Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Last Post at Menin Gate

The final stop on our early-December trip through WW1/2 battle sites was Iepers (Iepers is the Flemish name, we might know it better by the French name of Ypres) in the west side of Belgium. There stands Menin Gate at the entrance to the old city. The archway is incredibly impressive, and was built as a WW1 memorial, listing nearly 60,000 missing in action from the Commonwealth military in Belgium. About 7,000 Canadians who were MIA in Belgium are included here, with the ones from France on the Vimy Memorial.

The Last Post Association

The gate is pretty impressive by day, but it's ethereal when lit up at night. It's not flashy or showy, but the gate almost seems to glow from within.

Since 1928, every night at 2000h, the town's fire brigade conducts a "Last Post" ceremony to honour the fallen. It occurs rain or shine, and differs slightly depending on if dignitaries are present and such. The constants are playing the Last Post and also Reveille. The only times the ceremony was cancelled was during the Nazi occupation of Belgium in WW2. Indeed, the very day that Iepers was liberated in WW2 by the Allies, the fire brigade was ready and conducted the ceremony that very evening.

This is a video of the "Reveille" they played at the end of the ceremony

We ended up taking in the Last Post with the Toombes family from near Oxford, UK. We met them earlier that day at the Vimy Memorial, taking the tour of the trenches and tunnels together. They were staying in Iepers for a few days with their daughter and her partner, doing some shopping and taking in the war sites like we were. Michael was involved with the fire department at Oxford, and apparently the brigade there often comes to Iepers for Remembrance Day. Taking in the ceremony was a terrific finish to a fabulous trip.

We were actually incredibly fortunate with the weather the entire 4 days. It rained almost all day Saturday, but the one time it stopped was the 2h we were at Dieppe! And on Monday touring the Normandy beaches, it was absolutely beautiful while we were outdoors at the German and American cemeteries, poured rain while we were driving to and inside Juno Beach, then cleared up afterwards. And it was again beautiful all day outdoors at Vimy and in Iepers. But after we got back into the car after Last Post, it literally began raining hard again as soon as we drove through Menin Gate for home!

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