‘I’ve never experienced anything like this in my life,’ says Montreal captain of the welcome received in Mons
When Canadian troops marched into Mons, Belgium, 100 years ago, chasing away the remnants of the German army, locals weren’t exactly sure where their liberators were from.
The soldiers were wearing kilts and some had berets with a red pom-pom atop. They looked like the Scots who had tried, unsuccessfully, to keep Mons from falling into German hands at the start of the war, in August 1914.
“We knew you would come back,” the people of Mons shouted. The incoming troops, though, were from Montreal’s own highland regiment, the Black Watch.
Just a few hours after they and a battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment reclaimed the town from the Germans, the Armistice went into effect, and residents joined the Canadians in celebrating the end of the First World War.
On Sunday, there was no mistaking the nationality of the soldiers, veterans and families who had returned to Mons to recreate the final scene of the war.
Canadian flags, both big and small, filled the Belgian town. Around 11 a.m., ET, the pipes and drums of the Black Watch led a parade through the town’s cobblestone streets, following a route similar to the one their predecessors took on Nov. 11, 1918.
Several thousand people from the Mons area attended the parade, despite rain, and applauded as the Canadian contingent marched past.
“Little kids were coming up to us: Vous êtes canadien, merci,” Black Watch honorary Lt.-Col. Bruce Bolton said from Mons. “They were recalling a story from 100 years ago and were emotional, and thanked us in every way possible.”
Bolton, wearing a vintage uniform, took up the position that piper Donald MacLeod occupied 100 years ago, leading the Black Watch into Mons.
100 years later, Belgian town celebrates Canadian
“He was one of my bagpipe teachers in the 1960s,” Bolton said. “I’m doing this for him.”