Following the Great War a Monument was designed to hold the names of those with no know grave who were lost in the Ypres Salient. The Menin Gate was built for that purpose and stands on the Ieper-Menin Road at the edge of – what was – a walled city. Every day at 2000hrs the buglers come to play the last post.
I arrived at about 7:30 and a crowd had already gathered, by 10 to 8 the inside of the gate was full and the crowd was starting to spill onto the streets at each side. This is one of the ‘must do’ when you come to Ieper.
Saturday is apparently extra special as this is when any guests buglers perform and when names of the fallen – representing the same week during one of the war years are read. At tonight’s ceremony, 5 names were read out to represent the fallen. At the end, the verse common to November 11th that ends – “We shall remember them” is read, followed by the buglers. In the somewhat enclosed arch of the gate the bugles sound very rich.
This ceremony is performed every day – with the exception of the German Occupation in WWII. It has taken on a somewhat ‘touristy’ look in the attendance but the fact that it has been maintained for almost 90 years is exceptional.
I couldn’t help thinking what it will be like to hear the bugles this November 11th at home. Knowing I have attended the Last Post at Menin Gate, watched the Canadian Flag raised at Vimy Ridge, and looked on the graves and names of hundreds of thousands that fell. This trip is emotional but not in a abrupt way. You realize slowly what looking at all these places means to you.
I make a point of signing the Visitors book at every Monument and Cemetery. I think it is important to demonstrate that these sites are not forgotten