WREATH LAYING, IEPER

Wreath laying by Michael Fisher at Last Post ceremony in Ieper

The highlight of our five day visit to Flanders was to attend the daily Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate memorial in Ieper. Buglers from the local fire brigade sound the Last Post at 8pm. It’s a tradition that was started after the end of WWI in July 1928.

Charles Wills placed a wreath in memory of soldiers from Co. Mayo

One wreath was laid by Charles Wills from Foxford in memory of Irish soldiers in the British Army who were from Co. Mayo.

Laurel wreath in memory of those soldiers from Ireland who died in WWI

I laid a laurel wreath with a tricolour ribbon attached in memory of all those soldiers from the island of Ireland who died in the 1914-18 conflict.

Waiting to lay the wreath

Along with Charles we waited in line behind some former British soldiers and a group from the Orange Order in Scotland for our turn to lay the wreaths at the memorial.

Laying a wreath in memory of those soldiers from Co. Mayo killed in WWI

The wreaths laid at the Last Post ceremony

Placing a wreath at the Menin Gate memorial

Our group at the Menin Gate following the ceremony

It was a fitting end to a very busy day visiting some of the CWGC cemeteries in Flanders around Ieper. We will remember them.

LAST POST, IEPER

Buglers from the Last Post Association

On the fourth day of our tour in July, the group attended the daily Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate Memorial in Ieper. Two of us laid wreaths along with several other groups. See a separate report.

Wreath Laying at the Menin Gate

On Friday, 6th September a special ceremony was held in Ieper to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the city 75 years ago by the 1st Polish Armoured Division commanded by General Maczek on 6th September 1944.

Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate

The daily Last Post ceremony was held for the first time on 2nd July 1928. It was suspended on 21st May 1940, following the German occupation of the city at the start of the Second World War. It is not known whether this was a decision imposed by the occupying German authorities or was voluntarily undertaken by Richard Leclercq, who was then chairman of the Last Post Committee.

Belgian Plot at Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey

From January 1941, the Ieper Last Post ceremony was continued at Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey and this at the initiative of Edgar Ashley Cook, MBE. A number of members of the Belgian Defence Forces who died during their WWII service in England are buried there.

Guy Gruwez, honorary chairman of the Last Post Association: “By 5 o’clock in the afternoon of 6 September 1944, the city had already been liberated by the Polish Division that was fighting alongside the Canadian Army. There was a great sense of joy and relief. Bugler Jozef Arfeuille thought immediately to celebrate this unique moment by a resumption of the Last Post ceremony. He went with a group of neighbours and friends to the Menin Gate, where he played the Last Post no fewer than six times, or so it is claimed, to mark the restoration of our freedom. In this way, the daily ceremony was re-initiated after a gap of four years.

For many years, the City of Ieper has commemorated the liberation together with the City of St. Omer, the city in France with which Ieper is twinned. Both cities were liberated on the same day in September 1944 by the same Polish Armoured Division. The commemorative ceremony is held on alternating years in each city. In 2019, it is the turn of St Omer, where the ceremony take place on Sunday, 1st September.

Fisher J. (no relation) was an English soldier

Alderman Diego Desmadryl: “Because this year is a special anniversary, the City of Ieper did not want to let this occasion pass without some form of recognition. As a result, we arranged a programme of events in Ieper on Friday 6th September. This consisted of a short ceremony at the Polish memorial plaque on the Cloth Hall at 19:30hrs, followed by the daily Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate at 20.00. This was arranged by the city authorities in collaboration with the Last Post Association and the Royal Association of Veterans (and persons treated as such).”

Wreath laying ceremony at the Menin Gate

Benoit Mottrie, present chairman of the Last Post Association: “On 6th September 2019, the Last Post ceremony was held for the 31,520th time. During the past 25 years, public and international interest has increased enormously. For this reason, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my predecessors, all past and current members of the board of directors and all other supporters of our Association. In particular, I would like offer a special word of thanks to all past and present buglers and ceremonial assistants, who give their time so freely and so generously. In this way, we will continue to remember each day those who died for the liberation of the city and the restoration of our freedom.”

Our group after the Last Post ceremony