For many school groups visiting the First World War battlefields, witnessing the Last Post Ceremony and perhaps participating in a wreath laying is an essential part of the experience. At the end of a busy day, it’s an opportunity to pause, reflect and give thanks for the sacrifice made by so many over 100 years ago.
Here are our top tips for visitors to the Last Post Ceremony
1. Arrive early
The ceremony starts at 20.00 each evening and lasts approximately 30 minutes.
Crowds start to gather from around 19.00 and it can be very busy (there are typically at least 100 people every day and it can reach up to 1,000 during the summer period), so be sure to arrive early
2. Pick your spot
The best view can often be had by standing on the eastern side of the arch (by the bridge over the river) and looking back through the arch to the town centre.
Alternatively, you may wish to head to the left-hand side of the arch, somewhere near the middle entrance.
The buglers and any dignitaries will be on the opposite side of the arch, having marched in from the river-end.
3. Wrap up warm
Remember that it can get very cold in the winter months, so don’t forget your hats, scarves and gloves.
Even outside of the winter months, it can get chilly standing for an extended period of time in the shade, so take plenty of layers.
4. Complete silence is required
Please ensure that groups are quiet throughout the ceremony and that mobile phones are switched off.
It’s important to remember that the Last Post Ceremony is a mark of respect for those who have fallen and it is not for entertainment purposes. For this reason, witnesses to the ceremony are asked not to applaud at the end.
Party leaders often mention the Last Post Ceremony as a key feature of their trip and in fact are often impressed by the respectful attitude shown by their students.
5. Wreath laying
If your group wish to take part in the Last Post Ceremony and lay a wreath, this can be arranged in advance. It’s also possible to personalise a wreath with your school name and logo; if you wish to do so, please discuss this with your Tour Consultant.
If your school intends to lay a wreath, three individuals participate in the ceremony (usually two students and one teacher). Please note that school uniform or smart clothing is required.
It’s not necessary for groups to wear school uniforms when spectating, although some may choose to do so.
6. Plan ahead
If you intend to see the Last Post Ceremony, consider when and where you’ll be having your evening meal. Depending on where you’re staying, it may be necessary to reschedule your evening meal. Otherwise, we can arrange for you to substitute your evening meal in the accommodation for a meal in a local restaurant in central Ypres.
7. Take care
The road running through the Menin Gate is closed to traffic from 19.30 – 20.30. After this time, it can get quite busy, so groups should be careful before and after the ceremony.
“A very moving and powerful ceremony”