In the late summer sunshine there is nothing about the tiny Belgian town of Tertre to give any indication of the dreadful battles fought here and the young lives lost.
Yet from today, after almost a century, those who perished will be remembered in the place where they died.
Ninety-nine years ago Tertre played host to a German artillery bombardment that would see the British Expeditionary Force take their first losses of the First World War at the start of the Battle of Mons.
The desperate task of holding the strategically important Conde Canal fell to the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment. With men being cut down under fire they held on all day, retreating only when the casualties reached such a level that resistance was futile.
That day the Queen’s Own earned a dreadful place in British military history – the first troops to suffer in a war that would eventually claim 16 million lives.
Among those casualties Private S/8933 Leonard Bristow from Wilmington in Kent. He was 18-years-old when he was killed in Belgium. Not even a photograph of him survives. A young man who gave his life for his country and yet is without trace.
That is why his great nephew Nigel Bristow has worked to formally honour his uncle and the other fallen with today’s memorial.
From now on, in a garden of remembrance filled with English roses, there will be a permanent reminder of the sacrifice made by the 6,866 dead from the Queen’s Own.
It will be built from Kentish Ragstone – a little bit of a homeland for men who died a very long way from home. Next year it will be formally dedicated as part of the centenary commemorations.
– Nigel Bristow
I am absolutely delighted that it has been built as, until now, there was no single memorial to the regiment on the Western Front.
I am pleased that the sacrifices of my great uncle and his fellow soldiers will be recognised in this way. My great uncle is among those who have no known grave and I am still researching his past and trying to track down a photograph of him and the medals he was awarded – my search will continue until they are found.