The Menin Gate in Ypres is a memorial to the British and Commonwealth soldiers who died during the Great War but whose graves are not known. There are 54,896 names commemorated there.
As remains are discovered and identified, soldiers are given an official burial and their name is removed from the Menin Gate memorial.
The town of Ypres was of great importance during World War 1, as it stood in the way of the German advance across Belgium. As such it was shelled almost to destruction. Commonwealth and French troops spent four years attacking German positions around the town. Estimates put the numbers of Commonwealth dead fighting for the Ypres Salient at nearly 250,000 during that time. French and Belgian forces also suffered casualties amounting to approximately 30,000.
Those numbers are staggering. Can you imagine people tolerating that level of loss today?
The citizens of Ypres have never forgotten the sacrifice made for their freedom. Every single day since the Menin Gate opened on 24th July 1927, buglers from the local fire brigade sound the last postÂ at 8.00 pm. The ceremony is usually attended by members of the British Legion and wreaths are laid.
The only interruption to the ceremonies was during the occupation of the town by German forces in the Second World War. On the very day that Polish forces liberated the town on 6th September 1944, the fire brigade resumed the service.
Some people will say that the events that took place nearly 100 years ago don’t matter. They do. Their sacrifice needs to be remembered.
Larger versions of these photographs can be viewed by clicking on them.