Just a few feet apart in a cemetery like so many others, two simple war graves book-end Britain’s tragic First World War military toll.
They mark the final resting place of John Parr and George Ellison â the first and last British soldiers to die in combat in the devastating conflict that began 100 years ago this August.
Private Parr is thought to have been just 16 when he was shot dead by advancing German troops on the Belgium-France border on August 21, 1914.
Nearly a million more British and Commonwealth troops were to die by the time Private Ellison was killed just over an hour before the Armistice ceasefire at 11am on November 11, 1918.
Their burial together in Belgium’s Saint Symphorien cemetery is an ­extraordinary coincidence â but their stories illustrate the monumental horror faced by the ordinary citizens who became heroes in the âwar to end all warsâ.
John Parr’s age is listed as 20 in the official cemetery register â but like many enthusiastic young recruits he is thought to have lied about his age when he joined up in 1913.
The young golf caddy left his home in Finchley, North London, to join the Middlesex Regiment and was soon deployed to the Western Front.
He is thought to have been sent with another recruit on cycles to the village of Obourg, just north east of Mons, on a mission to locate the enemy.
It is believed the pair met a German cavalry patrol, and that Parr remained to hold off the enemy while his companion went to report back. He was killed in the ensuing rifle fire.
However, because British troops retreated to a new position Pte Parr’s body was left behind and his death was not officially reported until a year later.
His family were so devastated by grief at losing him that his name was rarely mentioned thereafter.