There’s no age limit on remembrance
To any parents who are nervous about talking about the Great War with their little darlings, I would say:“Take the whole family to Saint-Symphorien”, the most beautiful cemetery in the world (from my very objective point of view, as a child of Mons…), and the most wonderful place you can imagine in which to talk to children about war.
You might ask whether I can really describe the cemetery as “beautiful”. Surprising as it may sound, anybody who takes the time to climb the few steps and walk into this memorial site would agree with me.
Would you dare to make a cemetery the venue for a family walk? Well, yes, I would. Because this is Saint-Symphorien, where there’s plenty to learn that honours the soldiers while also keeping the kids interested.
All together, whatever their culture or their nationality
Will you come on in with me?Here we are, in a lush green space with the sound of birdsong in the air, where red maples remind us that our Canadian friends also took part in the Battle of Mons. Let your children wander around looking for these valiant defenders of our freedom – they’ll be able to recognise them thanks to the leaf decorating their tombstones, as well as their national flag.
Then take the time to look at the mixture of shields and coats of arms of each regiment: there’s a tiger, here’s a rocking horse, and over there is a sphinx… Each one expresses unity, battles won on exotic fields or the pretty English landscapes where these soldiers, some of whom were incredibly young, were born.
Look at the German graves, they’re larger and mouse-grey. The different ranks are marked by the different sizes, from a lowly soldier to the highest rank. You can move freely from the allies to their erstwhile enemies without any barrier or ditch separating them. Here we honour the memory of all those who defended a cause that they believed to be just.
And we do so in a peaceful, rural, rolling landscape, where children can take the time to read the names, some foreign, or admire all the poppies that add a touch of red to the flowerbeds.
This will give you the perfect opportunity to explain what these pretty red flowers mean.
A strangely family-friendly experience!
Before you leave, even the youngest visitors can leave a memento of their time in this beautiful place, if they so wish. They can write a message or leave a picture in one of the two hiding places on either side of the entrance. Inside there is a visitors’ book crying out to see what the youngsters think. Thanks to this wonderful site, they can learn about the Battle of Mons whilst enjoying themselves in a respectful manner.
Older visitorscan walk in the footsteps of the “Old Contemptibles” another time when they follow the route from Casteau to Obourg or Nimy.
If you don’t think you’re quite up to it, the Office du Tourisme can help you on your way with a guide who will be more than happy to help. Helping you remember in a different way.
Because there’s no age limit on remembrance, and it doesn’t do any harm if it’s a pleasure!