The Last Post, the traditional final salute to the fallen, is played at 8pm each night by the buglers of the Last Post Association in honour of the memory of the soldiers of the former British Empire and its allies, who died in the Ypres Salient during the First World War.
In a statement from The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) in partnership with the Last Post Association, is requesting the public stay away from a daily act of remembrance held at the CWGC’s iconic Menin Gate Memorial to the missing in Ieper, Belgium due to the current spread of the Coronavirus.
Geert Bekaert, CWGC’s Area Director for the Western European Central region explained: “For the first time since the Second World War, the CWGC and the Last Post Association are taking the unusual step to request the public stay away from the nightly Last Post ceremony at CWGC’s iconic Menin Gate Memorial in Ieper. This is due to the unprecedented spread of the coronavirus.
“We would like to reassure people that the sounding of the Last Post – that most moving of tributes to the fallen – will continue at 8pm each night as it has since 1928, but public access to the ceremony will not be possible while these restrictions are in place.
“The decision has not been taken lightly but is based on a duty of care to CWGC staff, partners, stakeholders and the wider public.
“The CWGC is cooperating fully with the relevant local authorities in Ieper and is actively monitoring the situation. We will update our advice accordingly.
“The CWGC would like to stress that while its sites remain open and operations continue as normal, there are widespread business closures in mainland Europe – including to the tourism infrastructure – which may effect the public’s ability to travel.
We would strongly recommend the public consult and comply fully with any advice given by the relevant authorities.”
The Last Post has been sounded at the Menin Gate since 1928 – only postponed during the years of Nazi occupation.
It has come to symbolise the people of Ieper’s ongoing commitment to remembrance of those who defended their city during the First World War.
The CWGC Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing is one of the most recognisable war memorials in the world. Designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield and built by the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission, the Menin Gate was unveiled on 24 July 1927.
It commemorates more than 54,000 soldiers of the former British Empire and her allies who died in the Ypres Salient during the First World War and who have no known grave.