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.
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.
One wreath was laid by Charles Wills from Foxford in memory of Irish soldiers in the British Army who were from Co. Mayo.
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.
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.
It was a fitting end to a very busy day visiting some of the CWGC cemeteries in Flanders around Ieper. We will remember them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).”
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.”
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.