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Neptunus honoured to play key role at World War One centenary

Temporary structure specialists Neptunus provided facilities for one of the most poignant ceremonies to commemorate the centenary of World War One, attended by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

St Symphorien Military Cemetery in Belgium is the final resting place for British and German soldiers killed at the Battle of Mons.  There are 229 Commonwealth and 284 German servicemen buried or commemorated at St Symphorien, of whom 105 remain unidentified. Among those buried at the cemetery, which is now under the care of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, is Private John Parr of the Middlesex Regiment who was the first British soldier killed in action on the Western Front.

It also contains the graves of Commonwealth and German soldiers who died in the final days of the conflict, including George Ellison of the Royal Irish Lancers and George Price of the Canadian Infantry. They were killed on 11 November 1918, and are believed to be the last Commonwealth combat casualties of the war in Europe.

The ceremony at St Symphorien was one of a number of special tributes staged across the UK and Europe yesterday (Monday, August 4) – the anniversary of the start of World War One.  The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (pictured above), Prince Harry and Prime Minister David Cameron joined King Philippe and Queen Mathilda of Belgium and leaders from around the globe for the international commemorative event which was organised by the UK Government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport.                                      

Neptunus was appointed by Windsor-based Event Management specialists H Power Group which is renowned for staging high-profile military and  ceremonial occasions. 

A 20-strong technical team from Neptunus took just five days to erect over 2,500 square metres of structures in fields adjoining the cemetery. It included a VIP refreshments area with linings, carpets, lighting and air conditioning to accommodate 500 guests. A Galeria roof covered an adjacent large grandstand (pictured right) from where the numerous dignitaries and families of those who lost their lives in the conflict viewed the ceremony.

Neptunus also provided structures for a media centre, offices, medical room, kitchens and catering areas along with facilities for the BBC TV production team who broadcast the event to a worldwide audience.

The assignment was managed by Neptunus UK, based in Northamptonshire, using technicians from the company’s Belgium office.  All ancillary equipment including linings, lighting and carpets was sourced from local suppliers in Belgium.

April Trasler, Managing Director of Neptunus UK, said: “We are deeply honoured to have been selected to support such a historically important and immensely moving occasion viewed by millions of people all around the world.”                                                                           

The evocative ceremony included music performed by the Coldstream Guards Band, including the Last Post and Reveille, and a lone Scots Piper, from the London Scottish Regiment, played “Flowers of the Forest” towards the end of the service. The Mons region saw some of the fiercest fighting in a battle where 80,000 allied forces confronted 160,000 German soldiers. Despite being heavily outnumbered and with many reservists in their ranks, the Allies inflicted heavy casualties on the Germans before being forced to retreat.

At the end of the Battle of Mons, the first major engagement between Britain and German forces in the Great War, the dead of both sides were buried in civilian cemeteries in the city and surrounding villages.  Later the bodies were exhumed and reburied at St Symphorien which became a symbolic site because of the equal numbers of victims from both sides laid to rest in the same cemetery.

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