Last week the UK culture secretary Karen Bradley announced that descendants of those who fought at the Third Battle of Ypres, known as the Battle of Passchendaele, will be invited to the Tyne Cot Cemetery to mark the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele. The Tyne Cot Cemetery at Passendale (Zonnebeke) outside Ieper is a Commonwealth War Graves Commission burial ground for the dead of the First World War in the Ieper Salient. Descendants wishing to attend the ceremony at the cemetery on 31 July 2017 can take part in a public ballot for tickets.
The commemoration of the Third Battle of Ieper will start with a traditional Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ieper 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 when the Last Post is sounded at the Menin Gate.
This ceremony will be followed by a series of live performances, open to thousands on Ieper's rebuilt market square, which tell the story of the battle. Images and film will also be projected onto the town's famous Cloth Hall.
Paul Breyne is the Belgian general commissioner for World War One commemoration and a former governor of West Flanders Province: "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."
The British embassy in Brussels informs us that descendants wishing to honour their relatives where they fought and died can:
· Attend the ceremony at the Ieper Market Square on 30 July 2017 for an evening of live performances 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 Menin Gate ceremony.
Descendants, who wish to attend the ceremony at Tyne Cot, should apply online at www.passchendaele100.org before 24 February 2017. The 4,000 tickets will be allocated in pairs, free of charge.
Those wishing to be at the Ieper 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 Britain's national psyche today, during the First World War, Passchendaele and Ieper (Ypres) were household names in Britain. 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 events at Tyne Cot will also be shown live on large screens on the Ieper market square and in the grounds of Zonnebeke Castle, 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 the Battle of Passchendaele is a key part of the UK Government's four year programme to commemorate the First World War. The UK government is working closely with local partners in Belgium including the city of Ieper, the municipality of Zonnebeke, the West Flemish provincial and tourist authorities (Westtoer) and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to commemorate the centenary of the First World War in Flanders.
Victoria Wallace is the CWGC director general. "The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is honoured that two of our most visited sites in Ieper 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 Ieper 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.”