Thursday, July 12


Today their Majesties Queen Paola of Belgium and our gracious Queen Elizabeth II will lead solemn commemorations in Passchendaele paying tribute to the 500,000 soldiers who died 90 years ago this year in one of the bloodiest trench warfare battles ever seen.
Thousands will gather just outside the village of Passchendaele with the Royals and other leaders from Australia, New Zealand and Canada to remember what historians have described as a slaughter of thousands in the Battle of Passchendaele. It was the last of several large battles during World War I that pitted British and Commonwealth soldiers against Germany on the war's western front.
Their Majesties will lay wreaths at Tyne Cot cemetery, the largest Commonwealth burial site in the world, which is located just a few miles from Passchendaele (known as Passendale in Dutch).
The Royals and others will also commemorate the 80th anniversary of the famous Menen Gate, located in Ieper, which has 55,000 names of missing soldiers engraved on its walls, soldiers who have no known grave.

The arched limestone gate was erected in 1927 to commemorate the passage from the old city walls where thousands of soldiers marched to the front. It has since then become a renowned war memorial, drawing 200,000 war pilgrims a year to look over its names and participate in the mournful "last post" ceremony, which has been conducted every evening under the gate since 1930.

Dubbed "road to Passiondale" by incoming reinforcements, the Battle of Passchendaele became a symbol of utter destruction and senseless killing in brutal trench warfare carried out in days of endless rain, back and forth volleys of millions of shells creating a cratered landscape littered with dead bodies and flattened villages.

It saw the first use of mustard gas against troops during some of the most intensive trench warfare during the war. Even now, the remains of soldiers, bombs and gas canisters are still dug up every year by farmers plowing the regions fields.

The battle was called to a halt after Canadian reinforcements replaced decimated British, Australian and New Zealand units near Passchendaele and captured the ruined village 10 Nov. 1917.

Lest we forget.

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