Names of soldiers who died in Flanders around the Ieper area whose remains were never identified. They are inscribed on the panels of the impressive Menin Gate CWGC memorial.
Reginald Blomfield’s triumphal arch at one of the entrances into Ieper (Ypres) was designed in 1921. It honours the missing of World War One in Flanders, who have no known graves. The lion on the top is the lion of Britain but also the lion of Flanders. It was chosen to be a memorial as it was the closest gate of the town to the fighting, and so Allied Troops would have marched past it on their way to fight.
Its large Hall of Memory contains names on stone panels of 54,395 Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Ieper Salient but whose bodies have never been identified or found. On completion of the memorial, it was discovered to be too small to contain all the names as originally planned. A cut-off point of 15th August 1917 was chosen and the names of 34,984 UK missing after this date were inscribed on the Tyne Cot memorial instead. The Menin Gate Memorial does not list the names of the missing soldiers of New Zealand and Newfoundland, who are instead honoured on separate memorials.
The inscription inside the archway is similar to the one at Tyne Cot, with the addition of the Latin phrase meaning ‘To the Greater Glory of God”: Ad Majorem 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”. Both this inscription, and the main overhead inscription on both the east- and west-facing façades of the arch, were composed by Rudyard Kipling.
On the opposite side of the archway to that inscription is the shorter dedication: “They shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away”. There are also Latin inscriptions set in circular panels either side of the archway, on both the east and west sides: “Pro Patria” and “Pro Rege” (‘For Country’ and ‘For King’). A French inscription mentions the citizens of Ypres: “Erigé par les nations de l’Empire Britannique en l’honneur de leurs morts ce monument est offert aux citoyens d’Ypres pour l’ornement de leur cité et en commémoration des jours où l’Armée Britannique l’a défendue contre l’envahisseur“, which translated into English means: “Erected by the nations of the British Empire in honour of their dead this monument is offered to the citizens of Ypres for the ornament of their city and in commemoration of the days where the British Army defended it against the invader.”
Reaction to the Menin Gate, the first of the Commonwealth War Grave Commission’s memorials to the missing, ranged from its condemnation by the war poet, Siegried Sassoon, to praise by the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig.
On high ground overlooking the River Ancre in France, where some of the heaviest fighting of the First World War took place, stands the Thiepval Memorial. Towering over 45 metres in height, it dominates the landscape for miles around. It is the largest Commonwealth memorial to the missing in the world and is maintained by the CWGC.
Thiepval Memorial was designed by the famous British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and comprises a series of intersecting arches which increase in height and proportionate width. Construction began in 1928 following lengthy negotiations about the site with foundations dug to a depth of thirty feet. Wartime tunnels and unexploded ordnance were discovered during its construction.
Thiepval Memorial was unveiled on 1st August 1932 by Prince Edward, the Prince of Wales. The ceremony was in English and French. Each year on the anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme (1916) on 1st July, a ceremony is held there.
On 1st July 2016, to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, thousands of people attended a special ceremony including members of the British Royal family, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, French President François Hollande, President Michael D. Higgins and Minister Heather Humphreys from Monaghan, who was then responsible for Commemorations. I attended in my capacity as a member of the Irish veterans’ group, O.N.E. along with its Chief Executive Ollie O’Connor.
Behind the memorial is the Thiepval Anglo-French Cemetery. The cemetery contains the graves of 300 Commonwealth servicemen and 300 French servicemen. The majority of these men died during the Battle of the Somme, but some also fell in the battles near Loos and Le Quesnel.
This CWGC cemetery where Captain Norman Leslie from Glaslough Co. Monaghan is buried is in France.
It is close to the border with Belgium at Houplines, and outside the village of La Chapelle-d’Armentieres, not far from Armentières itself.
This area was in the hands of Commonwealth forces from October 1914 until the fall of Armentières on 10th April 1918. It was retaken in the following October.
During the Allied occupation, the village was very close to the front line and its cemeteries were made by fighting units and field ambulances in the earlier days of trench warfare.
Chapelle-d’Armentières Old Military Cemetery was begun in October 1914 by units of the 6th Division and used until October 1915. The cemetery contains 103 First World War burials, three of them unidentified. The cemetery was designed by W H Cowlishaw.