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September 2002 - Evening Day One

Arguably the highlight of the two day trip was the evening ceremony at the Menin Gate in the picturesque town of Ypres.

The town is a remarkable monument to human spirit. Having been virtually raised to the ground during the First World War, it has been re-built into an extraordinary town that to all intent and appearances looks like a typical historical middle ages Flemish town. Ypres was the site of the first German gas attack on the Western front and the scene of heavy fighting in 1915. The city was virtually destroyed by shell fire.

Scratch beneath the surface and you will find that in fact today's town is very modern - appearances can certainly be deceptive.

But the wonder of the town of Ypres lies in a simple ceremony which takes place every night at 8 p.m throughout the year at the Menin Gate. At that time the traffic is re-routed and the Last Post sounds out as tourists and historians stand shoulder to shoulder in remembrance of the fallen.

The Menin Gate records the names of 54,900 "missing" who died in the battles around Ypres.

It was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield and work started in June, 1921, thanks to a grant of 150,000 from the British Cabinet. Blomfield (1856-1942) was an architect, garden designer and author who also designed the memorial at Tyne Cot.

It is a great triumphal arch in the Roman tradition with concrete piles driven 36 ft into the ground. It is 135 ft in length. 140 ft wide and 80 ft high. Each night the Last Post is sounded by buglers from Ypres Fire Station.

The short service of prayers is conducted in both English and Flemish. The ceremony leaves a feeling of well-being in everyone there. After all there can't be too much wrong in a nation where every night they remember the sacrifices made by so many young men so long ago. It would have been so easy to decided that enough is enough. But Ypres will always remember both today and in the long days of the future. This is a town confident in its present and future but with a debt to the past.

Below are photographs taken of Ypres and the Menin Ceremony.

On the left is the 20th century Ypres Cathedral and on the right is the main town square

The Menin Gate