“The necessary supply of heroes must be maintained at all costs.”
(Siegfried Sassoon 24 February. 1917, quoting Sir Edward Carson in a speech in Dublin. I have been unable to confirm the details of that speech.)
Each night at 8 pm the traffic is stopped at the Menin Gate and The Last Post is sounded.
This is the gate over the road eastwards out of Ypres. So many of those who marched through it are now but names on the wall with no known grave.
The Menin Gate is one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders that cover the area known as the Ypres Salient. The Salient was the bump in the line that stretched from Langemarck in the north to the northern edge in Ploegsteert Wood in the south. It stretched and bulged with the fortunes of the war.
The Salient was formed during the First Battle of Ypres in October and November 1914, when a small British Expeditionary Force succeeded in securing the town before the onset of winter, pushing the German forces back to the Passchendaele Ridge.
The Second Battle of Ypres began in April 1915 when the Germans released poison gas into the Allied lines north of Ypres. This was the first time gas had been used by either side .
The site of the Menin Gate was chosen because of the hundreds of thousands of men who passed through it on their way to the battlefields. It commemorates casualties from the forces of Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and United Kingdom who died in the Salient.
The battles of the Ypres Salient claimed many lives on both sides and it quickly became clear that the commemoration of members of the Commonwealth forces with no known grave would have to be divided between several different sites.
The YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL now bears the names of more than 54,000 officers and men whose graves are not known. The memorial, designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield with sculpture by Sir William Reid-Dick, was unveiled by Lord Plumer on 24 July 1927.
Siegfried Sassoon called it a “sepulchre of crime”.