After another warm night, breakfast at the Hotel Hainault was, like the surroundings, outstanding. With a bit of time available, I decided to take a COVID test. I am happy to say that I was a solid negative. This took a lot of pressure off of my mind and allowed me to concentrate on the final day of the ride. However, it was clear that this was going to be another hot day. Yet this was the end of the ride, so settle in and ride.
Our destination for today in Mons, Belgium, where at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, the armistice between the German Empire and the Allied Powers was signed. To get there the plan says that we will have to cover 75 km and climb 386 m. Let’s see how close they got to getting this one right.
Valenciennes was one of the first cities in France to be captured during WW1 and one of the last to be liberated. It was entered and cleared by the Canadian Corps on 1-2 November 1918, Almost immediately, medical clearing posts were established in Valenciennes. The last did not leave until October 1919.
This cemetery is wholly contained within the larger civilian cemetery, making it somewhat unique. It contains the remains of 885 Commonwealth soldiers of WW1, with 37 of those remains unknown.
A brief pause for lunch and a short briefing at Chausée de Mons, then we are off again heading for St. Sympohorien just outside of Mons.
The cemetery at St. Symphorien was established by the German Army early in WW1 as a final resting place for British and German soldiers killed at the Battle of Mons. This cemetery is among the most pastoral cemeteries (as the photos show) that I have ever visited. Interspersed throughout the cemetery are groups of German and Commonwealth headstones. Originally designed and maintained by the German Army to standard German practices, 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 is fitting that the last stop of this should be here at St. Sympohorien as it is the last resting place for both the first Commonwealth soldier to have been killed in the war, Private John Parr of the Middlesex Regiment, and the last, Private George Lawrence Price of the 38th Battalion, Canadian Infantry, who was shot in the chest by a sniper just 2 minutes before the Armistice went into effect.
Other soldiers of note buried here are Lieutenant Maurice Diese of the Royal Fusiliers who was the first posthumous recipient of the Victoria Cross and Musketier Oskar Niemeyer from the 84th Infantry Regiment was the first recipient of the Iron Cross during the war.
BBR22 Comes to an End
Leaving St. Sympohorien we head to our last hotel in Mons. Final tally for today was 76.6 km with 396 m of elevation gain – pretty close to the estimated details.
Here the mad scramble begins to remove saddles and pedals from rented bikes or re-package personal bikes for those who are heading home in the next day or two. In the morning there will be the mad scramble to catch the bus to Brussels Airport or the train to other airports. However, it won’t be an easy trip home as there is already notices of cancelled and delayed flights.
For me, there is more to come. Stand by for the next posts.
Honour the Fallen, Help the Living