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Just past midnight on 11 November, the Menin Gate of Ypres is quiet and still. Even the rain, a constant companion on any winter visit to Flanders, falls silently. The peace is disturbed only by an occasional passer-by trotting past, collar upturned against the weather, or a car slipping quickly through the gate, wipers working overtime.

The heart of the night is a good time to arrive at one of the greatest memorials of the Great War. In a few hours, it will be impossible to get close as the town commemorates the 90th anniversary of the Armistice.
Although officially this is a gate, it is so broad many visitors consider it a tunnel. The reason the Menin Gate is so deep is to accommodate the names of 54,896 missing British and Commonwealth soldiers who lost their lives in the Ypres Salient, a Dantean hell of noise, mud, blood and slaughter from 1914-1918.

The missing men remembered here are a small fraction of the several hundred thousand killed in this corner of Belgium. They came from a very different Britain, from long-vanished regiments like the 57th Wilde's Rifles, Lord Strathcona's Horse and the Duke of Wellington's Regiment, augmented by imperial forces from India such as the 35th Sikhs, 40th Pathans and the 9th Bhopal Infantry.

Flanders Fields Museum, a stone's throw from the Menin Gate in the vast Grote Markt square, gives a disturbing picture of what it was like to live and fight in the Ypres Salient in this "war to end all wars". Paul Nash, the English war artist, called it "one huge grave": "unspeakable, godless, hopeless". "I am a messenger who will bring back the word from the men who are fighting to those who want the war to go on forever," he wrote in 1917. "Feeble, inarticulate will be my message, but it will have a bitter truth, and may it burn their lousy souls."

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Donald
November 26th, 2009
7:11 PM
Lord Strathcona's Horse is not a long vanished regiment. It exists today and has fought as part of the Canadian Battle Group in Afganistan, sustaining several casualties. As an armoured unit, it was an important part of the order of battle for NATO in Europe during the cold war. Check the website.

Sue Larkin
January 19th, 2009
11:01 AM
I was very interested to read the comment from Richard Benefer. Robert Young is my great grandfather. I am keen to obtain more information about he and his family and wondered whether you are able to assist me.

Richard Benefer
December 5th, 2008
1:12 PM
Arhur Conway Young ws born in Kobe, Japan where his father - Robert Young - was th owner of The Japan Chronicle, an influential English Language newspaper. Arhur worked on his father's paper before travelling to England in 1915 to enlist - at first in the Inns of Court OTC and then the Royal Irish Fusiliers. Both Robert and Arthur were members of South Place Ethical Society in London. Arthur was a pacifist and idealist who volunteered out of a strong sense of duty. His father was a very committed pacifist who was opposed to his sons fighting in the war (although Arthur and his two brothers all fought in the war). The phrase and fallacy - that war can end war - was coined by H.G. Wells.

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