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A visit to the cemetery at St Symphorien

I have been based in northern France since yesterday, but today I took a trip into Belgium to visit the cemetery at St Symphorien which is just 2km east of Mons.

Mons was the first major battle of the First World War and many soldiers from that battle were buried in this nearby cemetery. It was established later in the war, while the area was still under German occupation. The required land was freely given by Belgian Jean Houzeau de Lehaie on condition that soldiers from both sides would be respectfully buried there. That wish was granted, as 229 Commonwealth and 284 German servicemen lie here (105 unidentified).

The cemetery is well known as it holds the grave of John Parr, the first soldier to die in the conflict, on 21st August 1914, as well as the last British soldier to die in WW1 - George Ellison - and the last soldier from the Empire to die, Canadian George Price.

George Ellison died 90 minutes before the armistice came into effect, at 09:30 on 11th November 1918 and the unfortunate George Price was shot by a German sniper and died at 10:58 that same morning.

But I had come to the cemetery with my two sons so that we could pay our respects to one of the many soldiers who no-one else would know about: Alfred Harry Murphy (known as Harry), a cousin of my grandmother's, who was originally from St Neots in Huntingdonshire. He died at Mons on 23rd August 1914 fighting with the 4th Battalion, Duke of Cambridge's Own, Middlesex Regiment. They were part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) which fought bravely against the overwhelming force of the invading German army.

We left a poppy at the graveside. The inscription on his gravestone reads: "Their glory shall not be blotted out." Rest in peace Harry.

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