Tag Archives: Last Post Ceremony

Cloth Hall night 3

Beautiful Ieper and the Menin Gate – Belgium

Ieper – or Ypres back in 1918 – was immediately christened as ‘Wipers‘ by Allied soldiers, with even a ‘Wipers Times’ newspaper being written by the British!

During the Middle Ages, Ypres was a prosperous Flemish city renown for its textile industry – they were trading linen with England way back in the 14th century. It is located in Belgium north of the Somme River. Sadly this was right in the pathway of Germany’s planned sweep across the rest of Belgium and into France during WW1 so it became the scene of some savage battles. Shelled into ruins, the town ramparts were solid enough to endure the pounding of artillery and in fact were used by troops to shelter from the onslaught.

The people of Ieper were devastated at the destruction of their ancient town, but they have rebuilt it magnificently. Check out these before and after pictures of the amazing ‘Cloth Hall‘ below. This building featured in many photographs taken of allied troops moving through the town and the Menin Gate to the battlefields beyond. It is now home to the modern In Flanders Field Museum which commemorates the futility of war and includes a new World War I research centre.

A Before & After

The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing is also the centre of a painting made by Will Longstaff (Menin Gate at Midnight) showing ghostly troops moving by the gate – a very moving depiction that is in many RSL halls around Australia.

The town’s fire brigade has a group of buglers who play ‘The Last Post’ at 8pm each evening as part of a ceremony to honour the Allied soldiers who lie in unmarked locations throughout the surrounding battlefields. Traffic is halted while the large numbers of visitors attend this very moving experience. 54,000 names grace the walls of the Gate and we defy anyone not to shed a tear about the overwhelming horror and barbarity of war.

Kiwis Menin Gate 1 Menin Gate crowd A Menin gate 2 A Menin gate 1 A Buglers

This ceremony started at the end of WWI and has been a feature of the town ever since, except for a brief break during WWII when the town was occupied by German troops. A similar ceremony has been adopted for the close of our Australian War Memorial in Canberra each day.

We stayed at the very nice Ariane Hotel in Ieper while we toured the battlefields. A lovely blend of old architecture with modern interior and facilities.

Arian Hotel

Ieper is a delightful place as you can see from the photographs and has many beautiful buildings – and wonderful window displays of cakes and sweets!

A Ieper 1 A Buttress Cloth Hall night 2 Cloth Hall night 4 Cloth Hall night 3

Cakes in window

The town has cobblestone streets and we found them a little hard on our legs after a day walking round taking in the sights. The ramparts almost circle the town and are a lovely place to walk and take in the buildings.

Menin Gate Ramparts 1 Menin Gate Ramparts 3 Menin Gate Ramparts 4 Menin Gate Ramparts 7

Wallnut Red CurrantWe really had a good time and were intrigued by Belgium and in particular beautiful Ieper with such interesting and relevant history. We intend returning for a longer stay next time… and we would love to hear from anyone else who has also enjoyed visiting this region!

Australian War Memorial, Canberra and Bungendore

Our capital city of Canberra is located in the Australian Capital Territory and is completely surrounded by the state of New South Wales. That’s how we found ourselves 10 minutes from the city but staying at Queanbeyan caravan park in NSW! It reminded us of Washington DC in the USA, where we were surprised to hear that the locals there have no representation in parliament but still have to pay taxes…

One reason for our return visit to Canberra was to revisit the Australian War Memorial.  A bonus was catching up with Ian’s army colleague Adrian Roberts at the lovely Southern Cross Yacht Club in Yarralumla, as well as our Perth friends Jude and Bob. Ian was able to give Bob an insider’s view of the Vietnam War displays at the museum, and had been anticipating viewing the new World War 1 dioramas. This is the period of history that he is most interested in (watch our for a future blog on his two trips to the Western Front and his hero Monash!) Unfortunately these displays will not be completed until 2015.

AWM A Ian &  Adrian 2

The Last Post Ceremony is held at 4.55 pm daily to honour the dead. We first experienced this concept at the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium where a very moving service is held every evening at 8 pm to honour the soldiers from the many countries who lost their lives on the Western Front. We weren’t sure what to expect in Canberra, but also found this an emotional experience.

AWM Honour roll 2 AWM Honour roll AWM Last Post 2 AWM Last Post 3

Mobs of school children – all very well behaved – and clockwork precision proceeded for 25 minutes. Each day the story behind just one of the 100,000+ names on the Roll of Honour is told – such a great way to show the scale of death and the impact of war. Then the Ode of Remembrance is read:

“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.”

And, joy of joys, a bugler who can bugle as no other then gives a beautiful rendition of ‘The Last Post’. Click here to see if you agree!

Ginny visited the Floriade, walking through this amazing and free ‘celebration of spring’. One million flowers come into bloom for four weeks each year in the Commonwealth Park, along with many gardening workshops and displays. Check out the photo gallery!

We fell in love with the Canton restaurant in Queanbeyan once we scored a table in this tiny restaurant specialising in Chinese/Malaysian cuisine.  Everything we ordered on our first visit was superb (rocksalt and chilli squid was the standout dish), so a return visit was in order. Yum, fresh asparagus wok-fried with chicken and spicy plum sauce, plus lemongrass and chilli pork ribs with snow peas washed down with a BYO bottle of Oomoo Shiraz. Hmmm, I wonder if they will deliver takeaways to Perth?!

Bungendore is a historic country town (built in 1837) nestled in a pretty green valley about 30 minutes from Canberra. There are several cafes and galleries to browse but our favourite was the Wood Works Gallery, a magnificent display of Australian made wood furniture, craft and sculptures. Check out the famous Hannah cabinet – what a work of art – and these other two beautiful pieces below.

A Bungendore 1 A Bungendore 2 A Bungendore 3

We think Canberra is an under-rated destination. In addition to the many outstanding attractions – for example our old Parliament House fairly echoes with history – there are many beautiful parks and gardens to relax in, and great food to be eaten! Go there, you won’t be sorry…. or better still, tell us about your favourite thing to do in Canberra?!