The tiny village of Ville-sur-Haine carries a huge WWI memory: The final moments of Canadian George Price.
George Price was born just a few hours from where I grew up in Nova Scotia. With his handsome, gentle face he could be anyone's neighbor or friend. But history has memorialized George Price with a far crueler distinction, for he was the last Commonwealth soldier killed in the First World War. The more I read about Price, the more I wanted to learn about him.
Had it been any other day of the war, its likely that Price's legacy would be all but obscured from memory, just another soldier, just another death. But when Price died in Ville-sur-Haine at 10:58 am on November 11, 1918, just two minutes before the armistice came into effect, he became a symbol for the senseless loss of war.
“TO THE MEMORY OF 256265 PRIVATE GEORGE LAWRENCE PRICE 28th NORTH WEST BATTALION 6th CANADIAN INFANTRY BRIGADE 2nd CANADIAN DIVISION KILLED IN ACTION NEAR THIS SPOT AT 10.58 HOURS NOVEMBER 11TH 1918 THE LAST CANADIAN SOLDIER TO DIE ON THE WESTERN FRONT IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR ERECTED BY HIS COMRADES NOVEMBER 11TH 1968”
50 years later, the surviving members of his battalion gathered to commemorate his death and erected a plaque on the home where Price passed away. Sadly, that house no longer exists, demolished when the canal separating Havre and Ville-sur-Haine was widened. Today, the plaque is part of a brick memorial commemorating the George Price Footbridge that spans the newly widened canal. Locals say that the brick in the memorial came from the Stievenart family home where the plaque was first revealed - and where Price lived out his last moments.
Practical travel information for visiting Ville-sur-Haine
We rented a car when we arrived in Amsterdam as it was more economical to drive into Belgium than take the train to Mons and rent locally. Our car came with built in GPS and I would advise investing in a road atlas if your car is GPS free. But follow GPS instructions with caution - it may send you down rural roads that are little more than tractor paths in farm fields! Many rural roads are narrow and sometimes unpaved and you should use caution driving in mud and snow.
The plaque honouring George Price is at the base of the footbridge in Ville-Sur-Haine. The bridge is very striking and impossible to miss and you can easily see the brick memorial from the bridge if you walk across it starting in Havre. For more information on the life and death of George Price, I found this blog very helpful.
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