Belgium: Ypres World War I Memorials

Paying my respects at the World War I Memorials and the Last Post–testaments to the horrors and insanity of war…

First World War History

Five memorials in and around Ypres are particularly worthy of your time in order to learn some history and to pay one’s respects: Tyne Cot, Saint Julien Memorial, Essex Farm, Langemark Cemetery, and Menin Gate.

The city of Ypres and the surrounding countryside in the Belgian province of Flanders occupied a strategic position during World War I. Laying in the path of Germany’s sweep across neutral Belgium and into France, Ypres was leveled.
The surrounding area endured the most horrific fighting of the war, largely a war of attrition defined by trench warfare, artillery barrages, chemical attacks, and mass casualties.
The Cathedral today, a testament to the reconstruction, reconciliation, and peace.

Saint Julien Memorial

(The Brooding Soldier) remembers the two thousand Canadians killed by the first poison gas attacks in human history.

Even to this day the countryside remains a mine field with uncountable hidden hazards. The unearthing of unexploded ordnance is still a common occurrence and farmers routinely leave their discoveries by the signposts to be picked up for eventual dismantlement.

Note: Two construction workers were killed the very next day after my visit. (See Reuters Article)

Tyne Cot Cemetery

The final resting place for just a fraction of the more than one-million British Commonwealth troops killed in the Great War. Take the time and care to read the gravestone inscriptions of countless mates and comrades of every persuasion and notice the staggering number of unidentified fallen soldiers.

Essex Farm Cemetery

Final resting place of Valentine Strudwick who was killed in the line of duty at the age of fifteen.

Langemark Cemetery

The final resting place of over forty-four thousand German soldiers and three thousand German student “volunteers”, a stark reminder that there were victims on both sides.

Menin Gate War Memorial and the “Last Post“.

More than a century later, those who call Ypres and Flanders home have not forgotten the enormous sacrifice of so many British Commonwealth troops (from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and India) during the Great War.

Each and every evening at 8:00 pm, rain or shine, those who fought and died are honored with a solemn ceremony at Menin Gate were a bugle corps plays the “Last Post”, a moving experience like no other.
John McCrae’s famous anti-war poem “In Flanders Fields”.

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