For the British Expeditionary force the war began and ended in Belgium, just outside the small Belgian town of Mons.
It was here, on the 23rd August 1914, that troops of the British Expeditionary force, the Old Contemptibles, clashed with the
advancing German Army and were forced into retreat, but not before a gallant stand had been made.
Defending the positions on the Conde Canal at Nimy, just outside Mons, was a machine gun section led by Lieutenant Maurice Dease. Lt Dease, despite being
severely wounded, refused orders to evacuate and kept to his post until falling mortally wounded. For this feat of courage, he was posthumously awarded the VC, probably the first VC of the war.
Two days earlier a reconnaisance rider with the motorcycle
reconnasance unit, Corporal John Parr, had stumbled upon the vanguard of the advancing German army and had been shot dead. The first British fatality of the war.
It was here at 10.58am, on the 11th November 1918, two minutes before the armistice
agreed that the guns should fall silent, so Private George Ellison was killed by a sniper. The last British soldier to be killed as the German army was pushed back on the retreat.
In a poignant coincidence, the first and last British casualties of the
war plus the first to win the VC are buried together in the small cemetry of St Symphorien just to the East of Mons.