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MENIN GATE MEMORIAL


The Menin Gate is one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient. Broadly speaking, the Salient stretched from Langemarck in the north to the northern edge in Ploegsteert Wood in the south, but it varied in area and shape throughout the war. The Memorial is on the site of the old Hangoart or Antwerp Gate. It is possible to walk along the ramparts to the Lille Gate some 800 yards away. The ramparts were built, upon the original fortifications dating from the Twelfth Century, by Vauban who was the military architect of Louis XIV. The casements beneath the ramparts were some of the safest places in Ypres during the War. The ‘Wipers Times’ was printed in one of the casements while others housed bedrooms, a signal HQ, and a cinema.


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 and the violence of the attack forced an Allied withdrawal and a shortening of the line of defence.


There was little more significant activity on this front until 1917, when in the Third Battle of Ypres an offensive was mounted by Commonwealth forces to divert German attention from a weakened French front further south. The initial attempt in June to dislodge the Germans from the Messines Ridge was a complete success, but the main assault north-eastward, which began at the end of July, quickly became a dogged struggle against determined opposition and the rapidly deteriorating weather. The campaign finally ended in November with the capture of Passchendaele.


The German offensive of March 1918 met with some initial success but was eventually checked and repulsed in a combined effort by the Allies in September.


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 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. In the case of United Kingdom casualties, only those prior 16 August 1917 (with some exceptions). United Kingdom and New Zealand servicemen who died after that date are named on the memorial at Tyne Cot, a site which marks the furthest point reached by Commonwealth forces in Belgium until nearly the end of the war. New Zealand casualties that died prior to 16 August 1917 are commemorated on memorials at Buttes New British Cemetery and Messines Ridge British Cemetery.


On the evening of the inauguration of the Gate the Last Post was sounded by buglers from the Somerset Light Infantry, and the Ypres Fire Brigade then took over the ceremony. The Last Post has been sounded at 8pm every evening, except the four years of German occupation in WWII.


The memorial, designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield with sculpture by Sir William Reid-Dick, was unveiled by Lord Plumer on 24 July 1927.


Memorial Location

Ypres (now Ieper) is a town in the Province of West Flanders. The Memorial is situated at the eastern side of the town on the road to Menin (Menen) and Courtrai (Kortrijk). Each night at 8 pm the traffic is stopped at the Menin Gate while buglers of the Last Post Association sound the Last Post in the roadway under the Memorial's arches. For more information on the Last Post Association please check their website: www.lastpost.be.


Shot at Dawn


There are four men listed here who were shot at dawn.


3832 Private Herbert Francis Burden, Age 17, Addenda Panel 60, 1st Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers, 9th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Division. He lied about his age when enlisting stating he was 18 years old when he was in fact only 16. He deserted in June 1915 at Bellewaarde Ridge were his battalion was suffering heavy losses. He was arrested and court martialled on 2 July. He was not only undefended there were not enough survivors from his battalion to give a character reference. He was shot on 21 July 1915.


TH/040862 Driver Thomas Moore, Age 23, Panel 56 197 Company, 24th Divisional Train, Army Service Corps. He was tried for the murder, having shot Acting Farrier Sergeant James Pick, who lived in Bannockburn before enlisting, and who was in the same hut on 11 February 1916 while in camp at Busseboom. Pick is buried in Poperinge New Military Cemetery. Moore gave evidence at his trial stating that his mother had been detained in a lunatic asylum and that he too was insane. Thomas Moore was executed at 5.40am on 26 February 1916 at Busseboom by a firing squad made up of men from his own company. Lending weight to the theory that the severity of army discipline should be demonstrated to the victims comrades. His place of burial was recorded in the company war diary but the grave was subsequently lost. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate.


10459 Corporal George H Povey, Age 23, Panel 19-22. Son of Mrs. Dinah Povey, of 51, Primrose Street, Connah Quay. 1st Cheshires, 15th Brigade, 5th Division. Together with four Privates under his command, they were in the front line during the early hours of 28 January 1915 at Wulverghem. A German patrol came across and rifle fire broke out in the confusion a rumour started that the Germans had broken into the British front line. As a result Povey and the four Privates ran back to the support line. At their trial the men maintained that they had heard a call to clear out and when it was found that the line had not been taken all five had been arrested. The Privates were all imprisoned and Povey was executed on 11 February 1915. His grave could not be found after the war and he his commemorated on the Menin Gate. After the execution a rumour circulated that the men had been asleep and had been startled and panicked and fled back to their support line.


5922 Private William Scotton, Age 19, Panel 49 and 51. Son of Mrs. Catherine Scotton, of 52, Gladstone Road, Walton, Liverpool. His brother, Albert also fell. 4th Battalion Middlesex Regiment, 8th Brigade, 3rd Division. He was convicted at the end of December 1914 of going absent and on 23 January he went absent again as his battalion was warned for the front line. He surrendered the next day when his battalion came out of the line. He was executed, in Vierstraat, by a firing squad of eight men and an NCO from his own battalion with the whole battalion paraded to watch the execution. His grave was lost and he is commemorated on the Menin Gate.

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