Last Post APP and the 30,000th Ceremony

The Last Post Association APP

The Last Post Association APP
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The Last Post Association asked me to take a major role in the development and production of their APP that was launched on 9th July 2015 as the 30,000th time the Last Post was played under the Menin Gate. The APP offers you the following information:

•    about the Last Post Association and the Daily Act of Remembrance that takes places every night at 8.00pm at the Menin Gate
•    the story of the Menin Gate and information about the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
•    Find A Soldier:
o    so that you can find all the 54,397 soldiers who are commemorated on the Menin Gate with the details by name, or panel etc
o    it will show you on which panel they are mentioned
o    with a detailed map of the Menin Gate that will show where to find the Panel
o    to give you the opportunity to participate, you can 'Remember A Soldier' and perform your own act of remembrance
•    Soldier Of The Day: read the story of a specific soldier on each day of the year with lots of illustrations
•    A detailed timeline
•    Do You Know?: a fascinating list of soldiers commemorated on the Menin Gate in different categories such as brothers commemorated together on
    
the Menin Gate, sportsmen, poets, VC holders, those Shot At Dawn and many other incredibly fascinating categories. 
The APP
  • is available in the iOS app store 
  • and in the Google Play Store

The front screen of the App is shown below.

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After a considerable amount of research and work I put together the most comprehensive series of lists for the Menin Gate that include the brothers who died and are commemorated together on the Menin Gate, similary for the father's and sons. The full list of Victoria Cross winners, those Shot At Dawn, sportsmen, artists, the known 15, 16 and 17 year olds, and many, many more names that have a fascinating history attached to them.

To commemorate the soldiers from 32 nations who served in the British, Australian, Canadian or Indian armies and are remembered on the Menin Gate another set of lists is available.
 
It was a pleasure to write the 400 stories, that are well illustrated with individual photographs and/or signatures where available, and pictures to illustrate the text that I hope you will enjoy after downloading, then using the APP. The Last Post Association does so much to preserve the memory of the men who gave their lives in the First World War. They deserve our support, so by downloading and using their APP you will be demonstrating your commitment to perpetuating the memory of those who gave the supreme sacrifice.

30,000th Last Post Ceremony, 9th July 2015

HM Queen Matilde arrives at the Menin Gate escorted by Benoit Mottrie, she then listens as Benoit addresses those under the Menin Gate
and those watching on TV.

Benoit's address, the band of the Royal Engineers and the choir

The Last Post Association (LPA) organised the most wonderful event to commemorate the 30,000th playing of the Last Post. I was delighted to be invited by the LPA and given a VIP ticket that allowed me to attend all the events.

The evening began with an ‘Academic Session’ that was a excellent programme of speeches and music. The event was held in ‘Het Perron’ Cultural Centre next to Ypres Station. Benoit Mottrie, Chairman of the Last Post Association, gave an excellent speech: he welcomed everyone then gave a short history of the LPA and spoke movingly of the daily act of remembrance at the Menin Gate. He also thanked everyone, both past and present for all they had done to establish the daily ritual and keep it alive. He reminded us all that nobody had done more to keep the ceremony alive than Guy Gruwez who had served as Chairman for 40 years and during a period of time when few people were interested in visiting the WWI battlefields or attending the Menin Gate ceremony.

Dr Brendan Nelson, Director of the Australian War Memorial, gave the speech of the night. He spoke of the importance of the Last Post ceremony to so many families over the years, particularly those who could never visit a grave or memorial. He interspersed his deliberations with anecdotes about the Seabrook family who lost three sons in one action and how their mother, Fanny, wrote on numerous occasions to ask for information about George and Theo whose bodies were lost. She knew that William had been killed as he had been mortally wounded and died in ‘Remy Sidings’ a few hours after he brothers. Brendan’s illuminating, beautifully delivered speech brought together all the (then) Dominion countries, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and India, as well the home countries of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. He reminded us of the story for Captain Will Longstaff who, the night before the inauguration of the Menin Gate, on 23rd July 1927 met Mrs Mary Horsburgh at midnight whilst walking. She was at ‘Hell Fire Corner’ and asked her if he could be of any assistance; she replied “No. I just want to be with my dear boys. I can feel them all around me.”  That encounter, together with the emotions the next day and Lord Plumer’s final comment “They are not missing — they are here” inspired him to paint ‘Menin Gate At Midnight’. The beautiful painting was completed in one sitting and Brendan had brought it with him and it was displayed during the reception in the Cloth Hall. Brendan’s speech touched everyone and gave us all food for thought.

Other speeches were made by the Mayor of Ypres, Jan Durnez; Vice-Chairman of the CWGC, Sir Joe French; and Minister-President of Flanders, Geert Bougeois. The speeches were interspersed by music played by the Royal Ypriana Concert Band who were in fine form. They also accompanied Trui Chielens who sang so beautifully ‘John Condon’s Song’, a song that I had not heard before. The session was closed by Mattie Archie who played The Last Post on a guitar — it was expertly played but not to my taste.

We were taken by bus to the Menin Gate and to our allocated spot. The streets of Ypres were packed as was the market square where bands had been playing and a huge tv screen allowed everyone to follow proceedings. Wim Opbrouck was the Master of Ceremonies who performed it excellently speaking in Flemish and perfect English. HM Queen Matilde of the Belgians arrived and a few minutes later the buglers marched into position and played the ‘Call To Attention’. Benoit then addressed the gathering with words of welcome and led tributes to his colleagues both past and present. He explained how the evening (in Belgium) was being shared with all parts of the world and that live feeds would allow them to be part of the ceremony.

The band of the Royal Engineers, splendidly attired, played as a local choir sang lustily the first hymn. This was followed by the first live feed to the Royal Chelsea Hospital, London. Here one of the Chelsea Pensioners, Stan Pepper, read the story of Private Sidney Barrow — wonderfully delivered and so beautifully written! It certainly brought a lump to my throat and was very special for me knowing I had made a contribution to the ceremony by finding, researching and writing the story of Sidney. (The cameo was reproduced in full in the programme that we all had been given.)

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Menin Gate At Midnight by William Longstaff
There was complete silence under the Menin Gate as the buglers put their highly polished bugles to their mouths and played the Last Post, the 30,000th tribute to the fallen. As the notes floated away under the Menin Gate the Last Post was played again from Westminster Abbey, Hillsborough Castle and Cardiff Castle that we could see on the large screens erected under the Gate. The Exhortation was given by Ben Roberts-Smith, VC, from Canberra.

Following the minute’s silence a lament was played by a piper at Edinburgh Castle, then the wreaths were laid. The first tribute was laid by Queen Matilde, followed by the Ambassadors, then other dignitaries, and as they did so the tv screens showed the other tributes being made around Belgium and in the UK including from Ypres twin town, Sittingbourne, Kent. Then live feeds showed wreaths being laid at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris; the Neue Wache in Berlin and at the Pukeahu National War Memorial, Wellington.

‘In Flanders Field’ was read from Ottawa and as that delivered poppy petals fell from the roof to the accompaniment of the Band of the Royal Engineers and the choir who sang another hymn. The Kohima Epitaph was delivered from the Delhi Memorial (India Gate) and following a few words of thanks to all the participants Reveille was played.

The Last Post is sounded for the 30,000th time under the Menin Gate, then the wreathes are laid. Benoit presents Queen Matilde with her momento.

The national anthems of both Great Britain and Belgium were played before the Queen was introduced to the buglers. She signed the special Last Post Association guestbook and Benoit presented her with the nosecap of a WWI shell, highly polished and mounted on a wooden base.

The band struck up and led a procession to the Cloth Hall. The buglers were the next to follow, receiving a heartfelt and deafening round of applause as they marched under the Gate.

I then joined the parade to a fantastic reception of excellent fizz, a selection of cold collations, a number of hot main courses, all washed down with lashings of wine and petit fours to end a sumptuous evening and special event. A number of short speeches were made and presentations given in between the courses.

The event was expertly organised and put together. It must have been a logistical nightmare but it appeared to be flawless — at least if something went wrong that Benoit and the team had put together none of us noticed.

My congratulations and deep gratitude is extended to Benoit Mottrie
and the whole Committee of the Last Post Association.

 
It seems a total tragedy to me that whilst the commemorations for the 30,000th playing of the Last Post were televised throughout the world the BBC and ITV chose to give it so little if any coverage. Why?

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