Faces of the CWGC Menin Gate Memorial
20 July 2017
The Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial bears the names of more than 54,000 members of the British and Commonwealth forces who died in the Ypres Salient and have no known grave. From a poet, MP, and sportsmen to the youngest and most senior, here are the stories of some of the men behind the names on the memorial, ahead of commemorations marking 90 years since its unveiling.
The most senior
Brigadier General Charles Fitzclarence VC is the most senior (in terms of military rank) casualty named on the memorial. He was killed on 12 November 1914 while commanding the 1st Guards Brigade during the First Battle of Ypres. He was aged 49 when he died.
He was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions during the Anglo-South African War (also known as the Boer War) in 1899 where his ferocity in battle earned him the nickname “The Demon”. There are eight recipients of the Victoria Cross commemorated on the memorial.
A farm near where he died was named Fitzclarence Farm on British Army trench maps.
As the most senior officer named on the Menin Gate, he became known to First World War veterans as “GOC (General Officer Commanding) Menin Gate”. His name can be found as the first name at the very top of Panel 3, which is the first panel on the left when entering the memorial from its western end (from the direction of the town and Meensestraat).
The youngest and oldest
The youngest casualties commemorated on the memorial were just 15 when they died. There are ten 15 year olds commemorated on the memorial. John James Averill, who died of wounds on 5 August 1915, is just one of them.
The oldest person commemorated on the memorial is Private George Fletcher of the Lincolnshire Regiment who was 60 when he was killed on 1 November 1914.
Second Lieutenant Harold Godfrey Bache was a natural sportsman who excelled at numerous sports but most notably cricket and football. He played 20 first-class cricket matches between 1907 and 1910, 17 of them for Worcestershire. He played football for West Bromwich Albion and won an England Amateur cap.
Harold joined the Lancashire Fusiliers and reached the rank of Second Lieutenant. He was killed in action on 16 February 1916 at the age of just 26 and is commemorated on Panel 33 of the memorial.
Second Lieutenant William "Billy" Purdon Geen played rugby for Wales Oxford University and Newport and county rugby for Monmouthshire. He played for Wales on three occasions in the 1912–1913 season but injury prevented him from playing more internationals.
William was commissioned second lieutenant into the 9th King's Royal Rifle Corps in August 1914 and sent to the Western Front in May 1915. He was killed in action at Hooge on 31 July 1915 and is commemorated on Panels 51 and 53.
Second Lieutenant Clyde Bowman Pearce was the first Australian born winner of the Australian Golf Open.
Pearce was the second son of Edward and Emmeline Pearce from Tasmania. He first came to sporting prominence in 1903, aged just 15, playing off scratch and finishing 19th at the Australian Amateur Championship.
He served on Gallipoli and the Middle East before transferring to the Western Front.
He was killed in action on 10 June 1917 aged 29 and is commemorated on Panels 7 - 17 - 23 - 25 - 27 - 29 – 31
Captain The Honourable Arthur Edward Bruce O'Neill was an Irish Ulster Unionist Party politician and the first Member of Parliament to be killed in the First World War. He had served during the Anglo-South African War (also known as the Boer War).
While serving as a Captain in the 2nd Life Guards he was killed in action at Klein Zillebeke ridge on 6 November 1914, aged 38. He is commemorated on Panel 3 of the memorial.
His son, Lieutenant Colonel Shane Edward Robert O'Neill died during the Second World War and is commemorated by the CWGC Coriano Ridge War Cemetery.
Lieutenant Walter Scott Stuart Lyon was one of five brothers from North Berwick in Scotland – three of whom were killed in the First World War.
Walter went to Balliol College, Oxford, and began a career as a Scottish Advocate.
He volunteered for the 9th Battalion Royal Scots before the war and was sent to Belgium in February 1915. Soon after he wrote two poems, Easter at Ypres and Lines Written in a Fire Trench. A few weeks later during the Second Battle of Ypres, he wrote two more, On a Grave in a Trench, and I Tracked a Dead Man Down a Trench.
Walter was killed on 8 May 1915 and is commemorated on Panel 11.
A book of his poems Easter at Ypres 1915 and other poems was published in 1916.
Brothers in arms
Numerous brothers are commemorated on the memorial – including Arthur, Frank and Frederick Racheil of the Royal Fuilierswho all died on the same day - 24 May 1915.
Menin Gate: the history, design and unveiling