Ypres, Armistice Day 2018

Lest we forget

Despite all my grumpy protestations (it’ll be packed with people, we’ll never get to see anything, moan, moan, moan), where did we end up on Armistice Day 2018?  Ieper, of course.  It was always going to be Ieper.  And yes, I suppose it wasn’t a bad place to be really.  I suppose, really and truly, it was the best place to be.

Prior to the procession I took the opportunity…

…to snap a few shots of the crowds as they formed,…

…and some of the participants as they made their way…

…towards St. George’s Church, in the distance, and the procession’s starting point,…

…and also of the Belgian War Memorial opposite the rear of the Cloth Hall, the results of which will appear in a separate post one of these days, and which is where we watched the procession pass by.  The inserts show a few shots of your photographer at work.

And so on to the procession itself, and here I shall get grumpy once more.  Now I have no problems taking photos through crowds, and I was not, despite what it may seem in some of these photos, at the front of the throng, as you can glimpse above.  If I’d wanted to be at the front, then get there earlier, I say!  I am certainly not one to barge others out of the way to get a picture.

Nor am I one to get in the way of everybody else’s pictures,…

…as our friend in perfect focus in the centre here thought he’d do for much of the procession – or didn’t think at all, in reality.  Thanks mate!

Anyway, moving on (and there are a few more photos of the procession passing by that I have used as inserts later), as it’s only 700 yards or so from the church to the Menin Gate, on occasions the marchers were halted to avoid logjams further on, I presume, at which time I wished, very briefly (sorry all you medal lovers), I knew more about medals (below).

But I do recognise a Military Cross when I see one.

More drums.

And more medals.  A lot more medals.

The Belgian Army brought up the rear, for their task this day would begin here,…

…where they formed the Guard of Honour…

…as wreaths were laid…

…and respects paid…

…as the Belgians remembered their dead.  As did we.

The band played,…

…the buglers blew…

…and another photobomber photobombed, making this is the only acceptable photo of the buglers in action I managed to take.  Thank you, androgynous white-haired person.

And still the band played on.

At the end of the ceremony I was able to take these photos of the buglers of the Last Post Association, traditionally members of the Ieper Volunteer Fire Brigade, whose uniform they wear here.

These fine gentlemen and their predecessors have been responsible for sounding the Last Post at the Menin Gate every evening, and at special ceremonies such as Armistice Day, since July 1928 (the ceremony was held at Brookwood Cemetery in England during World War II).

And as the buglers begin their march to the Menin Gate for the Last Post, did you notice the elderly gentleman currently leading in the medal stakes (on the far right) in the previous shot?

Anyway, we followed the buglers, towards the Menin Gate, briefly taking in the giant screen in the Market Square where a large crowd had settled in for proceedings, and finding ourselves about here (photo above courtesy of the missus, who doesn’t mind the odd, brief, barge to get the shot) as the ceremony moved towards its silent climax.

Me, I used the zoom,…

…and at something like twenty minutes past the hour (who just said that if the Germans had been in charge everything would have been on time?!) the Last Post was sounded.

After which we all made our way towards the Menin Gate itself,…

…and a reminder that the monument remembers all the men of the British Empire who fought on these Flanders battlefields, not just the dead.

With the Menin Gate’s Main Hall at street level still packed with people, we headed up on to the ramparts, but the media held sway up here and there was no way through at this time,…

… so we headed a short distance north instead, away from the Menin Gate, past Nikolaas the Kanonnier,…

…and across the road bridge to approach the Menin Gate from the north eastern side along Kiplinglaan (the street sign in the insert can be found at the far end of the street).

At which point the chimes on the missus’ phone radio (and David Dimbleby) told us it was 11 o’clock back in England, so we held another two-minute silence right here.

As we then approached the Menin Gate from this side, the first thing I noticed, because I would,…

…were the lions.  If you remember I dashed over to Ieper in September 2017 for two specific reasons, one of which was to photograph the original lions during their six-month tenure of these very brick pedestals.

As the colourful crowds…

…began to disperse,…

…I took the opportunity to photograph these replacement, and now permanent, lions, and it seems whilst so doing,…

…someone was snapping me.

Now I don’t feature very much on my own site, for very obvious reasons, and because as a general rule I choose not to,…

…but what the f#@%!.  Rules are there to be broken, exceptions, just that.  The photos I was caught taking here of the replacement lions have now been added to the previous Menin Gate Lions post and can be found here.

More medals,…

…and then ages and ages, at least twenty seconds, waiting for this lady to do whatever it was she was doing – which, it slowly dawned on me, was picking up some Menin Gate poppy petals as keepsakes!  Oh, what a smart lady, and I thank her for catching my attention, apologise for mentally hurrying her up, and thank her again, as I too now have a few of these rather special petals back here with me in Blighty.

Modern art, perhaps,…

…in the brickwork of the repaired rampart wall.

Heading up onto the ramparts through the throng,…

…passing the East Surrey panels (above & below) as we go.

Eight soggy photos, the eight sons of a certain R. B. Rider, all of whom went to war.

Up on the southern ramparts with the field of poppies spread out ahead of us, and the Indian memorial in the middle distance.

It’s funny how things happen.  I shot the following photos of these cardboard poppies in a deliberately slightly arty fashion…

..the red and the green…

…the red receding into a blurred background,…

…and only read the messages on my return home.  With due respect to Royal Engineer Norman Bentley on the right, I direct you to the poppy on the left.

And there he is!  No, of course he’s not really Lord Roberts, but he does cut a fine figure, whoever he is (spotted and snapped by the missus – see also the comments at the end of the post).

The ‘India in Flanders Fields’ memorial.

Another shot taken by the missus, looking back across the field of poppies towards the Menin Gate.

More poppies, and crosses,…

…and more here, too, at the Last Post memorial.

I spy Gurkhas,…

…in fact Gurkha ladies at the Gurkha Memorial,…

…unveiled on 16th July 2015 to remember all the Gurkhas killed on the battlefields of Ieper during the Great War.

The inscription says, ‘In Memory of the Nepalese Nationals who lost their lives fighting as Gorkha Soldiers in the First World War 1914-18’.

Some 200,000 Gurkhas served with the British Army during the Great War, and approximately 20,000 of them died, fighting far and wide; from Ypres, hence the placing of this memorial, to Loos and Neuve Chapelle in northern France, to the battlefields of Gallipoli, Salonika and Mesopotamia further afield.

At which point we decided to head for Ramparts Cemetery, the beautiful little burial ground sited next to the Lille Gate which I hadn’t visited for ten years, give or take a few weeks, and which we shall now be able to take an updated tour of in due course, although the original post can still be viewed here.

As you walk the ramparts between the Menin & Lille Gates, there are other things that you might find of interest, including the sculpture above,…

…and this old ice house, but of the two Muir Pillboxes I believed were still up here somewhere I could find no trace,…

…and so I leave you with a view of the ramparts in all its autumnal glory instead.  All is peaceful here now, only the scars on the rampart wall on the right reminding us that exactly one hundred years ago a man could also stand here, take in the view, such as it would have been at the end of the war and, for the first time in four and a half years, not be in danger from bullet, shell or bomb.

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15 Responses to Ypres, Armistice Day 2018

  1. Mark says:

    Great photos, I was also there and your right where else would you be.

  2. Barbara says:

    Well we were there too – in crowds having walked up with Poppy Parade. I said they were going to be late with the Silence and this lady told me “They are never late”…..Finally the old back couldn’t stand standing so we moved to the right hand side – found a seat on TV crews steps. When the ‘poppy petals’ fell they floated across towards us.
    Almost saw you there!!!!!

  3. Bruce McNair says:

    A fine tribute. Thanks for these photos- they capture the moment.

  4. Nigel Shuttleworth says:

    Wonderful tribute, thank you.

  5. Morag Sutherland says:

    I walked it with you. Thank you.

  6. Christina Martin says:

    Wonderful. Thankbylu so much for sharing.

  7. steven pearce says:

    Thank your wife for taking my picture i did look nice but dont get the no no

    • Magicfingers says:

      Hello Steven. The ‘No, no no’ was an oblique reference that your were not really Lord Roberts, whose name appears on the poppy on the previous photo, but I have changed the text slightly for clarity – see if it makes more sense now when read after the preceding photos. And a fine figure you did indeed cut, Sir.

      • Steven says:

        Sence yes it did great photos .found 1 of me in the gate with my reef very emotional day they deserve too b remembered everyday

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