“They sleep around us in hallowed ground”.
Welcome, my friends, to the internet’s biggest, if nothing else, photographic look around the Menin Gate. Ever.
Ieper. Ypres, if you prefer French. A grey afternoon in late January. We are heading across the Market Square (the Grote Markt), past the Cloth Hall on our left towards the Menin Gate just visible in the far distance, at the far end of the Menenstraat. Baldrick, as is his wont, escorts the ladies, Frankie (you haven’t met him yet) follows. My job is this side of the camera.
You’ve all, I’m sure, seen photographs of Ieper at the end of the Great War. Utter, utter devastation. And yet today you would never know. It always amazes me.
One wonders what this place would be like, nearly one hundred years on, if Churchill’s post-war suggestion that the ruins should be preserved as a memorial had been accepted? Think about it.
Instead, we gained this magnificent limestone and red brick edifice and I think, weighing up the pros and cons, that it all probably turned out for the best.
Designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield and opened by Field Marshall Lord Plumer on 24th July 1927, the Menin Gate is inscribed with the names of more than 54,000 men who lost their lives in the Ypres Salient but have no known grave. It is difficult to be exact because names are occasionally added, and, more frequently these days, erased, as methods in the identification of battlefield remains improve, and soldiers are finally given the burial still denied to so many of their colleagues.
Both the western (above) and the eastern (later) face bear the inscription ‘To the armies of the British Empire who stood here from 1914 to 1918 and to those of their dead who have no known grave.’ These armies included men from Australia, Canada and South Africa as well as the U.K., but not New Zealand or Newfoundland, whose missing are remembered elsewhere.
Handy CWGC information board. The site of the Menin Gate was chosen because, for four long years, so many pairs of feet passed through here as they began their march from Ypres to the front lines a few miles away to the east. In those days, as you can see if you enlarge the top photograph on the board, there was no structure of any sort here, just a cut in the ramparts and a bridge over the moat*. Just a few yards of the cut in the ramparts now exist, as is evidenced by the grassy slope you can see behind the information board in the picture above.
*and two lions, both of which found their way to Australia in the 1930s. Look it up.
Even a structure this size cannot honour the names of all the missing of the Salient; nearly 34,000 British names, all of whom died after 16th August 1917, are recorded on the Tyne Cot Memorial. The British names on the Menin Gate (but not the South Africans, Canadians and Australians) are, with a few exceptions, all men killed before that date.
As we enter the Main Hall* we get our first glimpse of the thousands of names that are inscribed on panels of Portland Stone above the northern foot pavement, and on the Doric columns, two of which are sited at each end of the memorial.
*often referred to as the Hall of Memory, although I am not sure where or when that originated. I shall use the term Main Hall, as you will find it named on the Menin Gate Memorial Panel Plan (as always courtesy of the CWGC) that you may wish to refer to throughout this post.
Panel 3 is the first panel on our left. At the very top of the left hand column you will see the name of Brigadier General Charles Fitzclarence VC, the highest ranking officer among the names inscribed on the Gate. He won his VC for gallantry during three separate actions in South Africa in late 1899, and was killed on 12th November 1914 at Gheluvelt whilst commanding the 1st Guards Brigade during the First Battle of Ypres. Brigadier General Fitzclarence is one of eight holders of the VC whose names you can find on the Menin Gate. In death, I gather, he was referred to as G.O.C. Menin Gate by fellow servicemen. The name of Captain the Honourable Arthur O’Neill, 2nd Life Guards, Member of Parliament for Mid-Antrim and the first MP to be killed during the First World War, is also to be found on this panel.
On our immediate right, men of the Indian Army on Panel 1A.
Next, Panel 5. These are the names of Guards and Dragoons, Greys and Hussars, Lancers and Yeomanry.
A look across the main hall to, left to right, Panels 12, 10, 8 & 6 on the southern side. The sheer number of names is already close to overwhelming. The archway in the centre (there is another one directly opposite on our side) leads to the ramparts and loggias, as we shall see in a while.
Our walk along the northern foot pavement continues past Panel 7, the first of the Australian panels. The names of men from the Light Horse, Artillery, Engineers, and Tunnelling Company are inscribed here, and then the first of the Australian Infantry Battalions.
Ahead, Panels 9, 11, 13 and, on the column, Panel 15. You will have worked out by now that all the odd numbered panels are to the north of the road, and that most likely all the even numbered ones are therefore to the south.
Panel 15 and its twin, Panel 16, across the road on the south eastern column, are inscribed with the names of the South African missing.
The final panel on the northern side of the Main Hall is Panel 13. These are the names of men of the Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey).
Panel 15A, on the inside of the column, faces Panel 13, and records the names of six men of the British West Indies Regiment who fell in battle and whose bodies were never found.
Above & below: The eastern face of the Menin Gate.
The view looking north…
…and south along the ramparts.
The lion looks out over the battlefields of the Ypres salient, where the men whose names are inscribed here met their fate.
Immediately on re-entering the southern side of the Main Hall, we find Panel 14 on our left, where more men of the Queen’s are followed by the missing of the East Kent Regiment (The Buffs).
Panel 16A, on the inside of the column to our right, faces Panel 14.
Walking the southern foot pavement, we pass Panel 12, where more East Kent men are followed by the names of the Royal Lancaster Regiment and the first of the Northumberland Fusiliers,…
…and then Panel 10. In a similar way to Panel 7, the first Australian Panel on the northern side of the hall, Panel 10 presages the vast number of Canadian names we will encounter later on our way up to the southern loggia and ramparts.
But first, ahead of us we see Panel 2 on the column on our side, and Panel 1 on the column on the northern side, where we first entered the Main Hall. Both panels are inscribed with the names of missing men from the Indian Army.
On our left, as we continue walking the southern foot pavement, the hundreds of Northumberland Fusiliers’ names continue on Panel 8, followed by the men of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and the first of the Royal Fusiliers…
… whose names continue for much of the first eight columns of Panel 6. The remainder of the panel is inscribed with names of men of the King’s Liverpool Regiment. You might think, if you’ve been following, that at this point Panel 4, at the far western end of the southern foot pavement, is next on our list, but unfortunately, for technical reasons (I got distracted), this will prove impossible until a later date.
Indian Army names inscribed on Panel 2…
…beneath which you can find the Memorial Register should you ever visit.
On the inside of the column, more Indian Army names are inscribed on Panel 2A.
Time now to cross the road and Main Hall back to the north side. The inscription above the entrance to the stairways on either side of the Main Hall says “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. Here are recorded names of officers and men who fell in Ypres Salient but to whom the fortune of war denied the known and honoured burial given to their comrades in death”.
Panel 19 is the panel visible on the right of the steps in the previous photo; these are the men of the Royal Scots Fusiliers and of the Cheshire Regiment, among whose names you will find Corporal George Povey, executed for desertion on 11th February 1915. George, along with 305 others, was pardoned in 2006.
Panel 17, on the left of the steps, continues the names of men of the Australian infantry battalions that we last saw on Panel 7.
Wreaths at the top of the first flight of stairs, with Panel 21 behind. As you can see if you are perusing the Menin Gate Memorial Panel Plan, the stairway splits to the left and right at this point…
…and we shall take the left side (and return via the right later). On our left, as we ascend, Panel 23, straight ahead Panel 25, and to our right Panel 21.
Panel 25 again, with Panel 27 now to our right, and, as you can see if you enlarge the picture, the list of Australian names continues.
View looking down from the top of the steps, the same panels as in the previous photo visible.
At the top of the steps, turning round to look at the northern loggia,…
…and thousands more names stretch the length of the loggia wall.
Fish-eye view of the north loggia.
Baldrick and Franky discuss life, the universe, and everything.
Neat little relief map showing the battlefields and the front lines to the east and south of the city in 1917. East, you will gather, is at the top of the photo.
Panels 35 & 37 are just visible through the doorway at the north-eastern corner…
…as are Panels 53 & 55 through the doorway at the north western corner.
View from the top of the ramparts looking north.
The northern face of the Menin Gate.
Time to go down. Panel 29 on the left continues the list of missing Australians that accompanied us on our way up, the thousands of men of the infantry battalions finally ending with the men of the 60th Battalion, inscribed on Panel 31 straight ahead of us. These are followed by the names of Pioneers, men of the Machine Gun Corps, Light Trench Mortar Battalions, the Army Service Corps and the Army Medical Corps, before the long list of missing Australians finally comes to an end. The right hand side of the panel contains names of men of the East Yorkshire and Bedfordshire Regiments. Panel 33, on the far right, includes Private Edward Warner, another of the eight holders of the VC whose names are inscribed on the memorial.
Panel 33 now on our left, and Panel 21 on our right.
Looking back up the steps, Panel 21 now on the left (the names are more men of the East Yorkshire Regiment), Panel 31 straight ahead, and Panel 33 on the right.
Panel 33. Here, the names of the Bedfordshire men continue from Panel 31 (left), and are followed by men of the Royal Irish Regiment, the Yorkshire Regiment, the Lancashire Fusiliers and the Royal Scots Fusiliers.
And so we leave the northern side, Panel 19 on our immediate left, Panels 8 & 6 visible on the southern side of the Main Hall…
…and cross the road once more towards the entrance to the southern ramparts.
A row of tiny crosses, Panel 22 ahead of us,…
…Panel 18, the second panel (after Panel 10) on which the names of men of the Canadian Infantry Battalions are inscribed, to our left…
…and Panel 20 on our right. These names are those of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, and the Royal Sussex Regiment.
Again, we could take the steps to the right (from left to right, Panels 22, 32 & 34)…
…but we shall again ascend via the steps to the left. The Canadian names continue on Panels 24 (left) and 26 (ahead); to the right, more men of the Cheshire Regiment on Panel 22.
Half way up, looking back at Panel 24. The names of two of the three Canadian VC holders whose names are inscribed on the memorial, Company Sergeant Major Frederick Hall and Lance Corporal Fred Fisher, appear on this panel, as does that of Sergeant Harry Band, the possible victim of the ‘Crucified Canadian’ atrocity.
Hundreds more Canadian names on Panel 26 and, to the right, Panel 28.
Looking up to the top of the steps, Panel 28 now to our left. The Canadian names continue to the top.
The centre section of the south loggia…
…and looking to left…
Fish-eye view of the south loggia.
Southern face of the Menin Gate.
The understated yet elegant ‘India in Flanders Fields’ memorial.
And then there was light.
Thousands more names line the wall of the southern loggia.
Panel 38, visible through the doorway at the south western corner, Panel 40 on the far right of the picture.
Panel 54 seen through the doorway at the south eastern corner. The missing of the Army Service Corps are inscribed on Panel 56, just visible to the right inside the doorway, and one of those names is that of another man executed during the war (there are four in total among the names on the Menin Gate). His name was Driver Thomas Moore, and for him there would be no belated pardon.
Looking down at the moat from the ramparts. Day after day, for four years, thousands upon thousands of men marched out of the shattered city, across this moat, to take their chances in the horror of the front line trenches off to the east.
Men who marched away, many never to return.
We must go down. Nope, not that way. That’s the way we came up (Panel 26 ahead, and 28 on the right).
This is our way down. Panel 30, to the left, and Panel 32, straight ahead, bring the list of Canadian missing to a conclusion.
Panel 32 on the left, and the names of Worcestershire Regiment and East Lancashire Regiment men on Panel 34 to the right. Panel 32 includes the name of Lieutenant Hugh McKenzie of the Canadian Machine Gun Corps, the third of the Canadian VCs.
The right hand side of Panel 34 lists the names of men of the East Surrey Regiment and, for reasons I have explained more than once before, the following photos show their names in closer detail.
Above us, the lights illuminate the names of Scottish and Irish regiments…
…before we continue down, past Panel 34 on our left…
…to the bottom of the staircase (Panel 22 on our right).
Looking back up the steps, men of the Gloucestershire Regiment listed on Panel 22 in front of us.
“He is not missing. He is here”.
Back in the Main Hall, looking east…
…and looking west.
Panel 1, on the column we passed when we first entered the Main Hall…
…is inscribed, as mentioned much earlier, with the names of yet more men of the Indian Army.
Beneath Panel 1, an explanation as to why there are no New Zealand names to be found on the Menin Gate.
Which brings us to the end of our visit. For now, at least. There are a handful of panels that do not feature at all in this post, and quite a number, such as those inscribed on the walls of both north and south loggias, that need to be photographed in close-up, but that is for another day.
Meanwhile, later that night:
Would you mess with these guys?
Me neither. Good job they’re on my side. Usually.