One of the most important items in Ypres to the
British visitor is the Menin Gate
built on the site of the original Hangoert Gate which was later
called the Antwerp Gate. This magnificent archway was designed by
Sir Reginald Blomfield and was inaugurated by Field-Marshall
Plumer on July24th 1927 in the presence of King Albert. At the
time of the Great War there was no actual gate on the site. It
was indicated by the presence of two lions, one on each side of
the roadway which cut through the walls. These lions are now in
Canberra Australia. Through this cutting many men wended their
way to the salient. A tag line at the time was "Tell the
last man through to bolt the Menin Gate"
Now the archway forms the British Memorial to the missing and bears the names of 54,896 of those who died between 1914 and August 15th 1917 and who have no known grave. Their names are engraved on panels which form the walls on the inside of the archway and on the on the walls on the terraces and stairways. Over the archway a British Lion Broods over the inscription detailing the purpose of the memorial. On each side of the arch the Commission maintains a quiet garden of green lawns and shrubs. Incorporated into the foundations of the memorial is one of the bastions of the old ramparts with one of the sallyports on the northern side.
Immediately after the conclusion of the inauguration ceremony in 1927, The buglers of the Somerset Light Infantry sounded The Last Post and pipers of the Scots Guards played a lament. The simple ceremony of sounding the Last Post every night at 8pm was conceived by Mr P. Vandenbraambussche, the then Superintendent of Ypres Police soon after the unveiling. The buglers of the Ypres Fire Brigade co-operated with the police chief and early in the summer of 1928 the nightly ceremony began. In October of that year it was discontinued until the following spring. The Last Post Committee was formed and soon afterwards the Brussels and Antwerp Branch of the British Legion announced their wish to present Ypres with four silver bugles. In 1935 the British Legion of The County of Surrey subscribed £400 to go towards a fund to fulfil the aims of the Committee.
To ensure the sounding of the Last Post each evening for all time at the British Memorial at The Menin Gate in honour of the soldiers of the British Empire who fell at Ypres or in the neighbourhood during the war of 1914 - 1918 and in addition to do everything that could increase the significance of this tribute to the Armies of the British Empire.
Thus was born a tradition . For ever since November 11th 1929 except for the break during the German occupation of Ypres, from May 20th 1940 to September 6th 1944, it has continued.
The day the Germans left Ypres at about four in the afternoon, the bugles were retrieved from their hiding places and at 8pm once again The Last Post sounded in the evening air.
Two more silver bugles were presented by the Old Contemptibles Association of Blackpool and Fleetwood and, in 1959, Colonel J. Whitaker presented two silver trumpets in memory of former Cavalry and Artillery men and himself who served in the Salient.
Each night, at least two of the firemen in civilian dress take up their positions in the centre of the road beneath the Salient face of the gateway after the traffic has been halted from entering or leaving. Then in a simple but very moving ceremony, the pure tones of the silver bugles ring out and then echo away, never to a deserted scene. On major anniversaries and ceremonies involving the British or Ypres Municipal celebrations, up to six firemen blow the Call and often Reveille. The Chaplain of St Georges and perhaps the Dean will say prayers before a congregation of hundreds and wreaths will be laid on the stairways.
The simple ceremony is most moving and the atmosphere has to be experienced to be believed!
Please also see Tom Morgan's article on the Menin Gate from the Hellfire Corner Great War site.
This site is a work in progress. Last updated 16th February 1999.
Please call back soon as it is being continually updated.
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