Saturday, 11 April 2015

In Flanders Fields - visit to the Menin Gate, Tyne Cot Cemetery and the Ypres Salient

My wife and I have just come back from a short holiday in Ypres, Belgium.  I was honoured to be asked by our Mayor Cllr Allen Wales to join him and his wife and Geoff Abnett from the Frodsham Branch of the Royal British Legion in being part of the party laying two wreaths at the Menin Gate for Frodsham.

The Menin Gate commemorates the British and Commonwealth soldiers who died 'in Flanders Fields' and who have no known grave.  There are more than 54,000 names recorded on the monument.  They ran out of space there - there are a further 34,000 names recorded at Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery.

Menin Gate, Ypres

The Menin Gate schedule for 9 April 2015

Every evening the road is closed and at 8pm the last post is sounded to commemorate the fallen.   This has been done every evening since 2 July 1928 other than when the Germans occupied Ypres in the second world war.  The ceremony restarted even when only part of Ypres had been liberated in the second world war.

The buglers who sound the last post come from the local volunteer Fire Brigade.

The ceremony is carried out with respect and is very moving and humbling.  I was very struck by the involvement of the local people - who wear 'our' Royal crown with pride and sing 'our' national anthem with us.   People come from all over the world to lay wreaths.

Royal British Legion Frodsham's wreath

Wreath from Mayor of Frodsham

wreaths laid on 9 April 2015 including from Mayor of Frodsham and the Frodsham Branch of the Royal British Legion
This is only part of the crowd that gathers for the commemoration
Before the ceremony: Geoff Abnett, me, Cllr and Mrs Wales

Laying the wreaths for Frodsham

After the ceremony - Allen was asked to take the march past of an RAF contingent.
We also went to some of the Ypres salient battle sites.  What really struck me was just how many men died over such a small area of ground.  If ever you needed a clear demonstration of the futility of war go and visit the sites and the cemeteries.

Hooge Crater Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery

St George's Church Ypres
St George's Church, Ypres is an Anglican church where you can find memorials to individuals, regiments and even several schools commemorating those who never came back from the first world war.

I took photographs of the Cheshire Regiment plaques on both the Menin Gate and Tyne Cot.  The names of men from Frodsham can be found on them.  If anyone would like any of those photographs please let me know.

Just to be absolutely clear - no public money was used to pay for any aspect of Cllr & Mrs Wales or my and my wife's trip or attendance.