In the US we are familiar with reenactments of battles from the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Not surprisingly, the British and the Europeans also reenact battles. On August 23, exactly one hundred years after the Battle of Mons, British Tommies and officers paraded in the streets and square of Mons dressed in exact replicas of the uniforms the soldiers wore in the opening days of World War I. The same course, scratchy material, the same leather for their boots and belts, real Enfield-Lee rifles, and authentic kits made up their garb.
Most of the soldiers were still in the British army or had retired from it, so they had a direct historical connection with the events they were portraying. Some we spoke to claimed that before they got through the day, their necks were chaffed raw by the course stuff their uniforms were made of. This gave them a good idea of what their fellow soldiers of one hundred years ago had to suffer. In fact, the British Expeditionary Force was issued brand new stiff boots before they embarked for France, and then marched on to Belgium. Blisters, swollen feet, and great pain made their lengthy trek a sore beginning for the fight that was to follow.
In the background of the picture is the City Hall of Mons. It is an ancient, elegant building. After the day’s commemoration ceremonies on the 23rd , along with about one hundred dignitaries, we were received in the second floor great hall by the Mayor of Mons and the Prime Minister of Belgium. We were deeply moved by the day’s events. And we met people who are interested in the Angel of Mons, and in my novel.