From Langemarck to Messines and from Poperinghe to Dadizeele, there are 137 cemeteries in Belgian Flanders containing the dead of the Commonwealth Forces; and in those cemeteries there are the graves of 40,000 unidentified soldiers. They, and 50,000 others whose graves are not even to that extent known or marked, are the officers and men commemorated by name on the four Commission Memorials in Belgium.
Menin Gate Memorial Ypres
Ypres (now Ieper) is a town in the Province of West Flanders.
The Memorial is situated at the eastern side of the town on the road to Menin (Menen) and Courtrai (Kortrijk), and bears the names of 55,000 men who were lost without trace during the defence of the Ypres Salient in the First World War.
The names from all the overseas forces except those of New Zealand and Newfoundland, and the names from the Corps and Regiments of the United Kingdom of those who fell before 16 August 1917 appear on the Menin Gate. Ypres (now known as Ieper). The names from the forces of the United Kingdom from that date, with those of certain New Zealand dead, appear on a Memorial at Tyne Cot Cemetery, Passchendaele. The remaining New Zealand names appear on Memorials in Buttes New British Cemetery, Polygon Wood, Zonnebeke, and Messines Ridge British Cemetery.
The Menin Gate was a natural site for selection; hundreds of thousands of men passed through it to the battlefields of the Ypres Salient, and it represents the deliberate obstinacy with which the British Empire, from 1914-1918, refused to surrender a few square miles of Belgium soil.
At the Menin Gate there stands today a “ Hall of Memory”, 36.5 metres long and 20 metres wide, covered in by a coffered halt-elliptical arch in a single span. At either end is an archway 9 metres high, with flat arches on either side of it 3.5 metres wide and nearly 7 metres high. In the center of the sides are broad staircases, leading up to the ramparts and to loggias running the whole length of the building. The names of 54,000 officers and men are engraved in Portland Stone panels fixed to the inner walls of the Hall, up the sides of the staircases, and inside the loggias. Each of the four straight arches is flanked on either side by an engaged Doric column and surmounted by an entablature. Over the central arches are large panels for the dedicatory inscriptions; above these panels is a recumbent lion on the east side, and a sarcophagus, with a flag and a wreath, on the side facing the town.
The inscriptions repeated over the two main arches is:
TO THE ARMIES OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE WHO
STOOD HERE FROM 1914 TO 1918 AND TO THOSE
OF THEIR DEAD WHO HAVE NO KNOWN GRAVE
The following words are inscribed over the entrance to the southern staircase leading out of the main hall:
IN MAIOREM DEI GLORIAM
HERE ARE RECORDED NAMES OF OFFICERS AND
MEN WHO FELL IN YPRES SALIENT BUT TO WHOM
THE FORTUNE OF WAR DENIED THE KNOWN AND
HONOURED BURIAL GIVEN TO THEIR COMRADES
Over the entrance to the northern staircase are the words:
THEY SHALL RECEIVE A CROWN OF GLORY THAT
FADETH NOT AWAY
The following inscription is carved on a frieze above the panels, which contain the names:
1914 – HERE ARE RECORDED THE NAMES OF OFFICERS AND MEN OF THE ARMIES OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE
WHO FELL IN YPRES SALIENT, BUT TO WHOM THE
FORTUNE OF WAR DENIED THE KNOWN AND
HONOURED BURIAL GIVEN TO THEIR COMRADES
IN DEATH – 1918
The Memorial built of reinforced concrete faced with Euville stone and red brick, was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield and unveiled by Field Marshall Plumer in 1927.
Each night at 8 pm the traffic is stopped at the Menin Gate while members of the local Fire Brigade sound the Last Post in the roadway under the Memorial’s arches.
If you are visiting Ypres, check for any special events that may be on at the Menin Gate – www.lastpost.be
A diary of events can be found at this website.
THE TYNE COT MEMORIAL
The Tyne Cot Memorial forms the north-eastern boundary of Tyne Cot Cemetery, which is situated between Passchendaele (now Passendale) and Zonnebeke. The name “Tyne Cottages” or “Tyne Cots” was given by the Northumberland Fusiliers to a group of German blockhouses, or pill-boxes, situated near the level crossing on the Passchendaele-Broodseinde Road. Three of these blockhouses still stand in the cemetery, the largest was captured on 4 October 1917 by the 3rd Australian Division, was chosen as the site for the Cross of Sacrifice by King George V during his pilgrimage to the cemeteries of the Western Front in Belgium and France in 1922. The Tyne Cot cemetery is now the resting-place of nearly 12,000 soldiers of the Commonwealth Forces, the largest number of burials of any Commonwealth cemetery of either world war. It first came into being in October 1917 when one of the captured pill-boxes was used as an Advanced Dressing Station (ADS), resulting in some 350 burials between then and the end of March 1918. The cemetery was much enlarged after the Armistice by the concentration of over 11,500 graves from the battlefields of Passchendaele and Langemarck and from a few small burial grounds. The dates of death cover the four years from October 1914 to September 1918 inclusive. Unnamed graves in the cemetery number nearly 8,400, or seventy percent of the total, and the names of the unidentified soldiers who lie in them are inscribed on the Menin Gate and on the panels of the Memorial, which stands to the rear of the cemetery.
The Memorial was designed by Herbert Baker and with sculpture by F.V. Blundstone, is a semicircular flint wall 4.25 metres high and over 150 metres long, faced with panels of Portland stone on which are carved nearly 35,000 names of those who have no known grave. There are three apses and two rotundas; the central apse forms the New Zealand Memorial and bears the names of nearly 1,200 officers and men who gave their lives in the Battle of Broodseinde and in the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) in October 1917; the other two, as well as the rotundas and the wall itself, carry the names of United Kingdom dead who fell in the Salient between the 15 August 1917, when the Battle of Langemarck began, and the Armistice, in the third and fourth Battles of Ypres. Two domed arched pavilions mark the ends of the main wall, each dome being surmounted by a winged female figure with head bowed over a wreath.
Information kindly supplied by The Commonwealth War Graves.