The band left Arnhem and drove to Ypres for two nights at a nice hotel just round the corner from the Gate and close to the square. Breakfasts were superb and included ‘make your own’ waffles! So it was that a fat and sugar filled band took a much needed stroll to St Georges Chapel to see the many commemorative plaques. Most then went to visit Tyne Cot Cemetery and also to another cemetery where Emma found the grave of a relative.
The band started preparing for the ceremony at the Menin Gate with the PM trying to cover all options that might present itself after having experienced the ceremony the night before. The hotel was very helpful and gave us a conference room for the tune up and brief. The band set off down the Menin Road playing Kilworth Hills and Bloody Fields of Flanders. As it happened, the access was clear all the way to inside the gate, but we stuck to the plan and stopped short at the cross roads to stop playing. We then marched into position ‘to the tap’ and the Master of Ceremonies discussed the order of service with Dave, our solo piper; Chris, our wreath layer and the PM. Dave then marched to join the buglers at the opposite end of the Gate.
During the previous evening, we had met the great granddaughter of the architect, Sir Reginald Blomfield, who designed not only the Menin Gate but also the St Georges Chapel in Ypres and the Cross of Sacrifice that appears in the majority of Commonwealth War Grave cemeteries. During a chance meeting at the chapel the following morning, she asked us if would lay a wreath on behalf of the Blomfield family in remembrance her grandfather and The Fallen. The band was honoured to accept this request which was especially poignant as their family home was in Cornwall.
The buglers played the Last Post and the Silence was then observed, before Dave started a slow march across the Gate playing Hector the Hero. It was perfectly played and was a fitting and emotional tribute to The Fallen. Chris was given the honour of laying the wreath which he carried out with the dignity and the drill of an ex serviceman that made us all feel proud. During the wreath laying, the band played My Home before departing the Gate to Scotland the Brave.
The weekend had been a full programme of events so a well earned rest, drink and band dinner in a local restaurant was the ideal way to celebrate and relax before the drive home on the following day after another lovely cooked breakfast with waffles of course!
Photos courtesy of Last Post Association, Marie and Keith.