Ypres, a Century On

Jay Copp at Commonweal:

Ypres swarms with somber British tourists, who disembark from buses to walk its cobblestone paths, view its seemingly centuries-old shops, homes, and churches, and wander its 175 cemeteries, located outside town amid the famous poppy fields. The ancient architecture and ambience are an illusion. The entire town was destroyed in World War I. Not a single home or tree survived. Churchill argued that Ypres should not be rebuilt: “A more sacred place for the British race does not exist in the world,” he thundered. But the residents of Ypres who survived the war insisted on rebuilding.

Still, the Belgians have shown their gratitude. Every day is Veterans Day in Ypres. Every night since November 11, 1929 (except for the four years of German occupation during World War II) an elaborate ritual is repeated at eight o’clock: volunteer buglers sound out the Last Post at the Menin Gate, where Allied soldiers marched off to the front. The British endured the most casualties; some quarter million fell in or near Ypres.

more here.