Make it Happen, #22: Witness "The Last Post" In Ypres

by - 7:08 PM

It's 2014. I'm at home, watching tv with my parents. The Christmas tree is full of ornaments and lights, presents lie around it, waiting for us to unwrap them. Everything is fine, everything will stay fine and we'll celebrate Christmas this way for many, many years.

December 1914. Another time, another place. It's cold in the trenches, bombs are falling everywhere and the Christmas spirit won't come to Europe this year. The soldiers on both fronts thought they'd be home by now. They thought the Great War would be fun and brief. They couldn't have been more wrong.
Back home their families wait for them, knowing they won't see their brothers, fathers and sons home this Christmas. Or next Christmas. Maybe theyear after that. Maybe not until Christmas 1918. Probably they'll never see them again...

The First World War fascinates me. It's the war that changed the essence of war itself. The Netherlands were completely neutral during this war, but less than 100km to the South, the Belgians were having a rough time. The Western front was very close the the town of Ypres. At the end of the war, there was very little left of this place.
Since it's exactly 100 years ago that the First World War started, I wanted to go to Ypres, where the fallen soldiers of this war are remembered every single day. I wanted to witness this ritual, and when I finally did, I was overwhelmed by the raw reality of the scars that WW I left on the face of Western Europe.

From Envy's Make it Happen List
#22: Witness "The Last Post" in Ypres, Belgium
Status: Awesomeness Achieved

I went to Ypres in October with my parents. We arrived there on a beautiful Autumn day. It was strange to see how peaceful the place is now, considering the tragedies that took place there just a century ago.
We went to the Menenpoort. This gate doesn't look very special on the outside. The inside, however, is covered with over 50.000 names of fallen soldiers whose bodies were never found. It's here, within the walls of this gat, that "The Last Post" ceremony takes place every night.

I read some of the names written on the inside of the gate. The lists were endless. The soldiers came from all over the world. Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Belgium of course...
I couldn't imagine how many people's bodies were never found.
There were Fishers there too. I'm probably not related to any of them, but suddenly the First World War came very, very close. 

That night my parents and I joined the gigantic mass that went to the Menepoort for the Ceremony. Even though we came early the gate was almost too crowded to get in. I sneaked in somehow, wriggled my way towards the middle of the mass. We stood there, packed together so tightly that I couldn't see a thing. Then the sound of a single trumpet pierced the skies and everyone became quiet.

Many people snapped away with their cameras during the entire ceremony. I didn't. I listened to the trumpets, read the names written on the walls. And then it happened. Call me crazy, but...
I had goosebumps all over my body when I closed my eyes for a second. It was like all those soldiers whose names were written on the walls marched through the Menenpoort. The feeling didn't subside until the trumpet stopped blaring. Children put poppies down beneath one of the lists with names. Then the trumpet started again, and all those dead soldiers marched out of the city again. It was a warm night, but I was chilled to the bone as the moments went by while I couldn't help but feel the presence of the fallen...

Never forget the ones who died for your freedom. Respect them, honour them, like they do in Ypres. It's the least you can do to stay awesome.

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8 Fellow Ramblers

  1. India was still a colony of the British at the time of WW1..Indian armies were marched into the war...people in India were forced to make arms and provide food and goods for the war...
    We have a similar building in New is called 'India Gate'..with names of soldiers on it's looks similar to this one..

    Neal Kind
    Daily Diaries

    1. That's right. I saw so many Indian names in that gate too. How could I have forgotten about them? I actually feel very sorry for your people being dragged into this war, since it wasn't an Indian problem at all...
      If I ever go to New Delhi, I'll visit the India Gate!

  2. We don't have any such monument to commemorate the lives lost in any sort of war in Pakistan. Not any that I know of, at least. Just awards and national days and stuff.
    You know, I was thinking about how everyone remembers about the soldiers killed in wars fought for our freedom, but what about people who are still suffering without freedom? More than dwelling on the past, I think we should take up the spirits left behind by these unsung heroes and actually DO something. (Now, if I knew what exactly we could do, itd be really awesome xD)

    1. I think we should combine the two: keep in mind how terrible wars are, then bring freedom to the ones who need it because we remember how bad life is when there's no freedom to enjoy.
      I wish there was a way other than war to bring freedom. Actually, war isn't a way to bring freedom to the world. It's a difficult question...
      Thanks for this comment, it really made me think more about freedom and war!

  3. While I completely disagree with all aspects of war and violence, the lives of those who died to protect their countries and others deserve immense respect and remembrance, I mean, what choice had those soldiers?. WWI is not commemorated or taught enough to people like myself. Ireland remained neutral to all international wars (though we had plenty wars of our own), however, there only seems to be a teaching focus on WWII. I don't know why though, the two wars occurred very close to each other on the historic timeline. I've always been curious as to what actually caused WWI, but I've only ever been given vague answers, whereas, I'm very aware of what happened during the second.

    Great post! I can't wait until I'm older and I can travel the world and discover the past for myself! xx
    Golden Ducklings

    1. I agree that the main focus is on WWII. While WWI was the start of all trouble in Europe. I have the same reason for being more curious about the First World War as you. It's a bit overlooked, but changed the whole world. My curiosity eventually led me to Ypres :) I'd highly recommend the place for discovering the past ;)

  4. I've also always felt connected (?) with the world wars. They hold so much mystery and sorrow. This sounds like a great experience. I want to do it now.

    1. I know what you mean. The stories from both wars sound so surreal. It's worth it to open up to those stories and see the sights with your own eyes.
      Thanks for commenting :)


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