November 11

The Menin Gate at Ypres.

It’s still Armistice Day in Britain; officially, Victoire 1918 in France, though it’s not a day of joy.

The Menin Gate at Ypres, a British Empire Commonwealth war memorial whose walls are densely packed with 54,000 names of dead soldiers whose bodies were not recovered identifiably from the Flanders mud. Many more lie in orderly war cemeteries nearby. There are plenty of flowers stuck to the walls at Menin; Ypres is far more accessible to British visitors than the other mega-monument lost in the Somme beetfields at Thiépval. A busy road with bus routes passes through the Menin Gate, so the memorial is pleasantly integrated in the life of the town.

EUROPE FOR THE CWGC BY BRIAN HARRIS © 2006Credit New Zealand War Graves Project

The memorial includes a miniature, four-foot bronze version of itself, explained in Braille. (I didn’t check if it includes a tiny self-referential model of the emodel.) Did it take the Great War for the disabled to start being treated as citizens?

At Menin, a bugler plays the Last Post (Taps) every evening at dusk. Here is his Aussie counterpart in Anzac hat at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web

4 thoughts on “November 11”

  1. For those of you in London, the poppies at the Tower of London are very much worth seeing…and don't listen to the writers at The Guardian: Honouring the dead and raising money for the care of living veterans are good things, not bad things.

  2. That's beautiful. It's hard to believe it's only been 100 years. I will google that so as not to reveal my total ignorance of why the memorial is at a gate. (My high school had I think just one semester of world history. In theory there may have been AP, but I don't think so. I'd have forgotten most of it by now anyway.) I don't think this day got much press coverage here.

    1. The Menin Gate was the eastern exit through the ancient fortifications of the town of Ypres in Flanders. One of the main roads into the salient passed through it and so large numbers of British troops marched through it on their way to the front. It became symbolic of the passage into the fighting.

    2. Wiki'ed it. That's a fantastic design. Extremely effective and I'm not even there. And a good memorial isn't easy.

      As a species, we aren't making a big enough deal of this anniversary (though I suppose, it is really only a Westerner thing, mostly)(I have never bought into this whole Middle Easterners aren't Western thing. But that's for another day, plus, lacking much history, I would probably get spanked). It is a chance to reflect, and I don't see it happening. At least, not here in the US.

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