Menin Gate Memorial

Menin Gate

The Menin Gate Memorial at the eastern exit of the town of Ypres (known as "Ieper" in Dutch) in Flanders, Belgium, marks the starting point for one of the main roads out of the town that led Allied soldiers to the front line during World War I. Designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield and built by the British government, the Menin Gate Memorial opened on 24 July 1927 as a monument dedicated to the missing British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the fierce battles around the Ypres Salient area who have no known grave.

"Menin" is the French and hence English name for Menen, a small Flemish town to the east of Ypres.

The "Gate" was merely the gap in the city's star-shaped fortifications designed by Louis XIV's engineer Vauban, which were pointless in the age of shelling: Ypres was reduced to rubble.

Reginald Blomfield's triumphal arch, designed in 1921, is the entry to the barrel-vaulted passage for traffic through the mausoleum that honours the Missing, who have no known graves. The patient 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 fighting, and so Allied Troops would have marched past on their way to fight. Actually most troops passed out of the other gates of Ypres as the Menin Gate was too dangerous due to shellfire.

Its large Hall of Memory contains the names of 54,896 Commonwealth soldiers who died without graves, incised into vast panels. On completion of the memorial, it was discovered to be too small to contain all the names as originally planned. An arbitrary cut-off point of 15 August 1917 was chosen and the names of 34,984 UK missing after this date were inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing instead. The Menin Gate Memorial does not list the names of the missing of New Zealand and Newfoundland soldiers who are honoured on separate memorials.

Even to this day, bodies are still very occasionally being found. They receive a proper burial and, if they can be identified, the name is removed from the Menin Gate.

Many famous visitors have come to see the gate over the years, ranging from the obvious like Winston Churchill, to the maybe less obvious like Adolf Hitler, who, en route to the nearby Langemark German war cemetery, passed the Gate and stopped to inspect the memorial.

"The Last Post"

Following the Menin Gate Memorial opening in 1927, the citizens of Ypres wanted to express their gratitude towards those who had given their lives for Belgium's freedom. As such, every evening at 8.00, buglers from the local fire brigade close the road which passes under the Memorial and blow the Last Post. Except for the occupation by the Germans in World War II when the daily ceremony was conducted at Brookwood Military Cemetery, in Surrey, England, this ceremony has been carried on uninterrupted since 2 July, 1928. On the very evening that Polish forces liberated Ypres in the Second War, the ceremony was resumed at the Menin Gate despite the fact that heavy fighting was still taking place in other parts of the town.

If attending the ceremony it is not appropriate to applaud afterwards - it is not intended as an entertainment or a tourist attraction (although it has certainly become one). The buglers usually stay after the ceremony when appreciation can be shown in person.

"He is not missing. He is here."
Lord Plumer's address, 1927

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