Photo of the week: A corona-proof Last Post

Summary

Scaled-down Armistice Day commemorations took place this week, with the usual crowds at Ypres’ Menin Gate replaced by just six people

‘Battlefield of the world’

This year’s Armistice Day Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres took a very different form thanks to Covid-19. Normally, up to 7,000 people would visit Ypres for the 11 November ceremony, with space for 500 people under the famous arch. This year, just six people were allowed to attend the service.

Prime minister Alexander De Croo joined Geert Bekaert, the director of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Ypres mayor Emmily Talpe and Benoît Mottrie, chair of the Last Post Association, for the scaled-back ceremony. A single bugler and bagpiper were also present.

They placed wreaths at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the bugler played the Last Post and De Croo recited the traditional remembrance poem “For the Fallen”.

“Even in these difficult times, it is important that we continue to commemorate the Armistice in an appropriate way, especially here in Ypres,” De Croo said. “During the First World War, our country was the battlefield of the whole world.”

Instead of gathering around the walls inscribed with the names of fallen soldiers, a few dozen spectators were kept at a distance along the street. The ceremony was streamed live via Facebook and people were asked to stay away to restrict the spread of the coronavirus.

The arch, designed by British architect Reginald Blomfield, bears the names of 54,395 Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Ypres Salient whose bodies have never been identified or found. The Last Post ceremony takes place every evening at 20.00

“We don’t do it for the crowds, for the audience, we do it above all for the names who are chiselled on the wall,” bugler Tonny Desodt told VRT.

Photo: Geert Bekaert, Alexander De Croo, Emmily Talpe and Benoît Mottrie
© Belga/Kurt Desplenter