A Lego model of the Menin Gate
Having arrived at Citi Europe at 23:45 local time last night we quickly got ready for bed rather than disturb
the neighbours. This parking area is becoming increasingly popular these days.
After a reasonable night's sleep we were up and in to the Carrefour Hypermarket just across the road. I don't
think we've ever spent so little, mainly because The Chef has meals onboard to see us through until we reach the Villeneuve Loubet, just down the road from Nice in the south of France, plus I'm reducing my wine intake and now trying
to drink less of it but better quality, which means I can't stock up as you don't seem to be able to get much good stuff in boxes.
We set off for leper, or Ypres in Belgium
at about 09:40. I had intended to leave about ten but since we were twiddling our thumbs it made sense to leave earlier, and I'm glad we did because we hit a long delay about thirty miles down the road due to road works. On our way here we passed the
spot where, back in November last year, whilst coming to Ypres to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the end of The Great War we became stuck in mud having followed a number of cars across some very wet grass to get around a broken down HGV,
and sure enough the deep ruts we created are still there, now not nearly as visible due to grass having grown through them. So whatever happens to Brexit we can say we've left our mark in Europe.
We arrived here at Camping Jeugdstadion in leper www.jeugdstadion.be
at about 11:40, and although we're not supposed to turn up until 12:00 they let us in. This is about our fourth visit here. It's a great location being just a short walk from town and the Menin Gate memorial.
After an early lunch we set off for a walk around town ending up at the Ramparts Military Cemetery. I have to say, if you've got to end up in a military cemetery then this must be one of the nicest to be in. We've been here before but had
never noticed the high percentage of Canadian, Australian and New Zealanders, mainly Maoris' who are buried there.
Firstly then, about the Menin Gate.
Historically, the Menin Gate of Ypres was simply a crossing point over the moat and through the ramparts of the old town fortifications, on the road to the nearby town of Menin. It had a special significance for
the troops though, as it was from this spot that thousands of soldiers set off for the part of the Front called the Ypres Salient – many destined never to return.
This became the chosen
site for one of the grandest and most haunting memorials of the Great War. The new Menin Gate was built in the form of a Roman triumphal arch, designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield.
white, Portland-stone walls of the Menin Gate are engraved with the names of nearly 55,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers lost on the field of battle but with no known graves; a son, a father, a brother. In fact the walls of the Menin Gate were not big
enough to accomodate all of the names; a further 34,957 names of the last and untraced are inscribed on the walls of Tyne Cot Cemetery to the east of Ypres.
During the inauguration
ceremony, in July 1927, the Last Post was played for the first time by buglers from the Somerset Light Infantry. Since 1928, buglers from the Last Post Association have been playing the 'Last Post' regardless
of the number of attendants or weather conditions.
Unfortunately though, the Germans fancied their chances in a rematch which lead to the Second World War, so from May 1940 when Ypres was
occupied, the Last Post was played every evening by buglers at Brookwood Military Cemetery, Sussex back in the UK.
On 6th September 1944, notwithstanding heavy German resistance, Ypres was liberated by the 1st Polish Tank Division under the leadership
of General Stanislaw Maczek. On that same day ‘Last Post’ was played again at the Menin Gate, and has been every night since. Tonight was the 31,520th occasion since 1928.
why are we here?
I'm not sure quite how it happened but a couple of years ago I became a member of The Last Post Association www.lastpost.be , and having paid my annual dues I received an invitation to attend their special ceremony tonight at the Menin Gate. As it turned out with
our delay at setting off on this trip the date has worked in perfectly to allow us to attend before heading south.
Needless to say it rained and we got a bit wet, even with our macs. We started
off with a short ceremony at the Polish memorial on the wall near the 'In Flanders Field' Museum, and then walked down the road behind a piper and the standard bearers. We even had an area reserved for us inside. The Chef managed to bag a place right at the
front, but as I wanted to video it I thought it best to stand at the back and hoist the video camera high on the monopod, rather than get in peoples way.
I have to say we've seen better
services, but never mind. I'll attempt to upload a small part of it as these things go on and on, as well as gobble up gigabytes.
Tomorrow we need to leave here in good time as we're heading
south to the Med in the hope of finding a bit of warmth sunshine.