Nightly at 8 p.m. since 1928, traffic has been halted and the Last-Post bugle call sounded under the Arch of the Menin Gate Memorial. This ceremony, conducted in the Flanders market town of Ypres is a defining experience for every pilgrim to the Western Front. The Memorial recalls the sacrifice of the fallen soldiers of the British Empire in the defense of the Ypres Salient during the 1914-18 war. The names of nearly 55.000 missing service men are engraved on the panels of this memorial.
A committee consisting of local inhabitants arranged in 1928 for the nightly ceremony which takes place, year in year out, in rain or snow or gloom of night. On stormy winter nights only a handful of visitors witness the event, but at the height of tourist season thousands may be present including veterans marching in formation and groups of school children from the contesting nations. Buglers of the local voluntary Fire Brigade are given the privilege to pay this tribute to the fallen soldiers. A fund was raised through contributions from local townspeople and later also from gifts by the British Commonwealth sympathizers in order to meet the expense.
Full View of Menin Gate, Cloth Hall in Rear
The sounding of the Last Post is the main token of gratitude by the Ypres inhabitants towards the nearly 400.000 allied service men who fell in action in defense of the Ypres Salient. The numerous cemeteries and monuments in the area are silent witnesses of the tremendous loss incurred in defending an area ten by twenty miles. The dead and missing came from every Allied country: Great-Britain, but also Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Newfoundland, India, Pakistan, Ceylon, China, France and its colonial Empire, the United States, Portugal as well as Belgium. The former enemy is also included in this tribute, as a gesture of friendly understanding and brotherhood of men.
Through the years the Last Post ceremony has become part of the daily life in Ypres. It brings to memory the long and tragic misery of the years of war and their aftermath. The ceremony was forbidden during the German occupation of World War II, but resumed the very evening Canadian Forces relieved the town in 1944. During the sounding of the Last Post bugle call one tends to visualize the thousands of soldiers who marched up to the front line with their pack on their back and rifle slung, many never to return.
The Last Post Committee is to be thanked for providing this information and photos.