In 1928, a year after the inauguration of the Menin Gate Memorial, a number of prominent citizens in Ypres decided that some way should be found to express the gratitude of the Belgian nation towards those who had died for its freedom and independence.
The idea of the daily sounding of the Last Post - the traditional salute to the fallen warrior - was that of the Superintendant of the Ypres Police, Mr P Vandenbraambussche. The Menin Gate Memorial on the east side of Ypres was thought to be the most appropriate location for the ceremony. Originally this was the location of the old city gate leading to the Ypres Salient battlefields through which so many passed on their way to the front line.
The privilege of playing Last Post was given to buglers of the local voluntary Fire Brigade. The first sounding of Last Post took place on 1 July 1928 and a daily ceremony was carried for about four months. The ceremony was reinstated in the spring of 1929 and the Last Post Committee was established. Four silver bugles were donated to the Last Post Committee by the Brussels and Antwerp Branches of the Royal British Legion.
From 11 November, 1929 the Last Post has been sounded at the Menin Gate memorial every night and in all weathers. The only exception to this was during the four years of the German occupation of Ypres from 20 May 1940 to 6 September 1944. The daily ceremony was instead continued in England at Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey. On the very evening that Polish forces liberated Ypres the ceremony was resumed at the Menin Gate, in spite of the heavy fighting still going on in other parts of the town.
In the 1950s two silver bugles were presented by the Old Contemptibles' Association of Blackpool and Fleetwood and two silver trumpets were presented by Colonel I Whitaker to the memory of former Cavalry and Artillerymen. In 1992 six new silver bugles were presented to the Last Post Association by the Royal Corps of Transport.
Originally the Last Post was sounded at sunset. More recently the ceremony has taken place each night at 20.00 hours. Some evenings, particularly in summer, there are crowds of visitors. At other times, on a weekday or in winter, the pavements under the memorial are empty. In either case, every evening the busy road through the Gate is closed to traffic shortly before the ceremony.
For a few moments the noise of traffic ceases and a stillness descends over the memorial. At exactly 20.00 hours up to six members of the regular buglers from the local volunteer Fire Brigade step into the roadway under the memorial arch and play the Last Post
The Post Ceremony has become part of the daily life in Ieper (Ypres)and the local people are proud of this simple but moving tribute to the courage and self-sacrifice of those who fell in defence of their town.
Source - http://www.greatwar.co.uk/index.htm
As stated in the latest news section, on 31 October 2001, men of the Ieper Fire Brigade will sound the last post beneath the arches of the Menin Gate Memorial for the twenty-five thousandth time. It may be more than 80 years since the First World War ended, but by this nightly act of remembrance - suspended only during the occupation of the Second World War - the people of Ieper show that the memory of those Commonwealth forces who died in the defence of their town remains a central part of their lives. For one year from this date, each night the name of a soldier who died on that date will be selected from the memorial and his story told prior to the playing of the Last Post.
I must bring to your attention the publication of a new book Menin Gate and Last Post (fully details in the Bibliography section - I obtained my copy from the Tourist Office in the Cloth Hall).
Click on image for short video of The Last Post Ceremony (Size 1.24MB)
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