Menin Gate

Menin Gate https://ngatapuwae.govt.nz/western-front/behind-the-lines New Zealand soldiers marched through here on their way to fight the Germans. Ngā Tapuwae Trails /sites/default/files/stop/media/Western%20Front-Behind%20the%20Lines-Menin%20Gate-Alexander%20Turnbull%20Library-22607193.jpg

New Zealand soldiers marched through here on their way to fight the Germans.

This stop gives you the big-picture story for the whole trail in one go.
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Menin Gate

You’re standing at the Menin Gate, by the stone bearing the New Zealand fern. The Menin Gate is dedicated to the soldiers of the British Empire who were killed in the Ypres Salient and whose graves are unknown. It also marks the starting point, leading along one of the main roads out of the town, that took Allied soldiers to the frontline.

This New Zealand stone is a reminder that there are no New Zealand names inscribed inside the Menin Gate. The 2,384 New Zealand soldiers lost in Belgium who have no known graves are commemorated at either Tyne Cot, Polygon Wood, or Messines. Others who died in France are commemorated at memorials there. The New Zealand Government wanted the nation's dead to be commemorated near where they fell, and so the only New Zealanders on the Menin Gate are ones that fought with British and Australian forces.

The Menin Gate was an important location. The Menin Road begins at the centre of Ypres - in front of you. You can see the square, with Cloth Hall and the Cathedral. The road passes out through the gate, and runs to the high ground at Hooge, four kilometres away. In December 1917, Hooge crater was a New Zealand Brigade headquarters, and they held that high ground as their sector after the October battles at Passchendaele. That high ground was the frontline, and so this was one of the most dangerous roads in the Ypres Salient. It was under constant artillery and gas-shell fire, day and night, and from here it goes out to a major junction called Hellfire Corner. That name alone sums it up.

New Zealanders who fought in the Ypres Salient would have, at some point, marched through this square by night, and some inevitably would have come out this gate. Most, however, would have been diverted to your left, and gone out the Lille Gate, because that offered more protection, as it was shielded from German fire.

Ypres itself, or ‘Wipers’ as the British called it, had been strategically important over the centuries, and it was no different in the First World War. It was sitting directly in the path of Germany’s planned sweep through Belgium. The range of hills and the fortress, with the military canal to the North, presented a prize that the Germans wanted to take and use to their advantage.

In 1914 the Germans briefly occupied Ypres but, as the Allies pushed forward, the Germans retreated from the town and set up their defences on the ridges all around, digging in, and bringing up their artillery. They used poison gas - chlorine gas - for the first time on 22 April 1915, and they later introduced mustard gas, which was also known as ‘Yperite’ in 1917. Ypres was regularly under heavy attack. As a salient, it was surrounded on three sides, and continually fired on by German artillery. It would have been a desperate, living hell. But the Allies held on. And, for the New Zealanders, Ypres was our principal battlefield throughout 1917, and over Christmas into 1918.

New Zealand continues to have a strong relationship with the Flanders region, both in France and Belgium, because of the sacrifice made by New Zealand soldiers here. And when you visit these large monuments - such as the Menin Gate - it’s good to remember why there are no New Zealand names inscribed here. It’s because it’s not where they fell, and the New Zealand Government wanted the fallen to be honoured where they lay. But here, where you are now, remembers the fallen soldiers of the British Empire, and every night, at 8.00p.m., there is a memorial service, and the Last Post is played to honour them.

How to get here

Getting there

The Menin Gate is located in Ieper on the Menenstraat near the Cloth Hall.

Where to stand

Stand next to the plaque that commemorates New Zealanders and bears the fern.

Decimal GPS
  • The notorious "Hellfire Corner", Passchendaele.
    The notorious "Hellfire Corner", Passchendaele.Credits

    Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Ref: 1-2-051945-F. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22607193

  • New Zealand soldiers, fully kitted-out, preparing to board a train from Ypres.
    New Zealand soldiers, fully kitted-out, preparing to board a train from Ypres.Credits

    Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Ref: 1-2-012925-G. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22678000

  • New Zealand soldiers passing the remains of the Cloth Hall, Ypres, Belgium.
    New Zealand soldiers passing the remains of the Cloth Hall, Ypres, Belgium.Credits

    Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Ref: 1/2-013129-G. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23071426

  • Troops march down Menin Road. To the side are dead horses and a destroyed cart. Ypres sector, Belgium.
    Troops march down Menin Road. To the side are dead horses and a destroyed cart. Ypres sector, Belgium.Credits

    Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington. Ref: PAColl-4580-06. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23113749

  • New Zealand soldiers wearing their gas masks during musketry training.
    New Zealand soldiers wearing their gas masks during musketry training.Credits

    © Imperial War Museums (Q 10509)

  • The Menin Gate with the ruins of the Cloth Hall in the background. Ypres, 1919.
    The Menin Gate with the ruins of the Cloth Hall in the background. Ypres, 1919.Credits

    © Imperial War Museums (Q 37122)

Stories & Insights

As a conscientious objector, Briggs refused to serve the army at home or abroad.

An eager medical student, Currie got a lot of practice in the field.

For his bravery and devotion to duty, Rogers was awarded the Military Cross.

Soldiers walk among the ruins in the town of Ypres, Belgium, 1917.

The main centre of conflict since 1914, the Ypres Salient was defended by the British and home to three major battles throughout the war.

A New Zealand Division ambulance with shrapnel-proofing at a casualty clearing station near Albert. September 1916.

Due to the rising number of casualties, a highly efficient system of medical treatment centres and transport was established.

New Zealand soldiers pose

Vital to soldier's wellbeing was time away from the front, where men could rest, play sport, read, and write letters.

Useful resources for those looking for more information.

A selection of First World War vocabulary and common phrases.

Taking the Behind the lines trail

WARNING: Traffic can be busy so use caution at all times.

Get to the trail overview at Nine Elms British Cemetery from Ieper

GPS: 50.850255, 2.696962

Drive around the Cloth Hall (from Grote Markt, with Cloth Hall on your right and the shops on your left) and continue straight on Vandenpeereboomplein, past Sint-Maartenskathedraal on your right, following the road left at the end towards Poperinge along Elverdingestraat. Take the first exit at the roundabout signposted to Poperinge/N38. Continue straight through the second roundabout. You’ll come to a crossroads, take a left turn on to the N38 towards Poperinge.

After about 10 km you’ll come to a T-junction take the left hand turn signposted to the N308 continue to follow this ring road. Go straight through the two roundabouts and you will come to a left turn to Nine Elms British Cemetery. The cemetery is 700 metres on your left.

Your stop

Enter the cemetery, walk to the third plot of headstones. Walk along the third row of headstones until you come to the grave of D. Gallaher.

Plan your time

Allow 2 to 4 hours to explore the entire Behind the Lines trail. 

If you’re short of time, simply visit stop 3: Nine Elms British Cemetery for an overview of the entire Behind the Lines trail.

Nearby places of interest

While you’re here you can also visit the following places:

In Flanders Fields Museum 
Located on the second floor of Ieper Cloth Hall, this museum focuses on the story of the First World War in the Flanders region. On the ground floor of the Cloth Hall, look out for the Ngā Tapuwae digital interactive nearby at the Tourism Centre.

Talbot House
Also known as Toc H, Talbot House is a living museum where soldiers once relaxed and escaped the war.

Visitor centre Lijssenthoek
The centre provides an interactive history of the area during the war.

This museum shows the history of education in Flanders from the middle ages to the present day.

Brouwerij Kazematten
Originally casemates housing military equipment, this historic location is now home to a brewery, with tours by appointment.

Stedelijk Museum
The Stedelijk is home to contemporary and modern art and design.

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Take the next trail

The next Ngā Tapuwae trail is Passchendaele. Proceed to Dochy Farm.
Link to the first stop

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