Discours de Sa Majesté le Roi - Commemoration of the Centenary of Passchendaele

30 juillet 2017

Discours de S.M. le Roi
Commemoration of the Centenary of Passchendaele, the Third Battle of Ypres.
Menin Gate, July 30th, 2017.

(Texte prononcé en anglais)

Every time we stand here under the Menin Gate, we feel overwhelmed by the immensity of the sacrifice of the men whose names surround us. And when a fresh breeze whispers through the arches, it touches something inside all of us. It is as if the fallen were telling us : we did this for you. Indeed, they came to our country from near and far to defend our freedom alongside our own soldiers. Ever since, we have expressed our gratitude to these heroes, and a hundred years have passed without it being diminished.

I am proud of the people of Ypres and of other places on the Western Front. Conscious of the sacrifices made by those who fought on Belgian soil, they pay homage daily on behalf of all Belgian citizens. The Last Post ceremony, held here each evening, is a tradition founded and maintained by the local community. It has taken place more than 30,000 times since 1928 and is an important part of the identity of the city of Ypres. Members of the Last Post Association organise the ceremony day after day, on busy summer evenings and quiet winter nights. For your dedication, we thank you.

Passchendaele was a struggle for freedom, our common freedom, the freedom we enjoy today. At the time it was a fight for land, every possible metre of land. Blood soaked the earth. The bodies of the thousands of soldiers who remained here for ever became one with the earth. So your graves on our soil have become our graves on your soil. In the same way, your Menin Gate has become our gate. And our cities and countryside on the Western front will forever be a part of our common history. This battle, a hundred years ago, makes the bond between our countries strong and everlasting.

At our gathering today, let us, together with the new generations, renew our commitment to the fallen to use the freedom we owe to them in a way that honours their immense sacrifice.