Remembering Ypres, Belgium

In Belgium, En-Route, Europe, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, World Travel by JanisLeave a Comment

They’re Proud & Honoured to be the bearers.

This was mine & Gary’s third visit to Ypres, however, previously we hadn’t been able to give the city the dedication it deserved, although, it certainly gave us a taster to return. When I say taster, I did manage to grab a Belgian chocolate waffle, the wafting scent is just too irresistible.

The Menin Gate, Ypres, leper, Belgium

We love digging into the history of any destination we visit, however, with Ypres and its surrounding landscape, it has it coursing everywhere.

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Mindful that the WWI centenary falls in 2018, we wanted to discover how Ypres carries such a significant mantle for the rest of the world.

And oh, boy they do it well.

The Cloth Hall at night, Ypres, leper, Belgium

Not to be beaten

The Flemish city of Ypres is a lovely size to stroll around, with the heart of the town being the Grote Markt (Market Square) and welcoming streets and lanes leading off.

The Courts of Justice at night, Ypres, leper, Belgium

The Market Square was completely destroyed during the war, however, with the thoughtful restoration, you wouldn’t believe it.

The Grote Markt at dusk, Ypres, leper, Belgium

Cloth Hall

Gabled homes peering down onto the bustling streets below, and the eye-catching Cloth Hall that was so meticulously restored back to its Medieval style prior to its pre-war days.

Within the Cloth Hall now resides the ‘In Flanders Fields Museum’, although, historically the Cloth Hall would have been used as a market and warehouse, for the thriving cloth industry.

The Cloth Hall, Ypres, leper, Belgium

In Flanders Fields

The poignant In Flanders Fields Museum was a place we particularly wanted to visit, as we had heard that the exhibition was incredibly touching and in a small way conveyed some of the atrocities that these heroes went through.

Remembering Ypres, leper, Belgium, Ypres, leper, Belgium

With our tickets purchased for the museum and the 231 step climb up to the top of the Bell Tower, we head in, furnished with our “poppy bracelets”.

Your personalised wrist bands, Ypres, leper, Belgium

The wristbands are such a great idea, the red poppy contains a microchip, and once you have waved it over the Wi-Fi symbol, you key in a few of your demographics, and this allows you to access personal stories around the museum of four individuals who lived through WWI.

Poppy info

You don’t have to enter your demographic details to access the museum, it just adds to your whole experience.

It opens your eyes

As you stroll around the exhibition, there is so much to understand and comprehend. The museum gives you an incredible thought-provoking insight into the reality of the war.

The Enlisting posters, Ypres, leper, Belgium
A War Horse, Ypres, leper, Belgium

Moving stories and photographs of folks from of all walks of life, poems read out by ghostly silhouettes.

Never forget

One story that particularly caught my eye was that of Louis de Mahieu, an Antwerp volunteer that died of his wounds on the battlefield at Warwick Farm on 31st August 1918.

To his fellow soldiers, he was unknown at the time, and they made a cross out of a wooden chair as a provisional resting place.

Louis de Mahieu’s body was not found until almost a year later in July 1919.

A cross from a wooden chair, Ypres, leper, Belgium

Belfry

For the extra couple of euros to climb the Bell Tower, it really is worth it. The incredible views across the city and beyond are fantastic, if only it had been a brighter day we’d have seen even further.

A View across Grote Markt, Ypres, leper, Belgium

Stretching out below across the Grote Markt you can see the Court of Justice in the foreground then the astonishing Menin Gate beyond.

The Court of Justice and the Menin Gate, Ypres, leper, Belgium

The search goes on

The different headstones, Ypres, leper, Belgium

Within the museum, they give you the opportunity to search any victims from the war, and you’re able to find the cemeteries or monuments where their remembrance can be found.

As you come to the end of your journey through the Cloth Hall, it’s entirely incomprehensible that bodies are still being found today.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
 
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
 
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.Major John McCrae

WWI Stories

At the end of the museum you can opt to have those stories emailed to you free of charge.

Menin Gate Memorial

This has to be one of the most poignant memorials to the Ypres Salient there is. The construction of this incredible arch was completed in 1927 and straddles the road where hundreds of thousands of troops would have marched on their way to the frontlines.

The memorial wreath in front of the Menin Gate, Ypres, leper, Belgium
Along the ramparts, Ypres, leper, Belgium

The Menin Gate commemorates more than 54,000 soldiers from Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the United Kingdom, who died before 16 August 1917 and have no known grave.

Honour, Ypres, leper, Belgium

So many wreaths and so many messages are left by individuals, regiments, schools & charities to honour these gallant soldiers.

A fraction of the fallen, Ypres, leper, Belgium
Wreaths laid in memory, Ypres, leper, Belgium

Have You?

Visited the historic city of Ypres, how was your experience at the Last Post ceremony?

CWGC

As you can imagine in and around Ypres, there are so many cemeteries, that even with my fixation with visiting these places of remembrance, that there are only so many you can see in one day.

War graves sign under bridge, Ypres, leper, Belgium

The war cemeteries around the world are lovingly maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). Along with the Menin Gate, we also visited Ypres Reservoir Cemetery which has 2,613 Commonwealth servicemen of which 1,034 of the burials are unidentified.

Ypres Reservoir Cemetery, Ypres, leper, Belgium

We took a stroll around the ramparts of the city, and yes, we came across Ramparts Cemetery at Lille Gate. The cemetery is reasonably small and is built on a dugout which overlooks the riverbanks, there are 198 burials of which 8 are unidentified.

The Ramparts Cemetery, Ypres, leper, Belgium

Tempted to?

Discover more of Belgium and create your own tour of the Ypres Salient, to pay your own respects. You can do it all on a road trip, SIXT car hire cover all budgets and allow you to pick up and drop off at different destinations.

The Last Post

I must say this was one of the most moving services I have ever attended. This ceremony doesn’t care which walk of life you are from or your background everyone is welcome, young and old, families and friends.

The Last Post sign, Ypres, leper, Belgium

The Last Post Ceremony has been held at 8pm every evening since 11th November 1929 (except for a period during the WWII when Ypres was occupied by Germany).

The Waiting crowd, Ypres, leper, Belgium

Never the same

Every evening the ceremony changes, different bands play, and different regiments and families lay their wreaths. You can find out more details by checking out the Last Post Association website.

At precisely eight o’clock the service starts, traffic around the magnificent arches of the Menin Gate Memorial has already been stopped, and the buglers from the local volunteer Fire Brigade begin sounding the Last Post beneath the gate.

The Buglers, Ypres, leper, Belgium
The Marching Band, Ypres, leper, Belgium
Laying wreaths, Ypres, leper, Belgium

Silence falls upon the crowd & heads are bowed, many tearful faces, young and old as the last Post is played out.

All around existing servicemen & veterans are wearing their proud uniforms lined with their thoroughly deserving medals. As our little tribute, we donned our Passchendaele poppy pins that we purchased in 2107.

The Passchendaele Pin in its gift box

Arrive Early

If you want to be in the front row, I would suggest you arrive around 7pm. We arrived at 7:15pm, and we were two or three rows back.

Where we stayed

Our accommodation for the two nights we were in Ypres, was at the Novotel Leper Centrum, and it was undoubtedly central, only about a 5-minute walk to the Menin Gate. Slight mix up with our air-conditioned room, however, the friendly staff efficiently resolved it. The car parking facilities here are fantastic if you’re on a road trip.

Inspired to visit Ypres?

Visit the “In Flanders Fields Museum” in the Cloth Hall, and you must stay for the evening and attend The Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate.

Why not checkout the latest deals on Booking.Com?

Booking.com

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About the Author

Janis

Janis, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born in London and raised in Kent and the Isle of Wight. Along with Gary her partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, they decided that enough was enough with the 9 to 5, so armed with the knowledge and experience that they had gained on their adventures, that they wanted to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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