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  • The Menin Gate

    Has anyone here ever visited the Menin Gate in Ypres?

    It was one of the many stops on my recent tour through Europe this summer, and it was something that I've wanted to see for a long, long time. For those that may not be entirely aware, the Menin Gate is a war memorial to the missing, situated in the heart of Ypres, listing the names of over 54,000 Commonwealth soldiers who died in or around Ypres in WWI and have no known resting place. Anyone entering Ypres on foot, bike or car has to pass through this giant archway that acts like a gate into the core of the city. Its huge, and a very impressive piece of architecture.

    Everynight at 8 pm the local volunteer fire department stops traffic and plays "Taps" on their bugles. They've been doing this nonstop since the 1920s, but was halted during German occupation in WWII - they resumed the ceremonies immediatley after Ypres was liberated in 1944 by the Poles.

    When we were there in May, there were several 90th anniversary ceremonies happening, and for the two nights we were there, we saw several different Legion, Veterans, and even boy scout and cadet troops lay wreaths and candles within the arch way. One of those nights, a bagpiper joined the buglers and played Amazing Grace, among other tunes, with a huge British crowd singing along. We also sang God Save the Queen, and one group recited the poem "In Flanders Field", which choked me up and nearly brought me to tears - it was very emotional and powerful stuff, hearing those bagpipes and bugles play while gazing at all those thousands of names who died for King and country.

    Just wondering if anyone else has had a chance to see and experience this amazing memorial, and if they'd like to share their thoughts and feelings after seeing it.

  • #2
    My son visited the Menin Gate with a group from his soilders. He saw the evening tribune. He and his friends were very impressed and moved by the memorial and the fact that there is often a large number of Britions who pay tribune to our fallen. In Britain we have started the annual Poppy appeal for all Britain's ex-soilders a tradional that come from the First World War but includes those have fought since and it is good to see so much many on the television wearing a poppy. I am proud to wear my poppy when ever I go out.
    War is less costly than servitude

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    • #3
      Originally posted by kendrick View Post
      My son visited the Menin Gate with a group from his soilders. He saw the evening tribune. He and his friends were very impressed and moved by the memorial and the fact that there is often a large number of Britions who pay tribune to our fallen. In Britain we have started the annual Poppy appeal for all Britain's ex-soilders a tradional that come from the First World War but includes those have fought since and it is good to see so much many on the television wearing a poppy. I am proud to wear my poppy when ever I go out.
      It's been a tradition since ww1 here as well. Good to see a number already starting to wear theirs.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Canuckster View Post
        It's been a tradition since ww1 here as well. Good to see a number already starting to wear theirs.
        Memorial poppies are also sold in Ireland but are not worn by many as it also commemorates British soldiers who fought in Ireland. I feel quite torn about the whole thing as I think it is shameful that we have not done more to commemorate those Irishmen who fell in both World Wars. Happily our President has done much to rectify this in recent years.
        Sorry for posting off topic.
        I have been to the Menin Gate and many of the First and Second World War graves in northern France and found them deeply moving. I hope that my sons never have to make such a sacrifice to fight tyranny.
        "The thing about quotes on the internet is that you cannot confirm their
        validity." - Abraham Lincoln.
        "Nothing's going to change while one side it lying about the cause and the other is lying about the solution" - Me

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        • #5
          Originally posted by E.D. Morel View Post
          Memorial poppies are also sold in Ireland but are not worn by many as it also commemorates British soldiers who fought in Ireland. I feel quite torn about the whole thing as I think it is shameful that we have not done more to commemorate those Irishmen who fell in both World Wars. Happily our President has done much to rectify this in recent years.
          Sorry for posting off topic.
          I have been to the Menin Gate and many of the First and Second World War graves in northern France and found them deeply moving. I hope that my sons never have to make such a sacrifice to fight tyranny.
          Maybe one should be designed that distinguishes it as being an Irish version?

          I know that for a while the Cdn version used a green centre to distinguish from the British, but in recent years we went back to black.

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          • #6
            A beautiful poem but one which should never have had to be written:

            IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
            Between the crosses row on row,
            That mark our place; and in the sky
            The larks, still bravely singing, fly
            Scarce heard amid the guns below.

            We are the Dead. Short days ago
            We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
            Loved and were loved, and now we lie
            In Flanders fields.

            Take up our quarrel with the foe:
            To you from failing hands we throw
            The torch; be yours to hold it high.
            If ye break faith with us who die
            We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
            In Flanders fields.


            Wear those poppies with pride
            "The Eastern front is like a house of cards. If the front is broken through at one point all the rest will collapse."- General Heinz Guderian


            "Oakland Raiders: Committed to Excellence"

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            • #7
              In the Australian War Memorial there is a painting by Will Longstaff, "Menin Gate at Midnight". Go to http://cas.awm.gov.au/item/ART09807 to see this painting and to read a little about its creation. I have been fortunate to see this piece of art up close and personal and it is very moving to think of the fallen rising to assemble and march through this gate.
              Lest we forget.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by E.D. Morel View Post
                Memorial poppies are also sold in Ireland but are not worn by many as it also commemorates British soldiers who fought in Ireland. I feel quite torn about the whole thing as I think it is shameful that we have not done more to commemorate those Irishmen who fell in both World Wars. Happily our President has done much to rectify this in recent years.
                Sorry for posting off topic.
                I have been to the Menin Gate and many of the First and Second World War graves in northern France and found them deeply moving. I hope that my sons never have to make such a sacrifice to fight tyranny.
                I have been to the Menin Gate Memorial twice and attended the 8pm service there. It's exactly as others have described with the Last Post sounded and a short oration from Lawrence Binyon's "For the Fallen." I witnessed a piper from The Royal Irish Regiment play the lament "Flowers of the Forest."

                Morel, I well understand your concern. You may find consolation in a visit to The Irish Peace Park at Messines where the 36th (Ulster) and 16th (Irish) Divisions fought side by side on June 6 & 7, 1917. Also a visit to the 16th Division memorial at Guillemont is worthwhile.
                Hitler played Golf. His bunker shot was a hole in one.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by pball View Post
                  In the Australian War Memorial there is a painting by Will Longstaff, "Menin Gate at Midnight". Go to http://cas.awm.gov.au/item/ART09807 to see this painting and to read a little about its creation. I have been fortunate to see this piece of art up close and personal and it is very moving to think of the fallen rising to assemble and march through this gate.
                  Lest we forget.
                  That is a terrific painting - I boht a post card sized version of it at the Flanders Field Museum in Ypres.

                  Longstaff did another similar painting call "Ghosts of Vimy" - same idea, brings out the same kinds of emtions:
                  Attached Files

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by E.D. Morel View Post
                    Memorial poppies are also sold in Ireland but are not worn by many as it also commemorates British soldiers who fought in Ireland. I feel quite torn about the whole thing as I think it is shameful that we have not done more to commemorate those Irishmen who fell in both World Wars. Happily our President has done much to rectify this in recent years.
                    Sorry for posting off topic.
                    I have been to the Menin Gate and many of the First and Second World War graves in northern France and found them deeply moving. I hope that my sons never have to make such a sacrifice to fight tyranny.
                    With respect exactly what tyranny were the soldiers fighting against in the First World War? I do understand your point about the poppy commerating those British soldiers who fought in Ireland and can see where it would trouble you. However I try to see it not in terms of politics but just as a way of remembering ALL those who suffered in so many wars, and more often than not just how futile those wars actually were.


                    VimyHero17

                    " it was very emotional and powerful stuff, hearing those bagpipes and bugles play while gazing at all those thousands of names who died for King and country."

                    I have not seen the memorial but I hope to one day, however we have smaller memorials all over England. Be it at local village greens, town centres, some railway stations and so on. At one of the main post offices near my parents home there is a large board on the wall with the names of those who worked there and who died in the war. It should be a constant reminder of just how deeply the war struck and how many lives it took and touched. Sadly however I fear most people walk by these reminders without a second thought.

                    The First World War in may respects seems so distant and far away but for many it was not, my old history teacher some twenty years ago when we covered this in school told us about how the war affected his father. Although he did not understand why at the time he sometimes used to find his father sitting staring at the walls and crying. His father later died of the effect of injuries sustained during the war. The direct effects of the war on veterans and families did not end until their deaths (and not just of the veterans themselves) in many cases. There were a number of men who passed away a few years ago who fought in and survived some of the biggest battles of the war, remarkable really.

                    I feel it is important to remember just what the war was and the effect it had - which is why I cannot see it as men laying down their lives for King and Country. While that may have been the propaganda that got many of them out there on what was initially perceived by many as some great adventure. Patriotism, nationalism call it what you will - but most had no choice in the matter. With conscription no one had much of a choice later on, most as far I have seen from veterans memoirs talk of fighting to survive and for their friends around them. I know what we take away from things like war memorials is subjective but I cannot see it as for King and Country.
                    "Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it"
                    G.B Shaw

                    "They promised us homes fit for heroes, they give us heroes fit for homes."
                    Grandad, Only Fools and Horses

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Sergio View Post
                      I feel it is important to remember just what the war was and the effect it had - which is why I cannot see it as men laying down their lives for King and Country. While that may have been the propaganda that got many of them out there on what was initially perceived by many as some great adventure. Patriotism, nationalism call it what you will - but most had no choice in the matter. With conscription no one had much of a choice later on, most as far I have seen from veterans memoirs talk of fighting to survive and for their friends around them. I know what we take away from things like war memorials is subjective but I cannot see it as for King and Country.
                      Fair enough, and I respect your opinion, but I think you are taking my statement there a little too literally. I am a Canadian, and when I was gazing at the names listed on the Memorial, I spent a lot of time scrolling through Canadian names who fell around Ypres. In Canada, the vast majority of men who went overseas to fight in the trenches were volunteers. The Canadian government did indeed pass a Conscription bill in 1917 called The Military Services Act - although it was largely supported by English Canada, it was hated by French Canadians. Regardless, the point is that by 1918 and the end of the war only 125,000 Canadians were drafted, and only 25,000 of those were sent to the front.

                      My point is that all those men from Canada listed on the Menin Gate were volunteers and were not drafted or forced into arms. Those men did indeed sacrifice their lives for King and Country. I know it was different in Great Britain, but I also know other Commonwealth Nations did not enforce conscription acts either. Therefore a good portion of those names on that memorial are men who volunteered for service, and willingly endangered and sacrificed their lives for King and country. In that sense, as a Canadian, my statement is absolutley correct.

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                      • #12
                        Went to the Menin Gate in 2006. Extremely moving. That whole area through Northern France is an exceptional experience if you are from a Commonwealth country.
                        War. Young men killing each other for the benefit of old men!

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by VimyHero17 View Post
                          Fair enough, and I respect your opinion, but I think you are taking my statement there a little too literally. I am a Canadian, and when I was gazing at the names listed on the Memorial, I spent a lot of time scrolling through Canadian names who fell around Ypres. In Canada, the vast majority of men who went overseas to fight in the trenches were volunteers. The Canadian government did indeed pass a Conscription bill in 1917 called The Military Services Act - although it was largely supported by English Canada, it was hated by French Canadians. Regardless, the point is that by 1918 and the end of the war only 125,000 Canadians were drafted, and only 25,000 of those were sent to the front.

                          My point is that all those men from Canada listed on the Menin Gate were volunteers and were not drafted or forced into arms. Those men did indeed sacrifice their lives for King and Country. I know it was different in Great Britain, but I also know other Commonwealth Nations did not enforce conscription acts either. Therefore a good portion of those names on that memorial are men who volunteered for service, and willingly endangered and sacrificed their lives for King and country. In that sense, as a Canadian, my statement is absolutley correct.
                          Good post. You make a very good point about the numbers conscripted and the differing use of and impact it had in Commonwealth countries. I certainly did not mean to imply that notions of patriotism, country and so on were not factors in men joining up - regardless of which country's army they served in. I know many Indian soldiers spoke of wanting to serve and defend "Mother England" and am sure that was the same in many Commonwealth countries too. Your statement is correct in many respects - most importantly with regards to the volunteers and the reasons they actually volunteered. Conscription was not a universal factor and did come later in the war, and would not address those who chose to join up.

                          In remembering those who fought in the war, I agree it is equally important to remember why they felt they should. In the UK as well huge numbers of men volunteered prior to the Conscription Act being passed - and again their reasons for doing so would have been varied. However many would have been motivated by the "King and country" notions as well. And obviously the propaganda of the time pushed the line that their country needed them. An article on the numbers of men who rushed to volunteer looks at the different reasons so many joined up. The third page looks at the reasons so many did join up.

                          http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british.../pals_01.shtml

                          However what we as individuals take away from experiencing war memorials is subjective and personal - I was trying to make the point that I did not see their sacrifice as ultimately being for King and Country but as the result of decades of political, diplomatic and military factors and governments doing what they do best - ie advancing the interests of certain sectors rather than the nation as a whole. The propaganda of the day did what it was meant to do - lied to them. I walk away from such memorials, especially First World War ones, thinking of the lives lost and all for what.

                          I think we were approaching it from different perspectives. While I have not been to The Menin Gate I can imagine it is an incredibly moving experience. One thing that has always staggered me is the scale of the sacrifice and suffering it and similar memorials represent.
                          "Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it"
                          G.B Shaw

                          "They promised us homes fit for heroes, they give us heroes fit for homes."
                          Grandad, Only Fools and Horses

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Sergio View Post
                            However what we as individuals take away from experiencing war memorials is subjective and personal - I was trying to make the point that I did not see their sacrifice as ultimately being for King and Country but as the result of decades of political, diplomatic and military factors and governments doing what they do best - ie advancing the interests of certain sectors rather than the nation as a whole. The propaganda of the day did what it was meant to do - lied to them. I walk away from such memorials, especially First World War ones, thinking of the lives lost and all for what.

                            I think we were approaching it from different perspectives. While I have not been to The Menin Gate I can imagine it is an incredibly moving experience. One thing that has always staggered me is the scale of the sacrifice and suffering it and similar memorials represent.
                            This is all very true, and I understand your point. Any one person can experience a whole range of emotions, perpectives, and viewpoints when seeing these memorials - I know many people who feel anger at the wasteful nature some of these WWI memorials and cemeteries come to symbolize, reflecting the slaughter of that "lost generation." I guess as a Canadian, our nation grew out of the fires of WWI and our involvement in the war has always been an intense source of pride for our country. There are many reason's why Canadians should feel that way, but to me, a lot of it is because the vast majority of Canadians who served volunteered for service, to fight overseas far from home, to answer that call from country, King, empire. For the vast majority of that war, nothing forced Canadians to travel to some foreign country and risk sacrificing their lives in the mud and filth of Flanders. And that sacrifice that is written all over the walls of the Menin Gate, as well as the monument at Vimy Ridge, and seen in the hundreds of cemeteries across France and Belgium, is indeed a source of sadness, but also of intense pride for many, many Canadians. Our country came out of that mess as a stronger nation, on the strength and sacrifice on an army of volunteers, not conscripts.

                            But, as this thread has shown, as well as many other conversations I've had with British, French, and even Germans and Belgians, other people from different countries, especially those that suffered more, feel a vastly different array of emotions and opinions regarding WWI than Canadians do.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Sergio View Post
                              With respect exactly what tyranny were the soldiers fighting against in the First World War? I do understand your point about the poppy commerating those British soldiers who fought in Ireland and can see where it would trouble you. However I try to see it not in terms of politics but just as a way of remembering ALL those who suffered in so many wars, and more often than not just how futile those wars actually were.
                              I was referring to the WWII graves, apologies for not being clear. I agree completely that WWI was really nothing more than a a waste of life.
                              "The thing about quotes on the internet is that you cannot confirm their
                              validity." - Abraham Lincoln.
                              "Nothing's going to change while one side it lying about the cause and the other is lying about the solution" - Me

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