12 June 2023
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) has started restoration work on the iconic Ypres memorial which commemorates more than 54,000 missing Commonwealth service personnel from the First World War.
The £3.5 million Menin Gate restoration will take two years and a brand new eco roof will be installed, the first time a world-renowned monument has gone green. The CWGC has also unveiled a new exhibition to share the Menin Gate’s history and detail the changes being made.
Inaugurated in 1927, the Menin Gate serves as a ‘Memorial to the Missing’, for the 54,000 Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave. Every year hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world pay their respects at the monument designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield that commemorates those who died in battle in the Ypres Salient during the First World War.
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Together with architectural firm Bressers Erfgoed and restoration specialists Group Monument, the CWGC started the schedule of works in April 2023. The restoration costs, exceeding £3.5 million, will be covered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The CWGC is funded by six Commonwealth nations - the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, and South Africa. In addition, the CWGC applied to the Flemish government for support and secured an additional £1.4 million. The city of Ypres will also contribute £264,000.
At times the memorial will be covered in scaffolding, denying visibility of the panels of names. Works include the removal of an asbestos-containing layer in the ceiling vaults alongside the installation of a brand new eco roof. The grasses, mosses and flowers that will grow on the eco roof will provide a habitat for pollinating insects and therefore increase biodiversity. It will also help protect the waterproofing layer below it and supports rainwater infiltration after heavy rainfall, further protecting the precious memorial. This change makes the Menin Gate the first monument of its kind to go green.
As the panels of names of those who fought in the battles of Ypres and Passchendaele will be covered during the restoration, visitors can head to the CWGC Information Centre (Menenstraat 33, Ypres) to use an innovative new digital installation to consult and view names of the missing as they normally appear on the memorial.
CWGC Menin Gate website.