We only moved about 50 kilometers today to the town of Ypres. I picked this stop because I was interested in a Commonwealth War Ceremony they have there every night.
Ypres was right on the front lines during WWI and was pretty much fought over for the entire war. In total there were over 1 million casualties in what was called the Ypres Salient (bulge) with over 850,000 combined casualties in a 3 month period in 1917. Ypres was also the first use of poison gas on the western front. The entire town was leveled during the course of the war.
After the war the Belgian government rebuilt the city including duplicating the Cotton Hall and belfry as well as the Cathedral as they stood before the war. Both buildings are impressive sites today.
While French and Belgian troops fought extensively in this area for the allies, a large contingent of British and Commonwealth soldiers fought here. After the war the Belgian government reconstructed the Menin Gate into the city as a war memorial to the Commonwealth and British soldiers who were killed in this area but whose bodies were never properly identified. The monument has over 50,000 names on it from all over the British Empire. There are soldiers from Canada, Australia, India, Burma, and South Africa as well as Great Britain on the memorial.
As a tribute to these men who were lost; every night the Fire Brigade in Ypres has a ceremony called “The Last Post”. At 8pm buglers from the Fire Brigade play the Last Post (the British version of Taps.) inside the Menin Gate. Tonight we attended the ceremony and it is very moving. As we were waiting we heard people from Canada, Australia, and Britain talking about the ceremony and why they were attending. It is a fairly simple but moving ceremony as different groups bring wreaths to present at the Gate. Tonight it was school groups in their uniforms presenting the wreaths. We were very impressed that this ceremony is still being carried out over 100 years after the end of WWI.