Director of the Australian War Memorial, Dr Brendan Nelson will be conferred with honorary citizenship by the Flemish city of Ieper (Ypres) at a ceremony in Ieper on Thursday night.
The medieval city of Ypres was at the centre of the protracted battles in Flanders during the First World War. At war’s end the Menin Gate Memorial was built on its wall and inscribed with the names of 55,000 dead and missing, including 6,192 Australians.
The honorary citizenship was conferred upon Dr Nelson at Cloth Hall by the City of Ieper First Deputy Mayor Jef Verschoore, who lauded Dr Nelson for the contribution he has made to bonds between the city and Australia
Dr Nelson, only the 11th person to be so recognised by the city of Ieper, was recognised for his efforts in driving a closer Australia-Ypres relationship as Australia’s ambassador to Belgium and for a range of initiatives since his appointment as Director of the Australian War Memorial.
These include construction of a Flanders Memorial Garden on the grounds of the Memorial, introduction of the Last Post Ceremony, return of the Menin Gate Lions to Ypres in 2017 for the centenary of the battle of Passchendale, construction of replica Lions now permanently placed at the Menin Gate and commissioning of a documentary on the Lions and the links between Australia and Ypres.
In accepting the honour, Dr Nelson said it is a tribute to the 13,000 Australians killed in Flanders, the families who mourned them and the thousands of Australian pilgrims to Ypres every year who pay their respects to them.
“To know Ypres is to know what was given for us, sacrifice beyond our comprehension and the role it played in shaping our sense of who we are,” Dr Nelson said.
After the event Dr Nelson and the Official Party walked from Cloth Hall to the Menin Gate where they attended the Last Post.