Menin Gate, Ieper
The Menin Gate is by far the most prominent attraction in the city, with 54,000 names of missing Great War soldiers carved on its walls. Every evening at 8pm the war dead are remembered. Bugle players from the local fire brigade sound the Last Post, after which point wreaths of poppies are laid by servicemen and other members of the public.
It can get extremely crowded, as you can see from my photo! Fortunately I am over 6 feet tall so could see something. I was there on a Saturday and large crowds were already gathering by 7:15pm. There were very many coaches of visitors arriving for the event, including very many school age children (I understand the UK government has given money to schools to pay for trips to Flanders for the centenary).
The Menin Gate was completed in 1927 and the Last Post has been sounded every evening since, with the exception of the years of German occupation during the Second World War. Even so, the fire brigade ran out to play their bugles under the arch as the German troops were being chased out of town.
Unfortunately the stone panels containing the name of my great-great uncle Frank had been removed for cleaning and restoration, but hopefully you'll have more luck finding your ancestor!
Delegations of schools, patriotic and military associations from the countries of the Commonwealth having participated to WW I are generally present at the daily ceremony of Last Post. The calendar of their passage can be found on the site of the association: www.lastpost.be .
During our VT meeting in Ypres/Ieper on April 21, 2007 we saw a delegation of recruits of the Welsh Guards (in civilian suits with the red and blue tie of the regiment, pic 1 & 5) . The officer leading them was in uniform wearing a cap with the typical badge of a "leek", ancestral Welsh military emblem .
I have a personal gratitude towards the Welsh Guards regiment because they liberated Brussels on Sept. 3, 1944 (see my intro page on Belgium and Brussels Liberation of Brussels).
They left numerous dead on the battlefields of France and Flanders during the Great War. The names of the "missing" are engraved on the walls of the Menin Gate memorial. (pic 2).
The 1st battalion of Welsh Guards was raised in Feb. 1915 and arrived in France in August, 1915. It was part of the Guards Division and participated in 1917 to the battles of Ypres and Passendale.
Approximately 4.050 Welsh Guards participated in the operations from 1915 till November, 1918. Among them 880 were killed, 1.750 were wounded (information by courtesy of Nick Farr, WGO) .
At the Menin Gate on this 26.996th "Last Post" ceremony the recruits of the Welsh Guards honoured their predecessors; within some months they will belong to the elite troops on guard at Buckingham Palace, participating at the "Trooping the Colour" wearing the famous red tunic and bearskin (photo 3 by courtesy of WelshGuardsOnline).
They will also be on military operations in various countries.
Many soldiers killed in action at the Ypres salient were not buried; they simply disappeared in the ground.
Others whose bodies were found could not be identified and lie in cemeteries as unknown soldiers.
The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing bears the names of 54.896 men who lost their lives between the start of the war and 15 August 1917.
"IN MAIOREM DEI GLORIAM
HERE ARE RECORDED NAMES
OF OFFICERS AND MEN WHO FELL
IN YPRES SALIENT BUT TO WHOM
THE FORTUNE OF WAR DENIED
THE KNOWN AND HONOURED BURIAL
GIVEN TO THEIR COMRADES IN DEATH"
After that date the other 34.984 missing soldiers are mentioned on the monument of the Tyne Cot cemetery in Passendale.
Can you imagine 90.000 missing only for the British and Commonwealth forces at the salient of Ypres!
The monument by architect Reginald Blomfield was built in a classic style at the cutting through the remains of the ancient ramparts crossing the moat known as the "Meenenpoorte". The road from this gateway leads to the town of Menin. During almost the whole period of the war thousands of British and Commonwealth troops marched through this gateway into the battlefields of the Ypres Salient.
The Monument was begun in June 1921 and inaugurated in 1927 and became one of the best known British and Commonwealth WW I monuments.
The names of the missing are engraved on the walls and are arranged by regiment and rank. British, Canadians, Australians, Indians, Gurkhas; the list goes on.
New Zealand forces are named on separate memorials.
The Menin Road is still an important thoroughfare. Cars and pedestrians pass under the gate as part of the daily life of Ieper/Ypres.
The tradition of the final bugle call of the day signalling the end of the soldier's day dates back to the 17th century in the British Army.
After the officer on duty had inspected the final sentry post, the bugle call of "Last Post" was sounded. This was the final warning that everyone should be back in their billets.
The "Last Post" bugle call is used at military funerals and memorials because it symbolises the end of the soldier's day in so far as the dead soldier has finished his duty and can rest in peace.
In 1928, citizens of Ypres decided to express the gratitude of the Belgian nation towards those who had died for its freedom and independence by a daily ceremony at the Menin Gate Memorial.
A Last Post Committee was established. The privilege of playing Last Post was given to buglers of the local volunteer Fire Brigade. They received silver bugles from British associations.
From 11 November, 1929 the Last Post has been sounded at the Menin Gate memorial every night at 8.00 pm.
The only exception to this was during the German occupation of WW II. During these four years the daily ceremony was instead continued in England at Brookwood Military Cemetery,
On the very evening (Sept 6, 1944) that Polish forces liberated Ypres the ceremony was resumed at the Menin Gate, in spite of the fighting still going on in other parts of the town.
Belgium honored the Poles who liberated large part of Flanders in September 1944 by giving the 9th Rifle Battalion, from the 3rd Polish Infantry Brigade, along with the title "Rifle Flanders" shoulder cords called "Fourragere" in the colors of the Belgian War Cross (9 Battalion Strzelców Flandryjskich)
In 1927 in Ypres Menin Gate built by the British, official name is "Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing", it is in memory of the soldiers who served in the First World War died on the battlefields of Ypres and of which their bodies never be retrieved or identified
The names are engraved in Portland Stone panels fixed to the inner walls of the central hall, there are 54,896 missing soldiers
Menin Gate is one of the most visited spot in Ypres
Every evening at 8 pm sharp "Last Post" blown under the mighty arches of the Menin Gate, in the form of a Roman triumphal arch , bears the names of 54,896 missing soldiers of the former British Empire
Traffic stops for a half hour
The Menin Gate, through which so many hundreds of thousand of troops marched to their deaths, was restored and preserved as a memorial.
54 986 names are written there, men from the UK and the Commonwealth countries who died or who are still 'missing' (their remians are still being found, year in and year out, and are identified when possible and re-buried with full military honours).
It is only when one begins to read those names that the reality begins to enter one's consciousness. These were real people, who loved and were loved.
There will be wreaths, some from UK school parties (this is a common school-organised trip for older UK pupils). There always are wreaths. Read what some of them say.
The Menin Gate is a huge memorial, but it is the small detail which brings home the sheer waste of life.
Every night at 8pm, since 1929 (apart from during the German Occupation in 1940 - 1944), the 'Last Post' is played, and a service of remembrance is held. If you are in Ieper at the right time, you should go. Information here
The Menen Gate
L'ancienne porte de Menin fut détruite lors des combats de la première mondiale. Au même endroit, de 1923 à 1927 le IMPERIAL WAR GRAVES COMISSION fit construire un grand mémorial de guerre par l'architecte sir Reginald Blomfield de Londres en mémoire des soldats de l'empire Britannique disparus durant les combats dans le secteur d'Ypres.
The old Menen gate is destroid during WW I
On the same place, in 1923-27 THE IMPERIAL WAR GRAVES COMISSION build a great Britan warmonument. (architect: Reginald Blomfield from London)
It remember al the died and wounded of the British Army in the Ieper sector.
We walked up to and through the archway, reading as we went some of the names of 55,000 British soldiers who died in uniform but have no known graves.
As we did so we visulised and heard the scene we have watched so many times on film and TV - the daily salute of the Last Post played by a bugler of the local fire brigade band in tribute and remembrance to all who died here.
Afterwards we climbed the short ascent to the ramparts.
There, 4 or 5 American visitors aged about 14/15, who did not appear to be in the company of an adult, played leap-frog over the granite model of the Gate and pushed their faces inside whenever anyone attempted to take a photograph.
Their girlfirends were embarrassed, not to say distressed, and finally succeeded in dragging them away but not before I had let them know how much their lack of awareness and respect could affect and upset other people, specially any visiting relatives of the dead.
We then walked a little way along the ramparts noticing a Memorial "In memory of those from the Indian Army who fought gallantly in Flanders"
An absolute must if you go to Ieper (Ypres) is to see the Menin Gate and attend the Last Post ceremony held every evening there at 20.00 - it lasts about fifteen minutes. It's a good idea to arrive early as there can be large crowds as 20.00 approaches. More information about the history of this moving ceremony can be found on the below website :-
The gate itself is a memorial to the almost 55,000 soldiers of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth who died in the Ypres Salient and have no known grave. More information can be found on the below website :-
I have to admit I was totally overwhelmed and moved when I saw the Menin Gate - and this was my second visit.
You simply cannot comprehend all those men that lost their lives for the sake of war - and it just makes you so sad to think of their lives cut short and the families they left behind.
You must visit the Menin Gate at least once in your lifetime to show your respects - perhaps if more people visited and understood the futility of war perhaps the world would be a more peaceful place.
We were honoured to witness the last post - a truly memorable experience.
On the cold evening of January 1, 19:30 we decided to go for a walk in Ypres. We had to hurry to be on time for "The Last Post" ceremony at the Menin Gate Memorial. Even on this special day and the cold, there were many people present showing their respect to all soldiers of the British Commonwealth who fell on the battlefield east of this town during World War I and that have no known grave. In total the names of 54,896 soldiers are written on the walls of the memorial. Everyday since 1928, "The Last Post" has been played with the aim is to maintain this in perpetuity.
As I mentioned in one of my previous tips, poppies (artificial ones) are usual gifts by visitors from the Commonwealth countries. They are put on the memorials in the form of wreaths or as a single poppy on a cross.
Belgians are used to put natural flowers on the graves or monuments.
The natural flowers you can see from my photo at the Menin Gate Memorial are from Belgian Reserve Officers and from a Dutch patriotic association.
The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing was inaugurated on Sunday 24 July, 1927.Nothing prepars for you for the size of it. It is huge!! The memorial contains the names of 54,896 officers and men from all the overseas British and Commonwealth forces who fell in the Ypres Salient before 16 August 1917. Every night at 8pm there is ceremony of the Last Post. ll This is said to move people to tears and is always well attended.
This huge gate or port is a memorial to the 54,896 Brittish soldiers that died before 1917 on the front at Ypres and for whom there is no known grave. The port is built of the place from where the soldiers went to the front. On the port are the names of all the soldiers some have the name they served under because the men gave wrong names and date of birth so that they could serve. It is at this port that every evening at 20.00 the "Last Post" ceremony takes place and that touching ceremony really should not be missed. It can get very busy so if you want to see it get there early.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”
Poem by John McCrae.
When you're visiting Ieper and the region, you will see red poppies everywhere (at menin gate and at the war cemeteries), as these red flowers kind of symbolise the rebirth of life.
As Ieper was almost completely destroyed after the Great War. these flowers were the first to start growing and blooming again, like this they became symbole of remembrance