The opening ceremony at the Menin Gate, 24 July 1927 (Photo © Commonwealth War Graves Commission)

The unveiling of the Menin Gate - how blind veterans told the story

Posted on on 24 July 2017
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Two blind soldiers reported from the unveiling of the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres on 24 July 1927. For the 90th anniversary, their first-hand accounts have been voiced for a charity founded during the Great War to help veterans with sight loss.

Frederick Richardson and Henry Gransby were among the many ex-soldiers who gathered in Flanders for the dedication of the memorial to the missing of the Ypres salient.

Their impressions are read in a new audio recording released by Blind Veterans UK. The charity, originally known as St Dunstan's, was founded in 1915 to train troops blinded in WW1 for new trades and opportunities.

Richardson, who lost his sight after being wounded in France, went to Ypres to support his wife Amelia as she mourned the loss of her three brothers in the salient.

For Gransby, Ypres had the poignancy of being the last place that he ever saw. He was blinded on 16 September 1917 in the offensive that became known as the 3rd Battle of Ypres/Passchendaele.

Joining other bereaved families at the Menin Gate, Frederick Richardson remarked: 'Evidences of a great and abiding faith were sensed by me as I stood in my allotted place at this most wonderful ceremony' From 'St Dunstan's Review', August 1927 (Courtesy of Blind Veterans UK)

Both men went on to learn new trades at St Dunstan's training centre in Regent's Park, London, enabling them to lead successful lives after the First World War.

Henry Gransby, a Post Office telephone linesman before joining the army, retrained as a shopkeeper. Frederick Richardson became a public speaker.

The charity's magazine, St Dunstan's Review, featured their first-hand accounts of the opening of the Menin Gate in its August 1927 edition.

Ninety years later, 'Blind Veterans UK' has brought together three students from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London - Jack Condon, Catherine Dryden and Alfie Webster (pictured below) - to read their words for a new audience. You can listen here.

Ceremonies marking the 90th anniversary of the Menin Gate Memorial are being held in Ypres today (July 24).

The monument, built astride the road along which troops marched to battle from Ypres, commemorates almost 55,000  soldiers from Australia, Britain, Canada, India and South Africa who have no known grave.

It was designed for the Imperial War Graves Commission (IWGC) by the architect, Sir Reginald Blomfield, and unveiled by Field Marshal Lord Plumer, victor of the Battle of Messines.

Today, the Menin Gate continues to be cared for by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (as the IWGC was renamed in 1960), attracting large crowds to the nightly sounding of the Last Post by the buglers of the Last Post Association. 

The Menin Gate in Photos - a CWGC exhibition telling the story of the monument is opening on the Ypres ramparts, running until the end of September.

Also in Centenary News:

Menin Gate lions back on guard in Ypres.

Ypres commemorations  for Passchendaele Eve-of-Centenary, Sunday 30 July 2017. 

Sources: Blind Veterans UK/Commonweath War Graves Commission (CWGC)

Images courtesy of CWGC (Menin Gate 1927); Blind Veterans UK (St Dunstan's Review, RADA students)

Posted by: CN Editorial Team