12 July 2017

New story by author of War Horse to be performed at Passchendaele commemorations

An exclusive new short story by the author of War Horse will be performed as part of commemorations to mark the Centenary of Passchendaele – The Third Battle of Ypres, the UK government has announced.


The live reading by Michael Morpurgo, which will be preceded by the traditional Last Post ceremony at the CWGC Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, has been specially written for the national commemorations on Sunday 30 July.

The performance will include an appearance by the much-loved horse puppet Joey from the acclaimed National Theatre stage adaptation of War Horse. The commemorations will also feature extracts from The Wipers Times, the play by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman based on the satirical trench newspaper published by British soldiers fighting on the Ypres Salient.

Images from the war will be projected onto the town’s Cloth Hall, which was famously destroyed and later rebuilt. Recordings of interviews with First World War veterans and first-hand accounts from soldiers, nurses and loved ones will also be read out and projected onto the Cloth Hall.

The traditional Last Post ceremony, which has taken place every evening at the CWGC Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial since 1928, will start the commemorations. As part of the ceremony, representatives of combatant nations will lay wreaths under the memorial.

Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “A century on from the horror of Passchendaele, the nation will come together to remember the sacrifice of those who were there. This battle has become synonymous with the horrific conditions of the trenches, and the futility of the war. It is important for us to commemorate and remember not only those who never returned home from the Western Front, but the families and the communities they left behind.”

On Monday 31 July, thousands of descendants of the men who fought, and those with a connection to the battle, will attend a ceremony at the CWGC Tyne Cot Cemetery. Serving military personnel and descendants will read out letters and diaries from their ancestors as part of a service of remembrance.

Welsh poet Hedd Wynn and Irish poet Francis Ledwidge, who were both killed in action on the first day of Passchendaele, will also be honoured during commemorations at CWGC Artillery Wood Cemetery - where they are buried.

The National Youth Choir of Scotland will perform at all three commemorative events and around 100 graduates of youth empowerment programme National Citizen Service (NCS), aged 16 to 19, will be part of the delivery team at the commemorations – alongside the CWGC’s Centenary Interns.