Day 2:    The Jean-Paul Memorial Tour of Ft. Loncin!


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The lagging laggardly lads leisurely lope to Liege 

One is never sure what is worst, the first day in Europe from a redeye flight, or the next day trying to get into the Central European Time zone groove, so the Boys rose around 8:30 with a leisurely brunch in the Marriott's buffet and lots and lots of coffee the Boys started the trip to Liege, and the first official tour stop on the World War 1 Over Dere Campaign. Sadly the Mike, Bone, and Ron all fumbled with the stupid French global navigator with no success. Similar to a French woman, always changing their minds!

But the real question is "why start in Liege?", didn't the war start in Serbia with the assassination of Emperor Franz Joseph? The reality is that his assassination started the war, it was when the Germans marched into Belgium demanded passage through to France, and were told no, that the bombing of Liege started the war and brought Great Britain in to the fray.

1914 the Fort de Loncin was one of the last Liège forts to suffer German bombardment. Liège first came under attack on 6 August 1914. Loncin was massively bombarded for three days from 12 to 15 August, before one of its two magazines, with twelve tons of explosive, blew up. The explosion destroyed the heart of the fort, killing 350 of the 550-man garrison, their bodies remaining under the wreckage. Loncin was the only fort at Liège that did not surrender. Many of the dead remain in the fort and the site is considered a war grave as well as a museum. So for Mike, Bone and Ron, starting in Liege, showed where the German's started the siege!

The need to urinate caused the Boys to procrastinate, which allowed the Boys 3 hours to Ruminate !  

Road coffees are great when you are suffering from jet lag, but it does play hell on your bladder! By the time the boys figured out where Fort Loncin with a combination of foolish-French GPS and the Google they arrived to discover that Campaign was starting on wrong foot!  

The damned Fort was closed for the day!!!

Stunned, the Boys had two things on their minds: 1. What do they do for the rest of the day? 2. Dang, we gotta pee!! Due to a lack of bathrooms in view, the Boys scouted for a discrete place to miterate, when they came across someone in the Fort, who in mostly French and broken English said "Z Fort ees




Entry to Fort Loncin

The Boys enjoying a few Belgians in Ypres  

The very moving Last Post Ceremony at the Menon Gate

Mike, Bone, and Ron finished dinner just in time to catch a moving ceremony takes place under the Menin Gate every night at 8.00 PM.  

The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing is a war memorial in Ypres, Belgium, dedicated to the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of World War I and whose graves are unknown. The memorial is located at the eastern exit of the town and marks the starting point for one of the main roads out of the town that led Allied soldiers to the front line. Designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield and built and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the Menin Gate Memorial was unveiled on 24 July 1927.  In medieval times, the original narrow gateway on the eastern side of the city of Ypres was called the Hangoartpoort, "poort" being the Dutch word for gate. In order to prosper and maintain its wealth, the city of Ypres had to be fortified, to keep out potential invaders. During the 17th and 18th centuries, while under the occupation of the Habsburgs and the French, the city was increasingly fortified. Major works were completed at the end of the 17th century by the French military engineer Sebastien Le Prestre, Seigneur de Vauban. At the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, the eastern exit simply cut through the remains of the ramparts and crossed a moat. The gateway was by this time known as the Menenpoort, or Menin Gate in English, because the road leading through the gateway led to the small town of Menen. Ypres occupied a strategic position during the First World War because it stood in the path of Germany's planned sweep across the rest of Belgium, as had been called for in the Schlieffen Plan.

By October 1914, the much battered Belgian Army broke the dykes on the Yser River to the north of the City to keep the western tip of Belgium out of German hands. Ypres, being the centre of a road network, anchored one end of this defensive feature and was also essential for the Germans if they wanted to take the Channel Ports through which British support was flooding into France. For the Allies, Ypres was also important because it eventually became the last major Belgian town that was not under German control. The importance of the town is reflected in the five major battles that occurred around it during the war. During the First Battle of Ypres the Allies halted the German Army's advance to the east of the city. The German army eventually surrounded the city on three sides, bombarding it throughout much of the war. The Second Battle of Ypres marked a second German attempt to take the city in April 1915. The third battle is more commonly referred to as Passchendaele, but this 1917 battle was a complex five-month engagement.

The fourth and fifth battles occurred during 1918. British and Commonwealth soldiers often passed through the Menenpoort on their way to the front lines with some 300,000 of them being killed in the Ypres Salient. 90,000 of these soldiers have no known graves. From September to November 1915, the British 177th Tunnelling Company built tunnelled dugouts in the city ramparts near the Menin Gate. These were the first British tunnelled dugouts in the Ypres Salient. The carved limestone lions adorning the original gate were damaged by shellfire, and were donated to the Australian War Memorial by the Mayor of Ypres in 1936. They were restored in 1987, and currently reside at the entrance to that Memorial, so that all visitors to the Memorial pass between them. Reginald Blomfield's triumphal arch, designed in 1921, is the entry to the barrel-vaulted passage for traffic through the mausoleum that honours the Missing, who have no known graves. The patient lion on the top is the lion of Britain but also the lion of Flanders. It was chosen to be a memorial as it was the closest gate of the town to the fighting, and so Allied Troops would have marched past it on their way to fight. Actually, most troops passed out of the other gates of Ypres, as the Menin Gate was too dangerous due to shellfire. Its large Hall of Memory contains names on stone panels of 54,395 Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Salient but whose bodies have never been identified or found. On completion of the memorial, it was discovered to be too small to contain all the names as originally planned.

 An arbitrary cut-off point of 15 August 1917 was chosen and the names of 34,984 UK missing after this date were inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing instead. The Menin Gate Memorial does not list the names of the missing of New Zealand and Newfoundland soldiers, who are instead honoured on separate memorials. The inscription inside the archway is similar to the one at Tyne Cot, with the addition of a prefatory Latin phrase: "Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam – Here are recorded names of officers and men who fell in Ypres Salient, but to whom the fortune of war denied the known and honoured burial given to their comrades in death". The Latin phrase means 'To the greater glory of God'. Both this inscription, and the main overhead inscription on both the east- and west-facing façades of the arch, were composed by Rudyard Kipling.  On the opposite side of the archway to that inscription is the shorter dedication: "They shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away". To this day, the remains of missing soldiers are still found in the countryside around the town of Ypres. Typically, such finds are made during building work or road-mending activities. Any human remains discovered receive a proper burial in one of the war cemeteries in the region. If the remains can be identified, the relevant name is removed from the Menin Gate.

The Last Post Ceremony has become part of the daily life in Ypres and the local people are proud of this simple but moving tribute to the courage and self-sacrifice of those who fell in defense of their town. 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 1 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 11 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 20 May 1940 to 6 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 Exhortation

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” (fourth verse). Standing in the center 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.”

With that the crowd broke up and the Boys headed back into the square for one more round of drinks