Descendants of those who fought at the Third Battle of Ypres will be invited to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium to mark the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele, the Culture Secretary Karen Bradley announced today.
Opening the public ballot for tickets, she revealed the Government’s plans to mark both the centenary of Passchendaele on 31 July 2017 and the four years of war on the Ypres salient.
The commemoration of the Third Battle of Ypres, commonly known as Passchendaele, will start with a traditional Last Post Ceremony at the CWGC Menin Gate in Ypres on the eve of the centenary, 30 July. The ceremony will give thanks to those who have remembered the British and Commonwealth involvement and sacrifices every evening in peacetime since 1928.
It will be followed by a series of live performances, open to thousands in Ypres’ rebuilt Market Square, that tell the story of the Battle. Images and film will also be projected onto the town’s famous Cloth Hall.
On the 31 July 2017, the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres, the focus will shift to the 12,000 graves and 35,000 names on the Memorial Wall to the Missing at the CWGC Tyne Cot cemetery, which bears witness to the ferocious battle.
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Karen Bradley said:
As we continue to commemorate the centenary of the First World War, it is important that we remember the horrors of the battlefields of Ypres and honour the many who lost their lives. Some of the First World War’s most defining images of futility, mud, gas attacks and trenches come from these very battlefields.
As the War recedes into the distance, it is our responsibility to not only mark the years that have gone past, but to keep alive the memories of those who sacrificed so much. I encourage all of those with family who fought at Passchendaele - The Third Battle of Ypres, to apply for tickets to the commemorations this summer.
Descendants wanting to honour their relatives where they fought and died can:
- Attend the ceremony at Market Square Ypres on 30 July 2017 for the evening of live performance and music with image and film projected onto Cloth Hall, rebuilt from rubble.
- Apply for tickets to the commemoration at CWGC Tyne Cot on 31 July 2017.
- Enter a sub-ballot for a very limited number of places at the CWGC Menin Gate.
The public ballot is for tickets to attend the commemorative event at CWGC Tyne Cot Cemetery on 31 July 2017. The 4,000 tickets will be allocated in pairs, free of charge. Descendants can apply online at www.passchendaele100.org before 24 February 2017.
Those wishing to be at Market Square on Sunday 30 July 2017 can also register their interest in attending in order to receive regular updates and further information about attending the events.
While the Somme holds a powerful place in the national psyche today, during the First World War, Passchendaele and Ypres were household names. The battlefield is closely associated with terrible fighting conditions, and was the first time poison gas was used in battle on the Western Front. The story of Joey the War Horse, was set in this part of the Western Front. And Harry Patch, who became known as the Last Tommy, was conscripted and fought at Passchendaele.
The event will also be shown live on large screens in the Market Square at Ypres and at the Zonnebeke Chateau Grounds, so that those not able to secure a ticket will still be able to attend the public event on 30th July, and watch the Tyne Cot event on 31 July.
The Centenary of Passchendaele, the Third Battle of Ypres is a key part of the UK Government’s four year programme to commemorate the First World War. The Government will be working closely with with its delivery partner, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, as well as local partners in Belgium, such as the city of Ypres, the community of Zonnebeke, Passendale and the Westtoer Province of West-Flanders to commemorate the centenary of the First World War in the Flanders Fields region.
Fighting commenced on the Ypres Salient between British and German forces in 1914, and continued throughout the war. The Battle was the first major British offensive on the Ypres Salient. The ferocity and horror of the battle is encapsulated in Siegfried Sassoon’s famous line “I died in hell - They called it Passchendaele”
CWGC Director General, Victoria Wallace added:
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is honoured that two of our most visited sites in Ypres will be hosting the UK Government events, marking the final resting place and formal place of commemoration of so many thousands of British and Commonwealth servicemen who died on the Ypres salient during four years of fighting. We hope those attending and watching will take the time to see more of our cemeteries in Flanders Fields after the events are over.
Belgian General Commissioner for World War One Commemoration Paul Breyne said:
The Belgian Government is deeply committed in bringing support for the commemoration of this historical event of exceptional magnitude. It is for the Belgian people and the Belgian Government of utmost importance to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and peace. We are looking forward to welcoming those British citizens and visitors from other nations who will travel to Belgium to pay tribute to those who fought with dedication and bravery, a hundred years ago, in this devastating battle.