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Remembered Today:

Opening of the Menin Gate


tootrock
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While researching a man whose name is recorded on the Menin Gate I discovered that both his widow and son had been present at the opening ceremony.

Since they were not well off, and foreign travel was in its infancy they clearly did not go of their own accord. A few questions arise.

Assuming people were invited to attend how were they selected?

Who paid the fare?

Where did they stay (Yorkshire to Ypres is rather more than a day trip)?

Does anyone have any information about this?

Incidentally I note that if one searches for "Menin Gate" in the NA Catalogue one gets precisely zero hits!

Regards,

Martin

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I can't answer your question in detail, but the ceremonies for many memorials (battle memorials and those to the missing) were quite large events, and in some cases selection was made via the Army (for representative officers/men of units). I don't know about the Menin Gate specifically.

There are a couple of files at least at Kew which reference the Menin Gate, in the WO 32 series relating to memorials erected after the war. I have looked at these in the past (one relates to the possible preservation of the whole of Ypres as a memorial - WO 32/5853). In one file there is an early drawing of the Menin Gate design by Reginald Blomfield which looks very like the finished version.

However, these are War Office files - there are also some relating to IWGC in the T (Treasury) series and the CAB series. However, as the structure was an IWGC project, it seems most likley that any relevant fiiles would be held by the CWGC - it might be worth contacting them.

Alan

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Dear Martin,

Travel to Ypres in those days was indeed a trek. However, since it was planned for the dedication ceremony to be attended by a number of widows, invitations were sent, and there was financial assistance for some through various charities at the time.

Those widowswho were able to attend were given a small bronze medal. It had Belgian ribbon, and depicted the Gate on one side and the date of the ceremony on the other. There isn't one in IFF,but I found one for sale in a small shop in Cockermouth some years ago. It is now one of my most prized possessions!

Further info on the gate, the dedication ceremony, etc can be found in "Menin Gate and Last Post" by Dominiek Dendooven, De Klaproos Editions, Koksijde, Belgium, 2001, ISBN 90-5508-051-9

Hope this helps

Bruce

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Guest geoff501
Incidentally I note that if one searches for "Menin Gate" in the NA Catalogue one gets precisely zero hits!

Try The Times Digital Archive.

I have a newspaper clipping (July 24th 1927, not the times) which states 10,000 Britons travelled to the opening ceremony. There is a photo of some relatives departing from Victoria station.

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Thanks for all the information.

The Times archive has 56 entries for "Menin Gate" throughout 1927 alone, so I have some reading to do!

The first article says that there were about 6,000 tickets which widows etc. could apply for. There was no financial assistance from the organisers. Cook's advertised a special tour to the event.

Regards,

Martin

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I have a similar ticket at home somewhere permitting someone (a widow?) to view the unveiling of the Cenotaph in Whitehall from the window of one of the Government offices IIRC.

I must have a look for it.

Regards,

Martin

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Those widowswho were able to attend were given a small bronze medal. It had Belgian ribbon, and depicted the Gate on one side and the date of the ceremony on the other. There isn't one in IFF,but I found one for sale in a small shop in Cockermouth some years ago. It is now one of my most prized possessions!

Bruce

Bruce

Is the medal as per the attached.

I was given this by some family friends - it has passed down their family but they knew nothing about it. I wasn't sure if it was issued at the time of the ceremony or was a souvenir produced shortly after. It didn't come with a ribbon when it was passed to me.

Thanks.

Neil

post-719-1210193359.jpg

post-719-1210193371.jpg

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Yes, Neil.

To confirm what I though I'd bought, I took it to IFF and then to the Documentation Centre. It was grabbed by an assistant, who insisted that the Director would want to see it. He came back with it, telling me that he knew that these medals were given to those who attended. His museum didn't have one....would I like to donate it? I told him that if I ever came across another one, I'd donate that.

Yours is identical to mine. Mine just has an inch long strip of ribbon in Belgian colours attached.

Every time I go to the 8 o'clock, I take it with me...amost like taking it home.

It is a very prized possession.

Bruce

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Bruce.

Many thanks - very interesting.

I may contact IFF to see if they want the one I was given as it would be nice for it to have a permanant home - although without the ribbon it is not ideal.

Neil

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Nice one Neil. I'm sure they will be most grateful! Here are your invited guests and others!

Chris.

post-1613-1210330778.jpg

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Neil,

The Curator would be delighted to receive it....and what a fine gesture!

Bravo, sir.

Bruce

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Siegfried Sassoon was at the opening ceremony and described the Menin Gate in a poem as a 'sepulchre of crime'

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Hello Martin .

A few months ago someone on the forum recommended :

"Battlefield Tourism : Pilgrimage and the Commemoration of the Great War in Britain , Australia and Canada 1919 - 1939 " by David W Lloyd

Very good . It describes how people travelled . Battlefield "tourism" seems to have been the beginning of Package Tours . And I think it described the opening of the Menin Gate ( I've lent the book) .

Linden

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