Flanders honours lives lost in Battle of Passchendaele

Summary

Centennial memorials dedicated to the First World War battle were attended by local and foreign dignitaries, including members of the British royal family

Stories from then and now

Charles, Prince of Wales, attended Flanders’ commemorations of the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele on Sunday and Monday, together with his son, Prince William, and William’s wife, Catherine Middleton. The British royal family joined Belgian royals, politicians and descendants of the infamous battle’s military casualties for one of the most significant commemorations of the 1914-18 centenary of the First World War.

The Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, began on 31 July 1917. It has gone down in history as one of the First World War’s bloodiest and most devastating battles. After its 100 days, both sides had suffered 450,000 fatalities, with some 50,000 more injured or missing.

Flemish public broadcaster VRT started its commemoration on Sunday with a compilation from its series Ten oorlog (To War), which traces the front line with stories from then and now. That was followed by the British 2012 mini-series Parade’s End.

The official commemoration began that evening with the traditional Last Post at the Menin Gate in Ypres, in the presence of British and Belgian royals and politicians. That ceremony was attended by 200 descendants of some of those whose names are inscribed on the walls of the gate – those who were lost but whose remains have never been traced.

Following the Last Post, the attendees moved to Ypres’ market square to attend a multi-media performance on the battle, including a moving recitation by Dame Helen Mirren of “In Flanders’ Fields”, the poem by John McCrae that gives its name to the war museum on the same square.

On Monday, British and Belgian royals attended a ceremony at Tyne Cot cemetery, followed by the opening of the Zonnebeke Church trench, preserved from the war and part of the Memorial Museum Passchendaele. The Tyne Cot ceremony was covered live on Canvas.

Photo: From left, Duchess of Cambridge Catherine Middleton, Prince William, King Filip and Queen Mathilde attend the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate on Sunday evening
© Benoit Doppagne/Belga

First World War

Claiming the lives of more than nine million people and destroying entire cities and villages in Europe, the Great War was one of the most dramatic armed conflicts in human history. It lasted from 1914 to 1918.
Flanders Field - For four years, a tiny corner of Flanders known as the Westhoek became one of the war’s major battlefields.
Untouched - Poperinge, near Ypres, was one of the few towns in Flanders that remained unoccupied for most of the war.
Cemetery - The Tyne Cot graveyard in Passchendaele is the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world.
550 000

lives lost in West Flanders

368 000

annual visitors to the Westhoek

1 914

First Battle of Ypres