal Cemetery

Soupir Churchyard

CWGC Poppy Button