The Menin Gate is one of four memorials to the missing in the area known as the Ypres Salient. It was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield with sculpture by Sir William Reid-Dick and is now maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It bears the names of more than 54,000 soldiers from Australia, Canada, India, South Africa, and the United Kingdom who died in the Salient and whose graves are unknown. Sadly, upon completion, it was realized that it was going to be too small to contain all the names of missing soldiers so the almost 35,000 UK soldiers missing after August 15, 1917 are inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial. The site was chosen because of the hundreds of thousands of men who passed through it on their way to the battlefields.
The Menin Gate Memorial was unveiled on July 24, 1927. After the opening the citizens of Ypres wanted to show their gratitude towards those who had given their lives for Belgium’s freedom and the ‘Last Post‘ ceremony was started. Every evening at 8:00 pm buglers from the local fire brigade close the road which passes under the memorial and sound the Last Post. This ceremony has taken place every evening uninterrupted since July 2, 1928 except during the German occupation in WWII. During that time the ceremony was moved to Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey, England with it moving back to Menin Gate on the evening the Polish forces liberated Ypres during WWII.
On July 9, 2015 the Last Post will be sounded for the 30,000 time. “A Tribute to the Tribute” is being organized whereby people around the world will be asked to follow the Last Post ceremony live at their local fire stations. This isn’t meant to be a large-scale spectacular event, but instead a quiet and dignified service with a moment of silence just as it is every evening in Ypres. It’s meant to be a simple gesture to thank the buglers who have paid their own tribute to the fallen soldiers of WWI all those 30,000 times.
I can’t recommend a visit to this site and moving ceremony enough. The traffic is stopped and people gather and then a stillness descends over the memorial. The bugles begin the Last Post which is played as a final farewell, symbolizing the fact that the duty of the fallen soldier is over and that he can now rest in peace. This is followed by a moment of silence and then, if it is not an extended ceremony, the buglers will play Réveille and march off. If it is an extended ceremony then there may be wreaths laid or music by bands or choirs. After the wreath laying then a visitor, visiting dignitary, or member of the Last Post Association will say the words of the Exhortation which is taken from Laurence Binyon’s poem For the Fallen –
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
To follow along on our adventures on our trip exploring WWI and WWII sites of Normandy and Belgium, please feel free to check out these posts:
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