To be installed in Ieper in 2018
Australia will produce replicas of the famous Menin Gate Lions and gift them to the Belgian city of Ypres in recognition of the hundredth anniversary of Australia’s campaign in Flanders during the First World War.
The Menin Gate Lions were given to the Australian War Memorial by the City of Ypres in 1936, an expression of gratitude for the sacrifice made by over 13,000 Australian soldiers in Belgium.
The lions had stood on each side of the Menin Road since the mid-nineteenth century, and in 1917 many Australian soldiers passed them on the way to the front outside Ypres. They have been on display at the entrance to the Australian War Memorial since 1991 but are currently on loan to Belgium until Armistice Day on 11 November this year.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Dan Tehan made the announcement today 25/09/2017 at the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate, and said the gift was a sign of the enduring relationship between Australia and Belgium: “The year 1917 was the costliest year of the war for Australia, with more than 70,000 casualties,” Mr Tehan said. “The names of more than 6,000 Australians with no known grave are listed on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres. The reproduction of the Lions is symbolic of our shared history as allies in the First World War. The names of so many places in Flanders still resonate throughout our nation because of the sacrifice of so many Australians in Belgium.”
“We are proud to host thousands of Australians to our city every year, and this generous gift from the Australian Government will only strengthen a special bond that has lasted for more than 100 years,” Jan Durnez, the Mayor of Ieper, said.
Tomorrow 26/09/2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Polygon Wood, where Mr Tehan will attend a Dawn Service with the Governor General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, representatives of the Belgian Royal family and the Flanders Government.
After the war, the Menin Gate became the site for a huge memorial to those killed in Belgium and who have no known grave. The memorial bears the names of 55,000 allied soldiers. Every evening the Last Post is sounded under the memorial’s great arch.