The Menin Gate in Ypres
Every day without fail, the remembrance goes on
After the end of WW1 hostilities in 1918, the British were keen to build a Memorial to men known to be 'missing, presumed dead'. Cemeteries were rapidly being built around the Ypres Salient area where graves were filled with men, many of which could not be identified and described on the tombstones as 'A soldier of the Great War - known to God'.
It became important that these men should be commemorated with a suitable Monument. After some discussion, it was decided the Menin Gate Bridge should be re-built and become an everlasting tribute to the fallen. It is said that many troops who passed through the Gate joked by saying "Would the last one out, please close the Menin Gate". So, the Site was chosen well.
The Building was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield.
The enormity of the task is quite staggering. After it had been finished, the names of 15,896 servicemen were tooled into the walls both inside and out.
On the top of both the arches is the inscription
'TO THE ARMIES OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE WHO STOOD HERE FROM 1914 TO 1918 AND TO THOSE OF THEIR DEAD WHO HAVE NO KNOWN GRAVE'
Because of the obvious amount of hard work involved, the Gate was not completed until 1927. The people of Ypres wished to express their thanks to all those who fought for their Town and Country and from that time, every day at 8pm, Buglars from the local Fire Brigade come to play the Last Post, which has become part of the evening Ceremony. During WW2 this became impossible, so the Ceremony was moved to Brookwood Military Cemetery in England.
The Ceremony takes about 10 - 15 minutes, the roads leading into the gate are closed at this time. You will also see that some local people will stand on their doorstep whilst this is taking place.
We attended this service not at a weekend, nor during holiday periods, yet on the three evenings we were there, more than 200 minimum attended each day. On Summer weekends and special days such as Remembrance Sunday, this goes up to thousands.
Usually there are some Veterans there, some in Wheelchairs, some who can barely walk and although they obviously didn't serve in that War, it is moving to see such dedication and respect they have in their souls.
One lady on our second evening was helped up to lay a reef. After the Service was over, we read her words....
'To my lovely Dad
Arnold Thomas Copeland
Loved forever and never forgotten
Died in bad health due to gas related illness inflicted during the Great War 1914 - 1918
Still in heart
Ever loving daughter - Florrie'
It kind of summed up what this fine Memorial and Ceremony is all about. But, it also serves as an educational reminder to all those Tourists who go there what a terrible time in our History that was.