The Last Post Ceremony, Ieper — Ypres, Menin Gate
Every night at 8.00pm (20:00 hours) a moving ceremony takes place under the Menin Gate in Ieper - Ypres. The Last Post Ceremony has become part of the daily life in Ieper (Ypres) and the local people are proud of this simple but moving tribute to the courage and self-sacrifice of those who fell in defence of their town.
7.45pm: People Gather at the Menin Gate
Some evenings, particularly in summer, there can be large crowds of visitors.
At other times, on a weekday or in winter, the pavements under the memorial can be empty - though that is becoming rare now.
In any case, whether there is a large crowd or not even one person there, every evening the busy road through the memorial will be closed to traffic shortly before the ceremony and “Last Post” will be played.
7.55pm: The Traffic is Stopped
Just before 8 o'clock the police arrive and all traffic is stopped from driving through the Menin Gate.
For a few moments the noise of traffic echoing around the Menin Gate from the cobbled road ceases.
The crowd is hushed. A stillness descends over the memorial.
7.55pm: The Buglers Arrive
Buglers of the local volunteer Fire Brigade arrive and stand ready at the eastern entrance of the Menin Gate Memorial.
The Buglers then step into the roadway under the memorial arch and make their way to stand in the centre of the Hall of Memory. The Buglers stand in a line across the eastern entrance facing towards the town.
8pm: Sounding of Last Post
At exactly 8pm (20:00 hours - 8 o'clock) Call to Attention by the Buglers.
They sound the “Last Post” bugle call.
This is followed by a minute's silence.
If this is not an extended ceremony (see below) the Buglers will then play “Réveille”.
The Buglers will march off and the ceremony is ended.
An Extended Ceremony
On occasions the ceremony may be extended after the sounding of “Last Post” and before the sounding of “Réveille”.
Members of the Last Post Association will guide visiting individuals and groups who are laying wreaths when to do so.
There may be music by a band, a choir, orchestra, or a parade by Standards and military personnel.
After the wreath-laying a member or guest of the Last Post Association, a visiting dignitary or a visitor will have been invited to say the words of the Exhortation, taken from Laurence Binyon's poem “For the Fallen”. Standing in the centre of the road under the arch of the Hall of Memory the person will say the words:
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”
Hear Last Post and Réveille
Hear extracts from the daily ceremony under the Menin Gate:-
(These soundfiles are the copyright of www.greatwar.co.uk and may not be reproduced without permission.)
How the Tradition Began
In 1928, a year after the inauguration of the Menin Gate Memorial, a number of prominent citizens in Ypres decided that some way should be found to express the gratitude of the Belgian nation towards those who had died for its freedom and independence.
The idea of the daily sounding of the Last Post - the traditional salute to the fallen warrior - was that of the Superintendant of the Ypres Police, Mr P Vandenbraambussche. The Menin Gate Memorial on the east side of Ypres was thought to be the most appropriate location for the ceremony. Originally this was the location of the old city gate leading to the Ypres Salient battlefields and The Menin Road, through which so many British and Commonwealth troops had passed on their way to the Allied front line.
The privilege of playing Last Post was given to buglers of the local volunteer Fire Brigade. The first sounding of Last Post took place on 1st July 1928 and a daily ceremony was carried on for about four months. The ceremony was reinstated in the spring of 1929 and the Last Post Committee (now called the Last Post Association) was established. Four silver bugles were donated to the Last Post Committee by the Brussels and Antwerp Branches of the Royal British Legion.
From 11th November, 1929 the Last Post has been sounded at the Menin Gate Memorial every night and in all weathers. The only exception to this was during the four years of the German occupation of Ypres from 20th May 1940 to 6th September 1944. The daily ceremony was instead continued in England at Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey. On the very evening that Polish forces liberated Ypres the ceremony was resumed at the Menin Gate, in spite of the heavy fighting still going on in other parts of the town. Bullet marks can still be seen on the memorial from that time.
When the Last Post returned to Ieper (Ypres) after the Second World War the Brookwood Last Post Association (under Colonel McKay) continued, until recent years, to sound the Last Post at Brookwood Military Cemetery on the first Sunday of the month.
The Origin of ‘Réveille’ and ‘Last Post’
The tradition of sounding a bugle or drum at various stages of a soldier's day originated in the British Army. In the military camp at the start of the day a wake-up bugle call called ‘Réveille’ from the French word “réveiller” - to wake up - would be played. At various times of the day inspections would be made of each sentry post and a bugle call played at each post.
The tradition of the final bugle call of the day signalling the end of the soldier's day dates back to the 17th century when the British Army was on campaign in the Netherlands. There was already a Dutch custom in existance called “Taptoe”. This was a signal at the end of the day to shut off the beer barrel taps and the name comes from the Dutch “Doe den tap toe” - “turn the tap off”. From that time the British Army adopted a routine of also sounding drum beats as the officer on duty made his rounds in the evening to check sentry posts and to call off-duty soldiers out of the pub and back to their billets. When the bugle call of ‘Last Post’ was sounded at the final sentry post inspection this was the final warning that everyone should be back in their billets.
The ‘Last Post’ bugle call is used at military funerals, memorials and times of Remembrance. It symbolises the ‘end of the soldier's day’ in so far as the dead soldier has finished his duty and can rest in peace.
The Ypres Bugles
In the 1950s two silver bugles were presented by the Old Contemptibles' Association of Blackpool and Fleetwood and two silver trumpets were presented by Colonel I Whitaker to the memory of former Cavalry and Artillerymen.
New Bugles from the Royal Corps of Transport (1992)
By the early 1990s the six bugles which had been presented to the Last Post Association in 1929 and the 1950s were beginning to lose their tone. They had been blown every night for 60 years without interruption, except for the period of German occupation in the Second World War.
In 1992 six new silver bugles were presented to the Last Post Association. The idea to give new bugles, to ensure the daily act of Remembrance might continue for many more years to come, was that of retired Lieutenant Colonel Graham Parker, OBE. Graham was responsible for arranging this gift from serving personnel of the Royal Corps of Transport, now amalgamated into the Royal Logistics Corps.
The official hand-over of the new bugles was carried out in July 1992 at a ceremony to mark the 65th anniversary of the dedication of the Menin Gate.
New Bugles from the Royal British Legion (2007)
Eight new bugles were presented to the Last Post Association by the Royal British Legion in July 2007 on the occasion of the sounding of Last Post at the Menin Gate for the 27,702nd time.
The Last Post Association
The Last Post Association is responsible for the arrangements and sounding of “Last Post” at the daily ceremony at the Menin Gate Memorial.
Individuals and groups wishing to lay a wreath or enquire about special arrangements for a ceremony can find out more information on our page at:
Location of the Menin Gate Memorial and Last Post Ceremony
The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing is located on the east side of the town of Ypres.
Access to the Menin Gate for the Ceremony
Access to the Memorial is easiest on foot. There is parking in nearby streets or in the Grote Markt (market square), which is a few minutes' walk away. Visitors to the ceremony gather on the pavements under the Menin Gate either side of the road.
Great care should be taken if crossing the road at the Memorial before and after the ceremony. Young visitors should be aware not to run into the road at any time. This is a busy main road and the road is only closed to traffic for the duration of the daily Last Post ceremony at 20.00 hours and on special occasions.
Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing
The Memorial commemorates the names of over 54,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and Commonwealth Forces who died in the Ypres Salient before 16th August 1917 and who have no known grave.
11 November Armistice Day in Ypres
Header photo: Original photo of Last Post Association Buglers: courtesy of the Ieper Tourist Office, Stad Ieper: copyright Tijl Capoen.
(1) Photograph courtesy of the Ieper Tourist Office, Stad Ieper: copyright Tijl Capoen.
Before Endeavours Fade, by Rose E B Coombs, MBE
The Brookwood Last Post Association