Dit is een historische dag voor alle Ieperlingen, maar zeker ook voor alle medewerkers van de Last Post Association. Wij zijn vereerd onze bijdrage te Hebben kunnen leveren tot de terugkeer van de Leeuwen aan de Menenpoort. We are grateful to all all public agencies and private individuals, both here in Belgium and in Australia, who have helped to make this possible, especially the AWM and the Australian government.
And while everyone in Ieper is delighted to see the return of the lions, the delight of our Association is perhaps greater than most. Why?
Because it is possible to see that the lions and our organization have a number of things in common. Just as the lions, over the years, have become associated with the Menin Gate, … likewise no other organization is so closely linked with this great memorial as the Last Post Association.
But it goes further than that: In 1914 the lions stood on what is now the site of the memorial behind me and witnessed a lot of soldiers going to the front. In other words, they stood on the same spot where the buglers and members of our Association now stand each evening to perform the Last Post Ceremony, tonight for the 31215th time.
What’s more, the lions stood where they stood for a reason: they kept symbolic watch over the eastern approaches to the city. In short, they were the guardians of the Gate. In a different way, the Last Post Association can also claim to be guardians of the Gate. Daily guardians of the memory of the soldiers who died during the Great War. Guardians by extension of the values for which men died. Values that are just as important today as they have always been, and, hopefully, will continue to be in the years ahead.
And so this brings me to a final similarity. This time, the lions are back for good. They are here to stay. So, too, we hope and trust, is the Last Post Association – or that, at least, is our intention. Our statutes commit us to maintain our daily cemetery ‘in perpetuity’ – an important commitment as we approach the end of the centenary period. Remembrance is a daily process in which we must seek to focus on the lessons of the past to make the world a better place for the future.
This is a process in which the Last Post will continue to play its own small part. That we will now do so under the watchful eye of our new Australian stone friends is both an honour and a privilege.