UK & World News
WW1 Cemetery At Heart Of Commemorations
In an immaculately kept cemetery, a few miles east of the town of Mons in Belgium, two graves face each other only yards apart.
They mark the final resting place of two Privates: John Parr, of the Middlesex, the first Briton to die on the Western Front, and George Ellison, of the Royal Irish Lancers, the last British soldier to die - killed just 90 minutes before the Armistice was signed.
That they should be buried so close to each other is, to the best of anyone's knowledge, pure coincidence.
The St Symphorien Military Cemetery was established by the German Army in 1914.
They were granted permission to bury their dead on the land by a local farmer, but on one condition: that they should bury the British dead with equal respect.
There are 284 German and 230 Commonwealth casualties buried on this site, which will be the focus of international commemorations on August 4 honouring the dead on all sides.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission looks after 268,000 graves in Belgium and France including St Symphorien.
In preparation for the centenary, the CWGC has been working literally day and night, cleaning existing headstones and making new ones.
"Our aim is to see that all casualties are adequately commemorated throughout out this centenary period," Carl Liversage, from CWGC, explained.
"What we have done in the past few months is increase the production with extra machines on site and made the day longer working 24/5 significantly."
The CWGC is also installing digital panels in many of the cemeteries so that visitors can interact using mobile phones. The panels will reveal the personal stories of soldiers and details of nearby battles.
At 8pm every evening in the town of Ypres, a ritual is observed as it has been since 1928.
The road under the Menin Gate, the great arch that recognises the Commonwealth soldiers whose bodies were never found, is closed to traffic.
Hundreds of tourists and locals gather all year round to listen to The Last Post, played by the town's firemen. It is sounded in memory of the Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Ypres Salient during World War One.
In the four major battles that took place around the town, more than 250,000 soldiers from Britain, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand† Canada, India and Pakistan, lost their lives.
More than 100,000 of these soldiers have no known grave. The names of 54,896 of those are inscribed in the stone of the Menin Gate.
The sober ceremony under this awesome memorial has continued as Ypres's recognition of the soldiers' sacrifice.
"I do it with pleasure. Every night I do it with pleasure," said Brian Clays, from the Ypres Last Post Association. "I am Belgian, I'm not British but I do it with pleasure."
Politicians, historians and commentators might disagree on the legacy of World War One, but for most people who visit the Western Front, and walk silently among the graves, it is tragically simple: The Great War is now a conflict summed up by tales of unthinkable horror and the most phenomenal death toll - impossible to comprehend.
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