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Readers of this blog will know I have an all consuming interest in WW1 history – I am no expert but it is a slice of global history that fascinates me.

On my way home from the Mosel I called in briefly to Mons in Belgium and visited the impressive and sobering CWGC St Symphorien Military Cemetery. It is different to most cemeteries in that it is circular – rather than serried ranks – and has German and Commonwealth graves.

It is the military cemetery which along with others will be used for four years to mark anniversaries of the Great War and was visited by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for its first 100 year anniversary (first photo).

On land donated by Belgium, in a cemetery first built by the German army and now cared for by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), the fallen from both sides that fought in the First World War lie together at peace at St Symphorien Military Cemetery. Last month, this CWGC cemetery, near the French border in Belgium, hosted the key commemoration that marked the 100-year anniversary of the outbreak of the conflict.

The British Government’s official commemoration of the outbreak of the Great War centred around a moving ceremony at CWGC’s St.Symphorien Cemetery in Mons, Belgium on 4 August. Broadcast live globally, the occasion was reviewed by The Times (UK) as “intimate and epic”, staged in a setting of “bucolic charm”.

St. Symphorien also staged a packed open day later in the month, allowing members of the public to pay their own respects. Visitors also enjoyed seeing our craftsmen and stonemasons at work, and many guests took the opportunity to attempt stone cutting themselves. Our (CWGC) next open days will be held across the weekend of September 20-21 at Faubourg d’Amiens Cemete Cemetery, France.

Christopher Macgowan