The Last Post

It took her some time but at last she found his name, high above the road and halfway to the skylights of the Menin Gate. He had probably passed through here on his way to the Front, never to return, not even to be found. There were thousands of names here; so many that the monument was not big enough for all that had been lost. The golden light of the early evening had turned into a faded red but now the sun was setting and the light was failing fast. She took a final photograph and hoped it would turn out alright.

She was not alone now. There were hundreds standing there now; some talking in a hushed voice, others quiet and still. The street had been closed off by the police and veterans of other wars had appeared, adorned in medals from different conflicts. An announcement came from nowhere and the crowd hushed as the buglers from the fire department of the town took their positions.

The Last Post sounded and she wondered whether he had gone willingly, whether he had believed in the cause? Was he frightened as he passed through this place or resigned to his fate? She would never know. The family’s memory of him had been lost through the generations. All that remained was a single photograph of a young man standing proudly in uniform taken a few weeks before he set off for the Front, never to return.

Did he know how many had fallen before him? If he knew how many would die after him or that it was not the War to end all Wars, would he still have marched to the front?  As a soldier stepped forward to recite ‘For The Fallen’, she gazed at the veterans lined up, heads bowed and she found her answer.

She noticed the teenagers that she had seen at the museum earlier in the day. Some were taking pictures of the ceremony, others silent. What would they take away from here? Could they recognise themselves in the soldiers’ stories they had heard or seen them as an irrelevance, naive fools heading to almost certain death for a futile cause, a distant part of history?

The Reveille sounded followed by the sound of voices and conversations once again as the people dispersed, heading for a good dinner and a peaceful nights sleep. He would have had neither in his last few days, she reflected. The police vans disappeared and traffic began to rumble through the Gate once more. She looked back up at his name for the last time, whispered a silent thank you and followed the crowd back into town.

Every evening since 1928, The Last Post has been played under the Menin Gate Memorial in Ieper at 8 o’ clock sharp. This evening the ceremony will take place for the 28621st time.

Words and pictures ⒸPeter Domican LRPS

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About Peter Domican
Marketer and change professional. Writer and photographer.

4 Responses to The Last Post

  1. Martha says:

    This is a thoughtful piece… the saddest line, to me, is “The family’s memory of him had been lost”.

  2. marc nash says:

    as a boy we used to go tot he Cenotaph for the annual parade because my Grandfather always marched. But when he died, we stopped going and the memory kind of dies with him. My kids have no real idea of any of this. There are now no WW1 veterans left alive. I dunno, makes me rather sad, and not in a good way sad. the passing & loss of memories as you say so beautifully in this.

  3. Steve Green says:

    A very thought-provoking piece. I have attended the ceremomy at the Menin gate, and found it an emotionally overwhelming, and humbling experience.

  4. BucksWriter says:

    Very thoughtful and moving piece. It reminded me of my visit to the Somme and the seeming impossibility of so many men vanishing, so completely, from the face of the earth.

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