02/07/2023 - Speech by Benoit Mottrie, Chairman of the Last Post Association
This ceremony marks the 93rd anniversary of the Last Post, which was played under this memorial for the first time on 2 July 1928. Since then, it has taken place no less than 32,915 times, a record of dedication to the memory of those who died for our freedom of which the Last Post Association and the City of Ieper can be proud.
During that long history, the ceremony has known good times and bad times. The COVID pandemic, from which we are now emerging, was one of the most difficult of those bad times. But in some ways, also one of the most rewarding. The willingness of so many people to ensure that the ceremony should be allowed to continue, so that its unbroken record of remembrance could be maintained, even at a time when so many other elements in society were being forced to close down, was both humbling and inspiring. We are grateful to everyone who made this possible, and also to the many people from all around the world who have sent us messages of encouragement and support during the past 18 months. Just as we are grateful to all of you for your presence here tonight.
When times are hard, people focus their thoughts and actions on the things that mean the most. Not only on family and friends, but also on the values they cherish, and the institutions and organisations that embody those values. The pandemic, and the support we have received during it, shows that many people still regard the Last Post as such as institution. For nearly a century, this ceremony has stood for courage in adversity, for service not self, for willingness to go the extra mile. It has offered a message of hope that, no matter how bad things seems – and during the Great War of 1914-18 things must have seemed very bad indeed – one day the sun will shine again and we will emerge on the other side in a brighter and better world.
It is values like this that have helped us all to get through the recent difficult period. And it is values like this that our organisation, the Last Post Association, will continue to defend in the years ahead. Our statutes say that our aim must be to maintain the ceremony in perpetuity. And that is what we intend to do - in both good times and bad.