They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
(the Oath of Remembrance)
At the Menin Gate in Ypres (Leper), Belgium ends each day with the Last Post ceremony to remember those who fell in the Great War and those who are still missing. There are over 54,000 names, consisting of UK and Commonwealth servicemembers and their units, inscribed on this monument. Over 200 are of American citizens who volunteered with Commonwealth or UK forces prior to the entry of the United States into the war.
At the 11th minute of the 11th day of the 11th month in 2018, a special Last Post ceremony was held to commemorate the signing of the Armistice that ended WWI. Legion Post BE02 organized a small contingent of Americans, under the leadership of Post Commander Joseph Schram, to participate as an official party in the Poppy Parade.
Leaving from St George’s church, the party marched to the Menin Gate Memorial. The color guard was turned out in recreated doughboy uniforms and the flags of the 30th and 27th Infantry Divisions were displayed. Both units fought in the Ypres salient and are commemorated with a monument at Mt. Kimmel.
This was a moving and sober event, as anyone who has witnessed or participated in the Last Post ceremony can attest. It was a humbling experience to participate as the only American wreath layer among the official units.
During this trip to visit the battlefields of the Ypres Salient, which claimed over 2 million casualties to Allied and German armies, a new memorial was unveiled. Called the Brothers-In-Arms Memorial, it is located near the Polygon Woods and commemorates the impact on families from the loss of brothers during the war. The statue captures the tragedy of the Hunter brothers. The 49th Australian Battalion was sent up to the front line for the Battle of Polygon Wood. At dawn they would attack, but just before the attack started, John was sent out to investigate a piece of shiny metal in no-man’s-land. As John crawled out, he was thrown back by the explosion of an artillery shell and was severely wounded. He managed to crawl back to his own trenches, but died in his brother’s arms. Jim had to go in for the attack, but later brought the body of his elder brother John to a temporary cemetery at Westhoek and buried him with his own hands. He lovingly and carefully covered the body with a standard Army issue ground sheet, so it would preserve the body well. Jim promised to come back after the war and take the human remains of his elder brother John back to Australia. He did indeed return in 1918, only to see that the terrain was so badly destroyed by artillery shelling that he had no idea where the graves were, and he had no idea where to start digging for the body. In 2006 this story changed with discovery of John’s grave along with those of five other Australian soldiers.
Thousands of families experienced the loss of multiple sets of brothers during WW1. US brothers Governor and Perander Rogers were recruited – one by draft, the other volunteering – in July 1917 and left home in September 1917. After training at Camp David they sailed to France and were involved in the 2nd Battle of the Marne (near Chateau-Thierry). Both brothers were killed on 12th August 1918 when a shell burst close to them. Governor was trying to get his brother to safety as Per was wounded by sniper fire. They were buried side by side in Fimes, but their bodies were reburied at Arlington Cemetery after the war.
More effort will be needed to complete the vision for this unique memorial and I urge all Legion members to go to https://brothersinarmsmemorial.org to learn more.