29 Sep 17
More often than not, groups visiting Belgium on a Scout or Guide trip will want to take a trip to Ypres to attend the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate. Whether you simply attend the ceremony or choose to participate, it is a moving experience for any group.
Visit the Menin Gate during the day and you’ll find yourself stepping into a quiet state of contemplation as you pass under its echoey arches where you are alone, except for the company of two or three others, to reflect on the thousands of names that are etched into the portland stone walls.
Visit at 8pm and you are one of the many hundreds who have come to attend the Last Post Ceremony: the commemorative event that has taken place every evening since 1929*.
When night falls in Ypres, the Menin Gate lights up like a beacon of remembrance at the entrance to the memorial town. Indeed, the whole town of Ypres encapsulates a sense of remembrance; from the Menin Gate to the In Flanders Fields museum to the poppies that are placed in shop windows, your thoughts can never drift far from the history of the town as you stroll through its streets. Never is its history more powerfully felt than when standing in the crowd at the Last Post Ceremony.
The History of the Menin Gate
Dedicated to the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of World War I and whose graves are unknown, the Menin Gate memorial is a place for visitors to come and pay their respects to the thousands of soldiers who gave their lives in the war.
Following the Menin Gate Memorial opening, the citizens of Ypres wanted to express their gratitude towards those who had given their lives for Belgium’s freedom and so the Last Post Ceremony was introduced. At 8pm of every evening, buglers from the local fire brigade close the road which passes under the memorial and sound the ‘Last Post’. Bands and choirs from around the world may also apply to participate in the ceremonies.
Attending the Last Post Ceremony
When the Last Post Ceremony begins, the hum of chatter from the volume of people gathered behind the railings seizes and a respectful silence falls under the memorial arches. As the buglers play the call to attention, the rich, brassy tones hold the crowd in a commemorative stillness. Then a few from the crowd step forward to lay their wreaths of poppies before guest choirs or bands perform their heartfelt contributions to this deeply moving ceremony.
Charged with such emotional energy, it is no wonder that participating in the Last Post Ceremony is so often cited as a highlight for Scout and Guide groups that visit Belgium.
MORE ON THE MENIN GATE
Find out more about performing at the Menin Gate on our ‘Visiting the Menin Gate FAQ’s‘ blog or call us on 01332 342050 to speak to a member of our team.
*The only exception to this was during the four years of the German occupation of Ypres from 20th May 2940 to 6th September 1944.