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Editorial Dear Visitor, As everyone knows, the First World War was incredibly bloody, and millions of lives were lost. Mons did not escape the devastation unscathed. Indeed, by sheer circumstance, Mons provided the setting for significant, and terribly tragic events. The "Battle of Mons" has a particular resonance, both mythical and real, on the other side of the Channel. Mythical because of the well-known "Legend of the Angels of Mons"; real because the British suffered major losses there, including the first and the last soldiers to die in battle. It was in Mons that Private Parr and Private Ellison were killed, becoming the very first and the very last British soldiers to die in the conflict and making Mons “the place of the first & the last�. In addition, Lieutenant Dease and Private Godley were awarded the first two Victoria Cross medals of the First World War for acts of bravery committed on our soil. These events explain the notoriety of the "Battle of Mons", and impose on each and every one of us a duty to remember. In 2014, the City of Mons will be gearing up to celebrate the centenary of the Battle in the presence of a number of different European officials. The City of Mons would therefore like to uphold the memories of the men and women who fought for their dreams and whose courage still resonates in our hearts and minds. From legend to reality, Mons will be organising a highly symbolic memorial tour, which includes a visit to the Saint-Symphorien Military Cemetery, a real haven of peace, where British and German graves are now united for eternity. Through this "Mons Battlefield Guide", you will be able to step back in time on a journey of discovery through which the horrors of war may make way for contemplative memories. We hope you enjoy reading it.

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getting to Mons

Contents

By train

By Air and / or Domestic Train

Mons is situated one hour south of Brussels by train. Brussels is served by fast trains (TGV) coming from major French cities (Paris, Lille, Lyon, Marseille) as well as from elsewhere in Europe (Amsterdam, Aachen, Cologne, etc.) Once in Brussels, check the train schedules for the next available train to Mons. There are several every hour.

There are direct trains from both of the major Belgium airports (Brussels International, in Brussels and Brussels South, in Charleroi). Mons is also accessible by train from any town or city in Belgium that has a station.

Editorial . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p.1 Getting to Mons. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p.2 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p.3 The Legend of the Angels of Mons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p.8

By car Mons is located just off the Paris-Brussels Motorway (E42) at exit 24.

Time Line . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p.9 Point 0: The Grand-Place of Mons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p.10 Point 1: The Road Bridge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p.10 Point 2: The Rail Bridge. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p.11 Point 3: Commemorative Plaque. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p.13 Point 4: Obourg Station. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p.14 Point 5: Mons Cemetery. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p.15 Point 6: Royal Irish Regiment Monument . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p.16 Map

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

p.18

Point 7: Chateau Gendebien. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p.20 Point 8: Bois-lĂ -Haut. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p.21 Point 9: At La Bascule Monument. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p.22 Point 10: Saint-Symphorien Cemetery. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p.24 The Losses. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p.26 Cemeteries around Mons where British Soldiers Lie. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p.28 Mons Memorial Museum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p.29 Tormented Civilians. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p.30 Order of the British Forces during the First Battle of Mons. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p.32

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Brussels: 69 km Charleroi: 48 km Liège: 131 km Namur: 74 km Ghent: 119 km Bruges: 132 km Antwerp: 119 km Luxembourg: 231 km Cologne: 255 km

Amsterdam: 275 km Berlin: 819 km Paris: 248 km Lille: 78 km Maubeuge: 20 km Valenciennes: 40 km Lens: 95 km Reims: 205 km Mons

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INTRODUCTION Origins of the conflict

The Battle of Mons

E

urope began boiling in 1904, when discord first erupted between the eastern and western blocks. On one side was the Triple Alliance (Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungary) and on the other the Triple Entente (France, Great Britain and Russia). The whole continent was a powder keg, and the inevitable finally happened on 28th June, 1914. Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria (nephew and heir to the Emperor of Austria) and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia. The assassins were Bosnian Serb members of a terrorist group that went by the name of "The Black Hand". On 28th July, 1914, Austria issued an ultimatum which was rejected by Belgrade, upon which Austria declared war on Serbia. The inexorable march of the First World War had begun. Russia mobilized troops. Germany and then France followed suit. From August 1st, 1914, events occurred in rapid succession. Germany declared war on Russia (1st August), demanded safe passage for its troops across Belgian lands (2nd August), declared war on France (3rd August) and invaded neutral Belgium (4th August). On tenterhooks throughout and outraged by these crimes, the British felt an obligation to uphold promises made and refused to regard the treaty guaranteeing Belgian neutrality as a mere "scrap of paper".

The battle named after Mons occurred due to a combination of circumstances that were totally independent of the wishes of the two sides. Neither side wanted to meet in the area. It was about the worst battlefield imaginable.

T

he British did not have time to fortify the sector sufficiently, but that had never been their intention anyway. Their position was only meant to be a temporary base before the big thrust in the planned offensive. Regrettably, the sudden and unexpected flight of the French Fifth Army obliged Field Marshal John French to hold the line, which he promised to do for 24 hours. This Field Marshal French made it possible to break up the German advance and enabled French troops to loosen the enemy’s grip slightly and gain some breathing room. All the same, despite the long straight line formed by the Mons-Condé canal, which at the time would have proved a major obstacle for the enemy, that position was a poor choice from a defensive point of view. It was a poor choice for several reasons. To begin with, there were too

many bridges and locks to defend; the enemy would perforce try to use those obvious crossing-points. In addition, the range of fire accessible to both infantry and artillery was far too limited. It was also a bad choice because the surrounding villages, both on the canal and in the rear, were mazes of small streets and lanes where it was difficult to manoeuvre. Again, the spot was less than ideal because the countryside was dotted with numerous slag heaps. Although any one of them might have made a good vantage point, they overlooked one another. Last but not least, it was an awful position because the configuration of the salient made it virtually impossible to defend. It required the deployment of too many men in an area that was exposed on all sides. It bears repeating, however, that Sir John French and his generals had not chosen the site of their defence; extraneous factors, circumstances, had imposed this position upon them. The Germans’ position is even plainer to see. Neither the German General Staff nor the commanders of armies and corps were aware of the British presence in Belgium. They knew that an expeditionary force had disembarked in the French ports (the neutral and allied press had openly reported it), but they were unable to locate it. The most widespread theory was that it must be moving towards Antwerp or the Belgian coast in order to safeguard the ports and buttress the Belgian Army that was struggling. It was only on 22nd August, i.e., on the eve of battle, that the veil of ignorance was torn away. Two events revealed their presence: the crash of a British aeroplane at Marcq and the charge at Casteau. For the Germans, it was totally unexpected, a complete sur-

One major setback struck Germany, however; Italy, considering that the German offensive against Serbia nullified its commitment to that country as an ally, declared neutrality on 2nd August, 1914. So it is that on 4th August, 1914, the enormous German war machine crossed the border into Belgium.

The whole continent was a powder keg 4

Old Contemptibles © All rights reserved

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The BEF disembarks on the Continent © All rights reserved

prise, but Assassination of Archduqe Franz it was too Ferdinand on 28th June, 1914. late to change © All rights reserved the troops’ marching orders. Now the Germans knew that their opponents were nearby, but remained unable to determine their strength or number. The same uncertainty reigned in the British camp; while French and his staff knew what direction the German advance was travelling, they had no idea how many they were in number. Intelligence provided by the French Army greatly underestimated the number of enemy divisions. In fact, if the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was spared encirclement and avoided annihilation, it was thanks to mistakes made by von Kluck and von Bülow. Von Kluck’s orders were to march on Amiens before turning towards Paris. However, being fiercely independent and exceedingly overconfident, and wanting to be the first and fastest into the highly coveted jewel that was the French capital, he simply ignored his orders. As for von Bülow, he delayed crossing the Sambre River by one day in order to regroup his army. Without that untimely halt, he could have caught French and his troops in a trap, from which it would have Mons

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been very difficult, not to say impossible, to escape. Finally, one other factor worked in favour of the BEF. That was the untimely retreat of Lanrezac, which forced the British to halt their advance. Without that retreat, the BEF would have rushed headlong into the thick of the Germans, with all the disastrous consequences that might have followed. So this battle was imposed by circumstance. Neither side would ever have chosen that time or that place. The two British corps had a very wide sector to defend; happily for them the German assault did not include the entire infantry at once, but as and when they arrived in the field. This was yet another fatal mistake. Some regiments engaged battle from 08.00 hours in the morning, while the last ones did not join the fray until late afternoon. The Germans’ IV Reserve Corps did not even arrive on the battlefield until the following day. One can imagine the losses that the British would have had to take if the main body of German troops had attacked with the same force at the same moment. The attack would have been devastating, irresistible, overwhelming and, for all their bravery, the British would not have been able to resist for very long without risking a full-scale disaster. The imbalance in guns and men was too great, too unequal, too obvious. It is too easy, also, to rewrite history after the fact.

The British soldiers could not understand why they were ordered to retreat, to turn their back on the foe when they had the upper hand. Nowhere, save in the salient, was the front penetrated. Nowhere had the Germans got the better of them. The Tommies were undefeated, but having got official orders, they had to abandon the territory so dearly defended. Some regiments had not even fired a single shot. It was bewildering, but orders were orders. On the evening of 24th August, a page of history had been written at Mons. Everyone there claimed some glory, everyone claimed victory, everyone wanted to put the name of Mons on their colours. But on that mournful day, once the guns had fallen silent and the combat had drifted elsewhere, the victors imposed a curfew on Mons and its inhabitants, on the coal-mining district called Borinage and on northern France. And as the lights went out, so did hope. Four long years were to pass before either was relit.

The Main Events The Legend of the Angels of Mons

O

n the evening of 23rd August, the situation of the 8th Brigade (made up of the 4th Middlesex, 2nd Royal Scots, 2nd Royal Irish and 1st Gordon Highlanders) was grave in the extreme. The Germans had overrun Mons to the east, occupying the town and threatening the rear area as well as the line of British retreat. At the same time, on the right, the British had to face the 75th Bremen Regiment who held Spiennes. There was a risk of encirclement and retreat seemed impossible. Then, at around midnight, as legend has it, a group of Angels armed as archers descended from above and stopped the Germans’ advance, thereby saving the British from certain annihilation and allowing them to retreat to safety under cover of the night.

Lieutenant Maurice James Dease V.C.

Saint-Symphorien Cemetery

S

aint-Symphorien cemetery is a unique, historic place, loaded with memories, and it will play a huge role during the commemorations. This cemetery is unusual in two ways:

• It was here that the first and the last British soldiers to die during the First World War were buried. • It contains as many graves of German soldiers as of British ones. Saint-Symphorien cemetery has also been awarded two stars

Finally, it behoves us to pay homage to the bravery and steadfastness, to the boldness and self-sacrifice, of the combatants in both camps. Nobody flinched; nobody faltered; nobody deserted despite the losses, despite the machine-gun fire, despite everything. Germans and Britons vied with each other with equal audacity and abnegation, comradeship and determination. The number of killed and wounded bears that out.

in the Michelin guide as a significant site for heritage tourism.

Sidney Godley

It was bewildering but the orders were orders BEF soldiers on Mons Grand-Place 23rd August, 1914. © City of Mons Collections

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Private John Parr’s Headstone © WBT - J-P REMY

Private George Ellison’s Headstone © WBT - J-P REMY

Final resting place of Maurice James Dease, V.C. © WBT - J-P REMY

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1914 Time line

Mons, The First & The Last of the first world war The Highlights • The Battle of Mons on 23rd August, 1914 is where the first clash between German and British troops (British Expeditionary Force (BEF) ) took place. • The retreating BEF would start out from Mons, in the aftermath of the Battle of Mons, and continue on through Le Cateau, France, to end up in Zonnebeke. • The first two Victoria Cross medals to have been awarded during the First World War (to Lieutenant M. Maurice Dease and Private Sidney Godley) were granted for acts of valour committed on Mons soil.

Les Anges de Mons Painting by Marcel Gillis © City of Mons Collections

• The first and last Britons to be killed during the Great War (Private John Parr and Private G. Ellison, respectively) died in Mons.

28th June

• The last man to die during the conflict (George Price, a Canadian) was killed in Mons.

1st August

• Germany declares war on Russia

3rd August

• Germany declares war on France

4th August

• Germany violates Belgian neutrality • Great Britain enters the war

7th August

• German troops take the city of Liège

7th-12th August

• First British Expeditionary Forces (BEF) embark

15th August

• Surrender of the last fort in Liège (Flémalle Fort)

16th August

• British Expeditionary Force (BEF) lands in France (Le Havre, Rouen and Boulogne) and gathers at Amiens

20th August

• German troops invade Brussels • BEF reaches Maubeuge, France

21st August

• BEF crosses border into Belgium • First British casualty of the First World War, Private John Parr (4th Middlesex), aged 16, dies at Obourg

22nd August

• The BEF takes up position near Mons (on Mons–Condé Canal between Condé s/Escaut and Binche) • First exchange of fire between a British cavalry unit (4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards) and German Hussars at Casteau • Skirmishes between Germans and the 19th Hussars at Hautrage and Germans and the 2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys) at Péronnes • Cavalry Division moves toward Dour

23rd August

24th August

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• Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria • Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia

• German offensive to cross the Mons Canal (at Condé) and the Central Canal (at Nimy and Obourg) • The Battle of the Mons Salient : German troops invade from two directions, through Obourg on one side (taking the station, the cemetery, the Bascule and the Chaussée de Beaumont) and Nimy on the other (human shield, the town centre and Chaussée de Maubeuge) • Apparition of the Angels of Mons to accompany the British troops in their retreat • At 22.00 hours British troups (BEF) regroup at Nouvelles before retreating toward Le Cateau • Battles of Frameries, Saint-Ghilain, Wasmes and Audregnies between BEF troops and the German First Army. • Retreat in the direction of Le Cateau via the Mormal Forest

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point

0

point

THE Grand-Place of mons

The rail bridge

50.454594,3.951834

I

50.475318,3.945437

n the porch of the town hall, you will find two bronze plaques. One is dedicated to the 5th Royal Irish Lancers who took part in the two battles for Mons in 1914 and in 1918 (during the fighting for liberation). The other plaque is dedicated to the 3rd Canadian Division that took part in the fighting of November, 1918.

A

t the rail bridge (follow directions below), Lieutenant Maurice James Dease was the only one left from his machine-gun section, and had to man the weapon himself. He was wounded five times and was finally evacuated to the ambulance, where he died. Private Sydney Frank Godley went forward voluntarily, took the gun and remaining alone, ensured that his comrades could withdraw. Having been wounded, he destroyed the weapon and threw it in the canal. He was then captured.

From the main square in Mons, follow the directions for Nimy, take the Chaussée de Bruxelles (N6) to the Avenue de la Joyeuse Entree. Turn left onto Nimy’s main square and park. On foot, go onto the viaduct and stand in the centre of the bridge. You will have a view of the entire area. On the left, you will see the railway bridge. To the right, the canal turns.

point

At the swivel bridge (Point 1), the battle was just as bloody, and it took the heroic action of the German soldier Niemeyer to open the way for his comrades by jumping into the water under British fire and activating the bridge’s mechanism. In doing so, Niemeyer was killed.

50.477585,3.952658 ou are on the left side of the salient formed by the bend in the canal. It was defended by the 4th battalion of the Royal Fusiliers.

Y

English Lee Enfield rifle

The British were dug in behind barricades © All rights reserved made up of sandbags and all kinds of other materials. They had been alerted to the advance of the German forces, by telephone, from the halt at Nimy-Maisieres, allowing them to get into position for action. (The halt at Nimy-Maisieres still exists, and can be found on the other side of the canal after the railway bridge.) The road bridge (Point 1) and the railway bridge (Point 2) were defended by a company commanded by Captain ASHBURNER 14-18

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© WBT - J-P REMY

and by two machine-guns under the orders of Lieutenant Maurice Dease. The drawbridge and the road-bridge at the park gate were defended by Captain Byng’s company, supported by the 107th battery of the Royal Field Artillery. On 23rd August, starting at 08.30 hours, the 84th Infantry Regiment of Schleswig-Holstein approached the bridges, following an artillery bombardment. That was the beginning of a battle that was to last until 14.00 hours.

As part of the 9th Brigade of the 3rd Division of the II Army Corps, they defended all the positions between the road bridge at Nimy (Point 1) and Mons station, including four bridges: • the road-bridge from the park gate • the drawbridge at lock No 6 • the railway bridge on the Paris-Brussels line (Point 2) • the road-bridge on the Chaussée de Bruxelles (Point 1)

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In recognition of their valour, Dease and Godley were awarded the Victoria Cross, the first two of the war. Godley died shortly after the Second World War. Maurice Dease, killed at the age of 24, and Lieutenant Mead lie in the military cemetery at Saint-Symphorien.

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the road bridge

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The initial German attacks were repelled, but at 11.00 hours the Germans attacked in force. The British replied with rapid and accurate fire. British soldiers of the Regular Army were capable of firing, on average, 15 rounds a minute and certain crack shots could even achieve 20 rounds, this being known as "the mad minute".The Germans suffered very heavy losses and called in their artillery. The British then began to feel the effects of the attack; their losses increased. Second-Lieutenant MEAD, sent in with some men to reinforce the position, was immediately wounded in the head, and after having it dressed, went straight back to his post only to be killed almost at once. Captain ASHBURNER was himself wounded, and so was Captain FORSTER on his right.

At 13.10 hours, the first order to withdraw was given to the entire battalion; the order was only carried out at 13.40 hours, because the Germans had forced their way through the Wartons and were advancing

toward the place called La Bascule. This meant that the 4th Royal Fusiliers faced being surrounded. The British retreated towards Mons, along the Chaussée de Bruxelles, and up the rue de Nimy to the Mons town square (Grand-Place); (the reverse of the itinerary that brought you here.) As they fell back, they took advantage of telegraph poles and recessed doorways to fire back.

© City of Mons Collections

A small group of some 20 men dug in at the bottom of the rue de Nimy and awaited the Germans. But faced with the spectacle of the Germans advancing behind a group of hostages, they withdrew without daring to fire. According to the official report, the 4th Royal Fusiliers lost seven officers and 105 other men (killed, wounded and missing). The majority of the wounded had to be left in enemy hands so as not to delay the retreat.

faced with the spectacle of the Germans advancing behind a group of hostages, they withdrew without daring to fire

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Commemorative Plaque

50.505177,3.99797

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Following the British retreat, the Germans crossed the canal, set fire to 108 houses along the Chaussée de Bruxelles, and massacred 22 civilians. They took hostages from the village and pushed them out in front of them, using them as a human shield as they marched up the Chaussée de Bruxelles and the rue de Nimy. When they got to the Mons Grand-Place, they added the mayor, Jean Lescarts, to the group of hostages and the advance continued along the high street. Arriving at Trou Oudart, they came under fire from elements of the 1st Lincolnshire. In the panic and the gunfire that ensued, four hostages were killed on the spot and two others were wounded and died later. From the former town hall, follow the road that leads to the canal, go along the towpath to the railway bridge (Point 2). Beneath its arch is a plaque with the following inscription:

Hornby pursued the enemy as far as Soignies where they were overtaken, causing a skirmish. In the meantime, the Germans had received reinforcements, notably a company of cyclists. At the spot called Reine de Hongrie (Queen of Hungary) where the chase ended, the Germans had lost several men; not only had the British suffered no losses, they even returned with 5 prisoners.

Major Tom Bridges who commanded C Squadron of the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards (2nd Brigade, under Brigadier De Lisle) decided to send some men on reconnaissance along the road between Mons and Brussels and got into position at dawn on the 22nd on the high ground of Brisée de Saint Denis.

The cavalry division drew back during the night, to the area of Quiévrain, in order to strengthen the left flank of the army.

Towards 07.00 hours, at the boundary between Maisières and Casteau, an advanced guard of four enemy cavalrymen (from the 2nd Cuirassiers) emerged from Casteau. They were immediately spotted by the British, hidden in the undergrowth. The enemy hesitated and then turned tail and ran, pursued by the 1st Platoon commanded by Captain Hornby, followed by the 4th Platoon which included Thomas.

"To the glorious memory of the Officers, NCO and men of the 4th BN Royal Fusiliers who held this sector of the British Front in the defense of the town of Mons. August 23rd 1914. This memorial marks the M.G. position where the first V.C.s awarded during the war 1914-18 were gained by Lt M.J. Dease, V.C. and Pte S.F. Godley V.C." Head back to Nimy’s main square, get into your car and take the Chaussée de Bruxelles (N6) north. You will pass SHAPE headquarters on your left and a short time later arrive in Casteau. On the verge, on the left-hand side as you travel north, you will find a monument inscribed as follows: "It was here, on 22 August 1914, at seven o’clock in the morning that the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and Germany’s First Army made their first contact. Corporal E. Thomas of C Squadron of the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards fired the first shot, and Captain C.D. Hornby led the first charge that drove the enemy scouts back to the northern edge of Casteau."

ajor-General Allenby’s cavalry division, five brigades (15 regiments) strong had entered Belgium on 21st August, 1914. Its mission was to make contact with the French army and to assess the strength of the enemy by identifying the fighting units. It was not possible, during the day on the 21st, to make contact with the enemy, close as they were.

Road from Nimy to Mons © City of Mons Collections

Following the British retreat, the Germans crossed the canal and set fire to 108 houses

The men of 4th Platoon dismounted near the Château de Ghislain. The Germans opened fire. Thomas was the first to aim and fire, and a German rider went down. Whether he had wounded him or not, he never found out. What is certain is that the British had not fired a shot on the Continent since Waterloo, so it was Thomas who had the honour of firing the very first British round of the Great War.

Corporal E. Thomas was a regular soldier, having signed on at the age of 14 and served in India. He disembarked at Boulogne on 15th August, 1914. He transferred in 1916 to the Machine-Gun Corps and ended the war without being wounded but suffering from the effects of gas. He was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery and was demobilised in 1923, becoming a doorman at a cinema in Brighton, his birthplace. He died on 10th February, 1939. Return to your car and drive back the way you came. At the large crossroads turn left, in the direction of Obourg (rue de la Brisée), then turn right at the rue du Camp, left into the rue Taille Coleau, and right on the rue Saint Denis, which will become the rue des Ecossais (Scots Road). From the rue des Ecossais, turn left into the rue des Anglais (English Road), turn to the right at the roundabout and go over the bridge that spans the canal. At the bottom, turn left and you are at Obourg station.

The monument is not actually on the spot where that first, famous shot was fired but at the starting-point for the charge. Opposite this monument, on the house on the other side of the road, you can see the plaque commemorating where the Canadian troops were at the time of the armistice on 11 November, 1918. This is also the place where the First World War both began and ended for Commonwealth troops.

© C.Rousman

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Obourg station

Mons Cemetery

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his is the sector that was defended by the 4th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment.

On 21st August, this battalion had sent a patrol of cyclists towards Casteau-Maisieres, and it came across a German patrol. During an exchange of fire, Private J. Parr (serial number L/14.196) was killed. He was the first of what would, alas, become a very long list of victims indeed. He was laid to rest in the Saint-Symphorien Military Cemetery. On 23rd August, 1914, beginning at eight in the morning, shots were exchanged on both sides of the canal. The Germans were about to launch an attack. The fighting started to the west of the station and spread to the canal bridge, held by D Company (under the command of Captain Glass who was wounded during the assault). At the railway station, B Company had been put under Lieutenant Wilmot Aliston who gained the unhappy privilege of becoming the first British prisoner of the war. The soldiers had taken cover on the platform of the annex, well concealed behind sacks of cement. Thanks to this protection, they cut down any enemy that tried to approach. The German soldiers were from the 31st Infantry Regiment. It was a hard-fought battle all along the canal held by the 4th Middlesex and, thanks to their accuracy and rapidity of their fire, the British inflicted heavy losses on the German 85th I.R. and 86th F.R. Towards midday, the English began to be overwhelmed by numbers and had to give ground, their losses mounting. The battalion sent an urgent message to Colonel Cox (commanding the 2nd Royal Irish), requesting assistance and adding that they were forced to fall back to the edge of the cemetery. Two companies of the 2nd Royal Irish were sent in rescue towards the cemetery where the leader of 1st Company, Captain Mellor, was immediately killed by an exploding shell. At the station in Obourg, a heroic British soldier whose name is unknown sacrificed himself to allow his comrades to retreat. Alone among © All rights reserved

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50.460919, 3.978546

the dead and dying, perched on the station roof, he resisted the Germans. They managed to wound him at last, and forced their way through taking care to finish him off before moving on. There is a plaque on the wall of the station, bearing this inscription: "On 23rd August, 1914, at eight o’clock in the morning, near this spot, © S. Santarelli the 4th battalion of the Middlesex Regiment fired the first shots in the Battle of Mons. On the roof of this station, a British soldier, who has not been identified, remained alone, laying down his life to safeguard the retreat of his comrades." The fighting shifted towards the cemetery and the asylum. Follow the Chemin de Beauval, turn right and take the Vieux Chemin de Binche; turn left at the Chemin de l’Oasis and then left again into the Chemin du Chêne aux haies. On the right is the wall of the cemetery; on the left are the buildings of the psychiatric hospital. The cemetery at Mons includes a military section where British and German soldiers, killed during the two world wars lie. A cenotaph stands guard over the graves that surround it. There are 390 British soldiers interred there.

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he 4th Middlesex retired in good order, both from Obourg station and from the Wartons lock (which is to the left of the station in the extension of the Chemin des Wartons). They took up position all along the wall that lines the road, alongside two companies of the 2nd Royal Irish at around 12.40 hours. A and C Companies as well as two platoons of B Company of the 2nd Royal Irish took up their position, under the command of Major Saint Leger, in a quarry to the north-east of the cemetery (it no longer exists today, but was located in what is now the street named after the 4th Middlesex) and towards the right under the cover of a sunken road. D Company, under Captain Elliot, was to the north of the road with, on its right, the last platoon of B Company. Finally, two sections of B Company, led by Lieutenant Ferguson, in a field to the south-west of the cemetery covered the road’s exit between the asylum and the cemetery. The remainder of the 2nd Royal Irish took up position at Faubourg Barthelemy as far as the intersection of the Mons-Binche and Mons-Givry roads (the place called La Bascule) in order to cover the Gordon Highlanders. The companies of the 4th Middlesex prepared for battle to the right of the the 2nd Royal Irish, spread from the end of the Rue du Chêne aux haies as far as the Chaussée de Binche (slightly above the crossing), thus forming an arc. The German artillery heavily bombarded the sector, especially with incendiary shells. The buildings of the asylum started to burn and the 600 inmates, terrified, fled into the open. Several were killed.

The situation was becoming desperate, for the enemy was attacking on both flanks and the German artillery rained down from above. Colonel Hull and Major Saint Leger decided therefore to withdraw to a more favourable position. Gathering all the men that they could, Hull and Saint Leger retreated, covered by Major Panter Downes and Lieutenant Phillips, who was wounded.

Psychiatric hospital for women burnt by Germans from the 85th Infantry Regiment. © City of Mons Collections

Go down the rue du Chêne aux haies, turn left on the Chemin de la Procession and left again into the Chaussée du Roeulx. Turn right and take the Chemin des Mourdreux to the crossroads known as La Bascule (Tipping Point).

The companies of the 2nd Royal Irish had to scatter under the heavy fire from artillery and machine-guns. The troops’ movements must have been seen by a spotter aircraft that overflew the sector and informed the artillery. Because the bombing became too intense and his men’s range too limited, Major Saint Leger was forced to move his troops to a new position. The British losses, especially of officers, were increasing.

"B" Company - 4th bataillon Middlesex Regiment © City of Mons Collections

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royal irish Regiment Monument 50.452422,3.97979

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he British soldiers got into position at the crossroads extending out as far as the Barthelemy suburb. The terrain provided good shelter from rifle fire, but was swept by cannon and machine-guns. A section of artillery, placed to the left of the battalion, tried valiantly to counter the fire of the German artillery, but drew such a deluge of shells that it was forced to withdraw. Once again their position became untenable. The battalion regrouped and started to retreat. The 2nd Royal Irish (except B Company) went down the rue Leon Save. B Company withdrew through a wood behind the hospital. The 4th Middlesex followed. The losses of the 4th Middlesex reached 15 officers and 467 other ranks. Following the British retreat from the cemetery, the Germans reconstituted their front and spread out between the edge of Mons and La Bascule. They wanted to seize the crossroads and block the retreat of the British forces. They poured across fields and followed the Chemin des Mourdreux. Regimental Quarter-Master Sergeant Fitzpatrick had been ordered by Lieutenant R.E.G. Phillips, at around 12.30 hours to stay put and await orders. At that time, the regiment was at the Segard public house where they had just been served beer. Fitzpatrick and his men were preparing a meal when he saw that his battalion was in trouble and that some men were starting to retreat. He got together 40 men, a mixture of cooks, batmen, storemen, drivers, etc. and manned the trenches on the other side of the crossroads.

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boxes of ammunition. Sergeant Redmont managed to repair the weapon, which aided their defence considerably. There were already 11 dead among the Irish and three among the Gordons.

He impressed upon his men not to open fire until the enemy were less than 200 yards away. When the elements of the 85th Infantry Regiment (on the right) and the 31st Infantry Regiment (on the left) appeared, they were received with sustained fire.

The Germans bombarded the sector and the shells reached the houses. Some civilians who had taken shelter in cellars were killed. The Germans tried one more charge, but Redmont’s machine-gun made ominous gaps in their ranks. The fighting moved towards the positions of the Gordon Highlanders and the Royal Scots. Fitzpatrick and the others who survived were able to get some rest.

From La Bascule, turn in the direction of Mons, and almost 100 yards to the left, you will find the Château Gendebien (today a restaurant called Chez Léon).

Night fell at last. The losses were 15 dead and four gravely wounded.

Sergeant Fitzpatrick, RQMS © City of Mons Collections

After two conventional mass attacks, the Germans changed their tactics. They attacked in penny-packets in loose order. At about 15.00 hours, Major Simpson (of the 2nd Gordon Highlanders) whose defences were to the right, arrived at the Bascule. He was astonished to find so few men at such an important point. He came back shortly with a dozen men. Sadly, Major Simpson was wounded, but he was able to leave the scene on his horse. During a lull, Fitzpatrick, accompanied by volunteers, fetched an abandoned and damaged machine-gun together with some

A memorial in the form of a Celtic cross was erected at this crossroads in 1923 and inaugurated on 11th November of the same year by Lord French the Earl of Ypres, to commemorate the participation of the Irish unit and its glorious defence of this place. Opposite this memorial, on the other side of the highway, is a monument dedicated to the two battles of Mons that was unveiled on 23rd August, 1986. Initially, this monument was originally erected in 1952 in Castle Park, not far from the Belfry. It was inaugurated by Field-Marshal Lord Alexander of Tunis. It bears the following inscription: "Here the forces of the British Empire fought their first and last battles in the 1914-1918 war ". On the 23rd and 24th August, 1914, the British Expeditionary Force commanded by Sir John French with supreme courage held the advance of overwhelmingly superior German Forces. On Armistice Day 1918, after 60 hours of heavy fighting, Canadian divisions entered Mons. British and Canadian Regiments have erected this tablet to the Glory of God and Commemorate these events."

© SSantarelli

© WBT - J-P REMY

Night fell at last The losses were 15 dead and four gravely wounded

© WBT - J-P REMY

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map legend 3

Commemorative Plaque

Point 1 - The road bridge page 10

e

nd

e

Ru

a Gr

Point 2 - the rail bridge page 11-12

E42

E19

Road Bridge 2

Rail Bridge

Canal du Centre

N6 Chaussée de Bruxelles 4

rg

Chemin de la Procession

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ut

5

Ro

Mons Cemetery

O d’

oeulx

de R ussée

N538

N539

Obourg Station

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bo

E19

Cha

Grand-Place

6

Chateau Gendebien 9

Chemin d’ adresse

Bascule N90

Bois-Là-Haut

Point 6 - royal irish regiment Monument page 16-17 Point 7 - Chateau gendebien page 20

Point 9 - bascule monument page 22-23

Monument

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Point 5 - mons cemetery page 15

Point 8 - Bois-là-haut page 21

0

N6

Point 3 - Commemorative plaque page 13 Point 4 - obourg station page 14

1

Le Grand Large

Point 0 - The Grand-place of mons page 10

Chaussée de Binche

Point 10 - saint-symphorien cemetery page 24-25

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Chemin de Bethléem 10

Saint-Symphorien Cemetery

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Chateau Gendebien

Bois-là-Haut

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50.440466,3.983141

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he Chateau Gendebien was hit in the afternoon by incendiary shells and caught fire. Situated on the Chaussée de Binche, the château served as a relief hospital. It had been placed under the command of Major Long, the medical officer of the 2nd Royal Irish Fusiliers. The windows were hung with the Red Cross flag, while a similar flag had been hoisted above the roof. As a result of the fire, all the wounded were evacuated to the surrounding prairie and to the Château Hardenpont (which has since been re-named Château Gendebien). Unfortunately, two men didn’t make it out: Major J.S. Maidlow (49th Battery, Royal Field Artillery) and an unidentified private. N.B. The present-day Château Gendebien is where the general who is Commander-in-chief of the NATO troops stationed at SHAPE resides.

he 40th Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery, i.e., No 6, No 23 and No 29 batteries, took up position on the high ground in a field overlooking the Chaussée de Binche. The horses were sheltered in a wood.

With superhuman determination the gunners managed to free the transport, uncouple it by hand and reassemble it at the foot of the hill. The surviving horses were redistributed among the teams on the Chemin de Bethleem.

During the daytime on 23rd August, this gunnery brigade had no interference at all from the German infantry, but was subjected to artillery shelling that caused three fatalities.

The convoy caught up with the rest of the retreating troops at 23.30 hours and fell back towards Nouvelles.

The British artillery was in a commanding position that covered the entire battlefield and its guns cut gaping holes in the ranks of the German attackers.

The sector had become quiet again. Fires began to be lit in the German camp.

The convoy turned into the sunken road that was very narrow, extremely steep and bounded by high banks. Under the German fire, several horses were killed or injured. The men of the 1st Gordon Highlanders were even forced to charge a German road-block put across the road leading to Hyon with bayonets.

Among the hospital’s wounded were Lieutenant Phillips who was unconscious, which meant he could no longer give orders to Fitzpatrick.

On the way down, an ammunition wagon overturned killing two drivers and the horses. The road was blocked. The line of retreat seemed to be cut too, because the Germans had dug in at Hyon.

So the latter decided to retreat and rejoin the battalion. Having buried their dead, his group destroyed the machine-gun as well as any weapons that could not be carried. At midnight, they stole away. In silence and darkness, the 18 survivors, each carrying two rifles, crossed gardens, yards and fields and reached the slopes of Bois-la-Haut. They crossed the Trouille and took two hours of sleep. They rejoined the rest of the battalion on the afternoon of the 24th.

Major Ingham, commanding the 23rd Battery, went on reconnaissance while the work of clearing the obstacle began. A defensive position was taken up.

Private CARTER © City of Mons Collections

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At 17.15 hours, the gunners received the order to withdraw, Doing so at 17.30.

At last, the body of the wagon was lifted to the bank of the road, the gun was brought down by hand and dragged towards the highway.

Return to your car and drive along the Chaussée de Beaumont, turn right into the Chemin d’Adresse. Because the road is not in very good condition, we suggest you park your car here and go to Bois-la-Haut on foot.

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Go back along the Chemin de Bethléem and back up the Chaussée de Beaumont toward La Bascule. You are now on the Route de Binche, where the 1st Gordon Highlanders and the 2nd Royal Scots were positioned.

At 17.15 hours, the gunners received the order to withdraw, doing so at 17.30, escorted by the 12th Platoon of the Gordon Highlanders and under fire from German guns positioned at Hyon.

Fitzpatrick was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for his action. He died on 25th March, 1965.

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Château Gendebien © City of Mons Collections

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bascule monument 50.451001,3.988023

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he 1st Gordon Highlanders had been in their trenches from eight o’clock in the morning. Their positions started at La Bascule, ran the length of the Mons-Binche and Mons-Givry roads and up the side of Mont Panisel that faced the road.

It was not until around 16.00 hours that the battalion was hit by violent artillery shelling that progressively ranged across the whole line of defence. It was only with darkness that this shelling ceased.

In their continuation of the Gordons’ line, the 2nd Royal Scots moved into the trenches that the soldiers had dug under the bushes along the Route de Beaumont on the other side of the Malplaquet crossroads.

The infantry fighting, compared to that in other sectors, was not much more than skirmishes. The worst fighting took place around a café called the Crèmerie. The Gordons had set up a machine-gun on that spot, well hidden behind a hedge. It caused the attackers heavy losses.

Since the Royal Scots were spread thinly, a company of the South Staffordshires arrived at about 14.30 hours to fill a gap in the middle of the positions. At 16.00 hours, they were further reinforced by two companies of the Royal Irish Rifles.

Under cover of darkness, the Irish Guards moved in to reinforce the positions digging in just out of sight from the Mons-Givry highway. They disengaged at around 21.00 hours.

At 21.10 hours, the 2nd Royal Scots received a message from HQ ordering the companies to be ready to withdraw at 22.30. C Company of the Royal Irish Rifles, interspersed among the 2nd Royal Scots, were ordered to place themselves under the authority of the battalion. At 22.30 hours, the companies, starting from the right, disengaged in good order and formed into columns. The withdrawal was completed without incident. When you arrive at Saint-Symphorien, follow the signs for "St-Symphorien Military Cemetery". You have arrived at: Point 10 St-Symphorien Cemetery.

At 14.30 hours, the Germans launched a tentative, probing attack – a simple contact with the enemy.

the fighting stopped at about 20.00 hours, the quiet being interrupted only by some sporadic shots.

© C.Rousman

La Bascule Monument © City of Mons Collections

View of La Bascule from the Chaussée de Beaumont. © All rights reserved

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Saint-Symphorien Cemetery 50.434985,4.00948

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his cemetery, probably one of the finest in Belgium, is in a very quiet, rural spot. Surrounded by fields and trees, it has a peacefulness that sometimes makes one feel anguished. There are two areas: one with German graves, the other with British ones. © WBT - J-P REMY

This cemetery is administered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission; they maintain it with great care. It is a very poignant place that invites profound reflection and strong emotions. The majority of the soldiers killed during the Battle of Mons lie there. The largest number of graves are those of the 4th Middlesex. Here you will also see those of soldiers who died liberating the city of Mons in November, 1918.

This cemetery is one of the finest in Belgium © WBT - J-P REMY

© WBT - J-P REMY

It is a very poignant place that invites profound reflection and strong emotions

© WBT - J-P REMY

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The Losses

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he cost of the two days of fighting has never been established precisely, not by the British and certainly not by the Germans. In fact, Germany always refrained from publishing official figures, both during the war and afterwards.

were written with the same black ink: heavy losses … hellfire … bloody combat … the regiment has been wiped out … They all concurred. And these rumours worried the High Command whom Lord Kitchener had urged to avoid the spilling of British blood by all possible means. Certainly, some losses had been expected, but this experience was cruel and uncovered the horrible face of this modern war where artillery ruled supreme and foot-soldiers became canon-fodder. It was a far cry from the exciting childhood images of war dreamt of by boys at play.

On the British side, the most realistic figure for losses and the most likely, is in the region of 4,200. That figure can be broken down as follows: Losses on 23rd August: 1,600 men, of whom 40 were in I Corps, all the others belonging to II Corps. More than half were from the two battalions of the 8th Brigade that underwent repeated assaults in the salient: the Royal Irish (300 men) and the 4th Middlesex (15 officers and 353 men); as for the 4th Royal Fusiliers, they lost 250 men.

This lesson was to serve Field Marshal French well during the weeks to come; he refrained from committing his troops to action that he considered risky. The commanders of the French allied forces would have difficulty convincing him to take part in the Battle of the Marne.

Losses of 24th August: The losses reported for this day are even higher than those of the previous. The total reached 2,590 men, being broken down into: Cavalry: 250 I Corps: 100 II Corps: 0 rd 3 Division: 550 5th Division: 1.650 19th Brigade: 40 Among the units most sorely tried were the Cheshires, who lost 800 men (the unit was annihilated), the Norfolks, who were minus 250 men, and the 119th Battery, who lost 30. Reading these figures, it is possible to ascertain that it was II Corps that suffered most during the two days of battle. That is quite understandable, as it was the first to come under the Germans’ repeated, frenzied attacks and sustained aggression from the start to the finish.

© All rights reserved

On the German side, the losses are impossible to establish with any certainty. What is sure, without fear of contradiction, is that they were higher than those of the British. This is due, above all, to the fact that attacks were made in close ranks under the unceasing, accurate fire of their opponents. The Germans did not publish the figures and statistics resulting from these battles and those of the following weeks for fear of undermining the morale of their troops and the civilian population. They even tried to hide their casualties

from the Belgians. This explains why eyewitnesses stated, and it was confirmed in certain German accounts, that during the evening of 23rd August the bodies of many dead were taken to the rear in covered wagons. The German losses can be reasonably estimated at 2,700 men. On their side too, the same pessimism dominated reports and accounts: hecatomb, enormous losses, bloody battlefield, hostile and deadly fire … Thus, the 12th Brandenburg Grenadiers (5th Division) declared that they had lost 25 officers and more than 500 men. Worse, the 75th Bremen Regiment (17th Division) lost five officers and 376 men in a single attack! The final result of those two days of fighting was heavy. Yet some correction must be made in reckoning the figures. In reality, when one speaks of losses among the British, the figure includes not only killed, wounded and missing but also prisoners. With the Germans, though, the number of their captured was minimal. The British, surrounded, took few prisoners; being on the defensive, they did not have much opportunity to do so. The few Germans that they did capture were turned over to the guard who treated their wounded.

I Corps was not attacked until early afternoon. In addition, II Corps also screened the BEF’s retreat taking even more fire. For the British, these first two days of war were frightful and are indelibly engraved on the collective memory as such. Of course, compared to the fighting that unfolded on the Somme, at Ypres and in Flanders, these losses were relatively minor. Yet, at the beginning of that August, at the start of the war, all reports

II Corps suffered the most during the two days of battle

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List * of cemeteries around mons where british soldiers lie Angre Rue d’Angre 7380 Angre (Honnelles) Angreau Rue du Quesnoy, 35 7387 Honnelles Audregnies Rue de la Ville, 2-78 7382 Audregnies (Quiévrain) Asquillies Rue du charbonnage, 2 7040 Asquillies Blaugies At the angle of Rue de la frontière, 30 7370 Blaugies (Dour) Bougnies Rue d’Asquillies 7040 Bougnies Boussu-Bois Rue de Dour, At the angle of 234 7300 Boussu Boussu Rue Delmée et Renard 7300 Boussu Ciply Rue Brunehaut, 235 7024 Ciply Cuesmes In front of Rue de Framaeries,97 7033 Cuesmes Dour Avenue Victor Regnart, 2 7370 Dour

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Elouges Rue du commerce (behind the church) 7370 Elouges (Dour) Estinnes-au-Mont At the crossroad of Chemin de Maubeuge et chemin de la Sainte 7120 Estinnes-au-mont Erquelinnes Rue Madame, 7 6560 Erquelinnes Erquennes Rue Derrière l’Eglise (At the crossroad of rue longue) 7387 Erquennes Flénu Close to Rue de Quaregnon, 36 7012 Flénu Frameries Rue Donaire 7080 Frameries Ghlin Next to Rue de Tournai, 29 7011 Ghlin Givry Next to Rue de Harmenpont, 8 7041 Givry Grand-Reng Rue du cimetière 6560 Grand-Reng (Erquelinnes)

Mons Battlefield Guide

Harveng Place d’Harveng 7022 Harveng (Mons)

Quiévrain Place du centenaire, 3 7382 Quiévrain

Hautrage Grand route de Mons (Militery Cemetery) 178-200 Rue de Villerot, 1-15 7334 Hautrage

Quévy-le-Petit Rue Saint-Eloi 7040 Quévy-le-Petit

Havay Crossroad of rue du Dépôt, rue des Villers et rue Bonnet 7041 Havay Hantes-Wihéries Chemin des Chapelles 6560 Hantes-Wihéries (Erquelinnes) Harchies Rue Buissonnet, 39-47 7321 Harchies (Bernissart) Jemappes Allée du Cimetière 7012 Jemappes Mons Chemin du Chêne aux Haies 7000 Mons Herchies Route de Lens 7050 Herchies (Jurbise)

Roisin Rue du Point du Jour 7387 Roisin Saint-Symphorien Avenue de la Shangri 7032 Saint-Symphorien Spiennes Rue du Petit Spiennes 7032 Spiennes Villerot Rue des Croix, 12-18 7384 Villerot (saint-ghislain) Warquignies Le sentier de Lamina 7340 Colfontaine Wihéries Route de Quiévrain, 1-7 7370 Wihéries (Dour) *

Mons Memorial Museum

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lace for reflection, space for questioning, museum — the Mons Memorial Museum can define itself by so many names. This new museum space aspires to be, above all, a meeting place in the heart of a region steeped in memory and marked by two world wars that marked twentieth-century society. The Mons Memorial Museum invites visitors of all ages to reflect on the multiple and complex realities of wartime events. Accounts of the lives of men and women who witnessed the conflict immerse visitors in the daily experiences of soldiers and civilians in periods of peace, war, and occupation. Chosen from among the 5000 items that constitute the military history collections of the City of Mons, the objects presented inspire deep reflection on the relations between the civilian and military populations. This reflection takes form in a journey from the Middle Ages through the Ancien Régime up until the two world wars. A large segment of the Mons Memorial Museum’s permanent collection is dedicated to World War I: 40% of the museum concerns

A place to reflect on the multiple and complex realities of wartime events.

this first conflict in which Mons played a central role, both as a combat zone and occupied territory. In addition to being a theater of the first confrontation between the British and German armies at the Battle of Mons on August 23, 1914, Mons was also the place where the Allied armies rested on November 11, 1918, after their victorious offensive. The people of Mons would be subjected to four years of occupation before liberation finally arrived. Restrictions of all types, constant checks, and humiliation would become the daily lot of the civilians who, for the most part, strove to live as normally as possible. The fate of soldiers, confined to the wet and muddy trenches of the Western Front, is also largely evoked in the exhibit. Their war logs and letters to their loved ones speak of their links to the families they left behind, their reactions when thrown into confrontation with newly invented weapons, and their trouble looking death in the face. For the visitor, these previously unseen, first-hand accounts link historic events and imbue them with palpable emotion.

Le MMM in numbers • A 3000 m² museum space • A 1200 m² permanent exposition hall •A 350 m² temporary exposition hall • 2 mediation rooms for school groups • 1 projection room • 1 conference room • 1 cafeteria et 1 boutique

Non-exhaustive list

Masnuy-Saint-Pierre Rue Lieutenant de Saint-Martin, 2-6 7050 Masnuy-Saint-Pierre Montignies-sur-Roc Bas des Rocs / Rue de l’Eglise 7387 Montignies-sur-Roc 6470 Montbliart Sivry-Rance Nouvelles Rue Briffaut, 2-8 7022 Nouvelles

opening in 2015 boulevard dolez Mons

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Tormented civilians

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espite being a military affair, this war did not spare civilian society. Many monuments and plaques remind passersby of the fate of civilians during the Great War.

Commemorative plaque at the Place des Martyrs :

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etween the months of August and October 1914, 6000 civilians in Belgium and northern France were killed by the German army. While the Germans considered these actions as legitimate retaliation, they were deemed "German atrocities" by the Belgian, French, and British people and governments. This violent outburst was in part due to the Germans’ belief in a massive presence of irregular soldiers within the civilian populations. This fear of having to fight an urban guerilla force without any recognizable uniform was a legacy of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. On August 23, 1914, the villages around Mons became a slaughter ground for their civilian populations. Exhausted by forced marches, shocked by the resistance mounted by Liège forts, and nervous at the idea of not being able to follow the Schlieffen Plan’s invasion strategy, German soldiers seized the opportunity to avenge their losses in the Battle of Mons. British and sometimes "friendly" fire provoked bloody retaliation. 22 civilians were killed in Nimy. Quaregnon (66 civilians killed), Ville-Pommeroueul (14), Flénu (12), et Jemappes (11) were not spared either. In addition to these killings, the German troops set fire to dozens of houses. After the war and a number of investigations, one thing became certain: there was no organized civil resistance during the first two months of the conflict. The commemorative plaque in the Place des Martyrs, like the name of the square itself, refers to the atrocities that took place in Nimy on August 23, 1914. Two corps of the British army were

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positioned along the Mons-Condé canal in this town. Three corps of the German army came to meet them. The British Expeditionary Corps responded with fierce resistance, but its position became untenable. The German bombarding intensified. The command came for retreat at 10:30am., and around 1:00pm. the British folded back toward Mons. The soldiers of the German army crossed the canal in pursuit. Arriving in the center of the village, the German troops wreaked terror, burning 108 houses and massacring civilians. The soldiers then took residents as hostages and pushed them in front of their lines as a human shield. The few British soldiers who had remained behind to meet the enemy vanguards gave up the combat. The Germans continued all the way to Mons’s Grand-Place. There, the Mayor Jean Lescarts, was put at the front of the hostages. The column of civilians crossed the city and arrived at the square that would soon earn its name as the Place des Martyrs. Here the group found themselves caught in the fire from the 1st Lincolnshire Battalion. The hostages attempted to flee and take shelter, the German soldiers fired on them in turn, and the square dissolved into a chaotic mess of panic and confusion. Four people were killed on the spot, and two others would succumb to their wounds. In total, 22 inhabitants of Nimy perished on the 23rd and 24th of August, 1914.

Monument to the Dead on the Place du Parc :

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hroughout the war, the City of Mons was occupied by German troops. While civilians lost their lives in the fighting during invasion or liberation or in deportation, soldiers from Mons died on the front. They distinguished themselves in a number of battles on the Western Front from the time of their mobilization on July 31, 1914. Inaugurated on May 28, 1922, during Allied patriotic celebrations, the monument on the Place du Parc is the creation of sculptor Léon Gobert and architect Edmond Bertiaux. On the day of its inauguration, a procession of wounded war veterans, deportees, schoolchildren, and people from all segments of society streamed toward the Place du Parc where we now find ourselves. Military music and patriotic song followed the participants along their entire course as the peal of bells from the belfry’s carillon and every church filled the air. In front of the monument, the Mayor Jean Lescarts began to speak. His speech conjured the memory of the 133 soldiers and 30 civilian victims from Mons who died for their nation and whose names were engraved in this stone. These men and women, however, only represent part of the military and civilian victims in the Mons region. The 2.3 m bronze figure symbolizes victory and glory. After World War II, the names of the victims of that conflict were added to the monument.

and a ceremony met them. In 1921, the square where Charles Simonet lived at the time of his arrest was given his name. On May 6, 1922, he was decorated with the posthumous title of the Croix de chevalier de l’Ordre de Léopold. On August 26, 1923, his remains were again transferred, this time to a mausoleum within the communal cemetery. The monument, a creation of Léon Parys and Gustave Jacobs, was inaugurated on July 10, 1927, in the presence of Queen Elizabeth. It depicts a feminine figure raising its right arm, symbolizing Charles Simonet’s freely given sacrifice.

The plaque given by the city of Douai to the City of Mons in the Town Hall’s entryway

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rom 2nd to 4th September, 1918, during the retreat of the German army after is defeat in the 2nd Battle of the Marne, the people of Douai were forced to evacuate their town. The German troops worried that the French civilians would be used against them by the British. The people of Douai walked 20 km per day until they reached Mons, where they were housed in requisitioned homes and buildings. By October 9, 1918, nearly 5000 refugees from northern France would be relocated to Mons. After the War, the City of Douai took it upon itself to recognize the City of Mons. It gave it a plaque to offer thanks for the warm welcome given to the displaced people of Douai.

The Charles Simonet Monument on the Place Charles Simonet : From the outbreak of the war, men and women risked their lives by enlisting in resistance, information, or escape networks. Such was the case for Charles Simonet. Born in Mons on September 4, 1872, he began working for the British information services in October, 1914. His mission consisted of collecting information and transferring it to an agent who would then pass it on across the border. Simonet was betrayed; on June 20, 1915, he was arrested by the German police. At the same time, Joseph Delsaut, Jules and Arthur Legay were imprisoned for collaborating in the same service. Sentenced to death on November 2, 1915, along with Delsaut and Jules Legay, Simonet was executed November 6, 1915, at the Tir National of Brussels. While Delsaut’s family reclaimed his body in November 1915, those of Legay and Simonet were repatriated after the war. On May 25, 1919, their bodies were exhumed from the grounds of the Tir National. Simonet was still tied up. The two coffins traveled back to Mons by railway,

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Order of the British forces during the first battle of Mons Ist DIVISION (général major S. LOMAX) 1ère brigade : • 1er Coldstream Guards • 1er Scots Guards • 1er Royal Highlanders • 2e Royal Munster Fusiliers 2e brigade : • 2e Royal Sussex • 1er North Lancashire • 1er Northamptonshire • 2e King’s Royal Rifles corps 3e brigade : • 1er Queen’s Royal West Surrey • 1er South Wales Borderers • 1er Gloucestershire • 2e Welsh. MOUNTED TROOPS: Escadron C du 15e Hussard - 1er Cie cycliste. ARTILLERY: • de campagnes : groupes 25 (nos 113, 114, 115) ; 26 (nos 116, 117, 118) ; 39 (nos 46.51.54). • obusiers : groupe 43 (nos 30.40.57) • lourde : 26e batterie RGA. 1ère div. du train. ROYAL ENGINEERS : 23e et 26e Cie de campagne - 1er signal Cie R.A.M.C. : 1e, 2e et 3e Field Ambulances. 2nd DIVISION (général major C. MONRO) 4e brigade : • 2e Grenadier Guards • 2e Coldstream Guards • 3e Coldstream Guards • 1er Irish Guards. 5e brigade : • 2e Worcester • 2e Oxford and Buckingham Light Infantry • 2e Highland Light Infantry • 2e Connaught Rangers e 6 brigade : • 1er Liverpool (th King’s regiment) • 2e South Staffordshire • 1er Royal Berkshire • 1er King’s Royal Rifle Corps. MOUNTED TROOPS : escadron B du 15e Hussard - 2e Cie cycliste. ARTILLERY: • de campagne : groupes 34 (nos 25.50.70) ; 36 (nos 15.48.71) et 41 (nos 5.16.17)

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• obusiers : groupe 44 (nos 47.56.60) • lourde : 35e batterie. TRAIN : 2e division. ROYAL ENGINEERS : 5e et 11e Field Cie - 2e signal Cie R.A.M.C. : 4e, 5e et 6e Field ambulances. 3 DIVISION (général major H. HAMILTON) 7e brigade : • 3e Worcestershire • 2e South Lancashire • 1er Wiltshire • 2e Royal Irish Rifles 8e brigade : • 2e Royal Scots • 2e Royal Irish • 4e Middlesex • 1er Gordon Highlanders. rd

9e BRIGADE : • 1er Northumberland Fusiliers • 4e Royal Fusiliers • 1er Lincolnshire • 1er Royal Scots Fusiliers. MOUNTED TROOPS : escadron A du 15e Hussard - 3e Cie cycliste. ARTILLERY : • de campagne : groupes 23 (nos 107.108.109) ; 40 (nos 6.23.49) et 42 (nos 29.41.45). • obusiers : groups 30 (nos 128.129.130). • lourde : 48e batterie. TRAIN : 3e division. ROYAL ENGINEERS : 6e et 57e Field Cie - 3e signal Cie R.A.M.C. : 7e, 8e et 9e Field ambulances. 5th DIVISION (Général major SIR C. FERGUSSON) 13e brigade : • 2e King’s Own Scottisch Borderers • 2e Duke of Wellington’s West Riding • 1er Royal West Kent • 2e King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry 14e bridge : • 2e Suffolk • 1er East Surrey • 1er Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry • 2e Manchester.

© MT Mons Sophie Demeester

The boutique at The Mons Tourist Office carries a selection of souvenirs and other items commemorating Mons and the role it played in the Great War.

Open Monday - Saturday 10:00am - 6:00pm; Sundays and holidays 11:00am - 5:00pm. Closed 1st & 2nd January, 1st November and 25th & 26th December.

15e brigade : • 1 er Norfolk • 1 er Bedfordshire • 1 er Cheshire • 1 er Dorsetshire. MOUNTED TROOPS: escadron A du 19e Hussard - 5e Cie cycliste. ARTILLERY: •d  e campagne : brigade 15 (nos 11.52.80) ; 27 (nos 119.120.121) et 28 (nos 122.123.124) • obusiers : groupe 8 (nos 37.61 et 65) • lourde : 108e batterie. TRAIN : 5e division. ROYAL ENGINEERS : 17e et 59e Field Cie R.A.M.C. : 13e, 14e et 15e Field ambulances. 19e brigade (brigadier général L.G. DRUMMOND) •2  e Royal Welsh Fusiliers • 1 er Scottish Rifles • 1 er Middlesex •2  e Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders + la 19e Field Ambulance. CAVALRY DIVISION (Edmund ALLENBY) 1e brigade : •2  e Dragoon Guards •5  e Dragoon Guards • 1 1e Hussards 2e brigade : •4  e Dragoon Guards •9  e Lanciers • 1 8e Hussars (Queen Mary’s Own) 3e brigade : •4  e Hussards •5  e Lanciers • 1 6e Lanciers 4e brigade : •H  ousehold cavalry •6  e Dragoon Guards •3  e Hussards 5e brigade : • 1 2e Lanciers •2  0e Hussards •2  e Dragoons (Scots Grey) HORSE ARTILLERY : Batteries D.E.J.I.L. ROYAL ENGINEERS : 1er Field squadron. ROYAL FLYING CORPS : (Brigadier général sir David HENDERSON) SQUADRONS: nos 2.3.4 et 5. D. 1987 - 0100 - 022

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Responsible publisher: Mons Tourist Office. Textes: Yves BOURDON

opening in 2015 • boulevard dolez • www.monsmemorialmuseum.mons.be


En guide champ de bataille mons