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What is the 'first collective memorial' erected along the former Great War front in France and Belgium?

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Sir Reginald Blomfield, one of the principal architects of the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission during the Great War, was given the privilege to design the 'first collective memorial' along the former war front in France and Belgium. The Menin Gate Memorial was unveiled on 24 July 1927 in Ieper (previously known as Ypres, Belgium, and now known by its Flemish name) by Field Marshal Lord Plumer, G.C.G., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O., G.B.E. (1857-1932) who commanded the British Second Army (1915-1917) and was Commander-in-Chief of the British Army of the Rhine (1918-1919). The Menin Gate Memorial is considered an important place of memory in Belgian Flanders as this triumphal arch was built for two purposes: to serve as a memorial to those who fought in the area known as the Ypres Salient and is the first of four memorials to the approximately 90,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers who have no known grave. The memorial was erected at this spot as Commonwealth troops leaving the city of Ypres marched through this location from October 1914 and for the next four years onto the roads leading eastward into the battlefields of the Ypres Salient. Blomfield's overall style of architecture is best described as military classicism. In the case of Menin Gate, it is one of the most visited Great War memorials on the Western Front, and it is partly due to their Last Post Ceremony held continuously since 1 July 1928 (except during the period of May 1940 to September 1944) that this may well be the most long-standing 20th century 'living memorial'. This memorial comes to life every evening at 8 p.m. by the Last Post Ceremony Association - a dedicated team of local buglers from the Ypres Voluntary Fire Brigade that maintains this ceremony in perpetuity. Engraved among the 1,200 panels of the Menin Gate Memorial are the names of 54,897 casualties with no known grave, including 7,000 Canadians. On 9 July 2015, a special commemorative ceremony was held to recognize the sounding of the Last Post at this shrine of remembrance for the 30,000th time.

On this day, 24 July 2022, we mark the 95th anniversary of the unveiling of the Menin Gate Memorial in Ieper, Belgium.

André M. Levesque

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