Ieper – The Menin Gate

Ieper is a small city in northern Belgium.  It has a population of about 35,000 people.  Many tourists come here but there are no amusement parks or trendy nightclubs.  It is a quiet place. Ieper is famous among many tourists for another reason.  It is a place to remember and pay respect to the dead.

Ieper was the site of several fierce battles in World War I.  Many young British, Canadian, and German men died in and around the city.  There were three large battles for control of Ieper during the war.  By the time the last battle was fought in 1917, there was nothing left of Ieper.  War had completely wiped out the town.

After the Germans surrendered in 1918, Ieper was rebuilt.  Despite the war’s end, however, many people could not forget what had happened.  Many memorials were built to honor the young men who fell at Ieper.  Even today, the war is remembered each day in Ieper at the Menin Gate.  The gate has the names of more than 54,000 Commonwealth (British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and others) soldiers who do not have a grave.

At 8 o’clock every evening, everyone and everything near the Menin Gate halts.  Cars and people don’t move.  People gather silently at the gate.  The Ieper Fire Brigade plays Last Post.  This is a military song played at funerals.   Some people cry.  It is a very emotional experience.