On the 24th July 1927, the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing was unveiled in the Belgian city of Ypres. The memorial is one of four memorials to missing British and Commonwealth soldiers from the First World War in the area around the Ypres Salient, and features more than 54,000 names. Every evening at 8pm the Menin Gate is the location for a ceremony in which buglers from the city’s fire brigade sound the Last Post.

Ypres occupied a strategic position throughout the First World War that came about as a result of its location on the route of Germany’s Schlieffen Plan. Although the Allies successfully defended the city during the First Battle of Ypres in autumn 1914, they were surrounded on three sides and suffered artillery bombardments throughout the rest of the war that virtually flattened the city. Meanwhile the surrounding area was the location for four more major battles including the Second Battle of Ypres where Germany successfully used poison gas for the first time, and the Battle of Passchendaele.

After the war Ypres was rebuilt using reparations money from Germany, while the Commonwealth War Graves Commission constructed the memorial. The Menin Gate lies on the east side of the city, close to the route that allied soldiers would have taken in order to reach the front.

The fact that the memorial was too small to contain the names of all the missing demonstrates the scale of the destruction. The 34,000 missing soldiers killed after the arbitrary cut-off of 17th August 1917 are inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial 10km away.

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© Scott Allsop