Wednesday 4 April 2007 by Craig Tibbitts. 3 comments
To Flanders Fields, 1917, Commemoration, Memorials, Research material

Tens of thousands of British and Empire troops remain ‘missing’ in France and Belgium. Some lie in nameless graves while the remains of others have never been found. The Menin Gate at Ypres records the names of 55,000 of the missing in Belgium and a similar number are recorded elsewhere; there are 35,000 names on the Tyne Cot memorial.

The names of Australia’s 6,000 missing in Belgium are engraved on the walls of the Menin Gate.

Menin Gate at Midnight by Will Longstaff (1927) Menin Gate at Midnight by Will Longstaff (1927) ART09807

Menin Gate Memorial

The Menin Gate was so named because here the road out of Ypres passed through the old wall defences going in the direction of Menin. During the war the two stone lions standing on each side of the Menin Gate were seen by tens of thousands of troops as they went towards the front line. The gate, beyond which these men’s fate lay, became highly symbolic. Afterwards it was decided that on this site a huge monument, designed by the architect Sir Reginald Blomfield, would commemorate those of the Empire who were killed in Belgium but have no known grave. The memorial was unveiled by Field Marshal Lord Plumer on 24 July 1927. Although it bears the names of 55,000 soldiers including 6,000 Australians, so great were the casualties that not all the names of “the missing” are here. Every evening the Last Post is sounded under the memorial’s great arch.

Acclaimed British author and poet Rudyard Kipling contributed the following words which were inscribed on both the eastern and western facades of the memorial.

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

And above the staircase arches, the following:

IN MAJOREM DEI GLORIAM

HERE ARE RECORDED NAMES

OF OFFICERS AND MEN WHO FELL

IN YPRES SALIENT, BUT TO WHOM

THE FORTUNES OF WAR DENIED

THE KNOWN AND HONOURED BURIAL

GIVEN TO THEIR COMRADES IN DEATH

- Kipling

Menin Gate Memorial Menin Gate Memorial H16916

More information on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing www.greatwar.co.uk/westfront/ypsalient/meningate/meningate.htm

Comments

Pauline Mitchell

I have just returned from Belgium where I explored with awe and solemnity the historic battle sites and graves. The ceremony at the Menin Gate was memorable with a huge crowd, surprising for a Monday night. In response to the request for love stories and war, I have given to the AWM photography archives, my uncle's WW2 movie footage of his time in Palestine and Egypt, as well as footage taken during the Korean conflict. This footage shows two weddings that he filmed which obviously occurred during war time. I have no knowledge of the brides or grooms but it would be wonderful to find these people or their descendants. What a precious find this would be for them. My uncle's name was Captain John Bryden Wells and he served in the 2/4th Australian Infantry battalion. The film reference for the AWM archives is F11530 and F11533.

Hels

I have been to Gallipoli and Beersheba, but never to the British and Empire war sites in Flanders. Perhaps, having just spent half a day at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, that will be the next trip. I am ambivalent about ANZAC Day. On one hand we really do need to remember those young boys and the terrible pain their families endured. On the other hand, we need to be careful not to glorify war. Thanks for the link, Craig, Hels

Ron Smith

I have been to Ypres on a couple of occasions and witnessed the Menin Gate ceremony. Both times there must have been 3-400 people in attendance. Those folks really do remember; too bad some folks here don't do the same.