The Western Front Today - Menin Gate

Designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield, this monument to the allied effort was begun in June 1921 under a grant of 150,000 from the British Cabinet.  Blomfield, who was classically influenced, planned a great triumphal arch in the Roman tradition.

Owing to running sand beneath the planned foundations, huge concrete piles had to be driven 36ft into the ground.

Made of French limestone and weighing 20,000 the monument is 135ft in length, 140ft wide and 80ft high, dominating Ypres along with the rebuilt Cloth Hall.

At the summit of the monument is a British lion designed by Sir William Reid Dick, which was intended to look "not fierce and truculent, but patient and enduring, looking outward" along the Menin Road.

Barely completed in time for the official opening by Field Marshal Plumer (of Messines fame), President of the Ypres League, it was unveiled in the presence of the King of the Belgians and several thousand of the relatives whose names - 54,900 of the 'missing' - were inscribed around the memorial, on 24 July 1927.

The unveiling of the Menin Gate was broadcast by the BBC.

Of the dead Plumer said: "They are not missing - they are here."  Siegfried Sassoon however called the Menin Gate "a sepulchre of crime".

Today, at 8pm each evening, the local police stop traffic from passing underneath the gate, and the Last Post is played by buglers from the Ypres fire station, often attended by large crowds.  The Last Post has been played each night in this way since the 1920s save only for the duration of the German occupation during World War II.

However the ceremony was performed on the same night the German forces were expelled from Ypres in 1944.

Film Footage of Menin Gate

Film Footage of Menin Gate

Audio Details
Click to download as MP3 Audio of Last Post Ceremony, 2003

Before Endeavours Fade, Rose E.B. Coombs, After the Battle 1994
Major & Mrs Holt's Battlefield Guide - Somme, Leo Cooper 2000

A 'Woolly Bear' comprised a German shrapnel shell, which burst with a cloud-like explosion.

- Did you know?