Have you heard of the Last Post at Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium? It is conducted every night at 8:00 p.m. under the Gate. Last Post is played, sometimes there are speeches, wreaths are laid, and people gather to honor the war dead and missing. I attended my first Last Post ceremony in April 2015. It was a little different and longer than the one I attended last week, but still powerful.
I arranged to lay a wreath at the Menin Gate during the Last Post Ceremony on 3 March 2020. The coordinator spoke with each of the groups laying wreaths to explain the process of the ceremony and chat with us a bit. I told him I was a military researcher and before the ceremony began, he asked me to read the Offering after the bugles played. I was shocked! What an honor!
After I read the offering, it was time to lay the wreaths. Johan and I walked up the steps together to lay ours which honored all those who fought and died, with a special note about my great grand uncle Michael Kokoska, whose photo I put in the back of the pouch with the note. Michael was not a British Forces soldier but he still gave his life for Europe’s freedom.
It was interesting to talk with some of the others gathered to lay wreaths. We spoke to a woman and her daughter from Australia who were there to honor family members. Johan spoke to them while I was waiting with the coordinator before the ceremony began. I ran into them the following morning and learned more about their stories and soldiers. Susan, the mom spent 10 years trying to find out what happened to her grandfather, who went in under his brother’s name, fell ill and was put into a hospital before he ever went overseas, and when he died and came out of the hospital, someone must have identified him as his paperwork showed his true name. She recently was able to get CWGC to provide a headstone for him now that all the paperwork has been sorted. Now this soldier will have a proper headstone. It was an interesting story and journey she’s been on.
Have you been to the Menin Gate? What did you experience there?
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