Tony Glen, Director of Collections for the Canadian War Museum, and Australia's High Commissioner, Louise Hand, with the Menin Gate Lions and Longstaff painting loaned by the Australian War Memorial (© Canadian War Museum, photo M. Holleron, CWM2014-0059-0003-Dm)

Menin Gate Lions arrive at Canadian War Museum for 'Fighting in Flanders' exhibition

Posted on on 19 October 2014
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Australia's Menin Gate Lions have been unveiled at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa where they will feature in a forthcoming Centenary exhibition.

The stone lions, originally from Ypres, are on loan from the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, together with William Frederick Longstaff’s 1927 painting Menin Gate at Midnight (Ghosts of Menin Gate)

These imposing symbols of the First World War will be highlights of the Canadian War Museum's exhibition Fighting in Flanders – Gas. Mud. Memory, opening on November 7th 2014.  

James Whitham, the Museum's Director-General, said: “The Menin Gate Lions and Longstaff’s painting of the Menin Gate Memorial in Belgium represent resilience, remembrance and the enduring bond between nations, like Canada and Australia, that stood together in Flanders.” 

“We are grateful to the Australian War Memorial and to the people of Australia for so generously sharing their national treasures with Canadians.”

The lions once guarded the eastern entrance to Ypres, flanking the Menin road along which thousands of Allied soldiers passed on their way to and from the battlefields. The Menin Gate Memorial, dedicated in 1927, now stands on the site.

Thought to have been carved in the 17th century, the limestone lions were badly damaged by artillery fire during the Great War, recovered from the rubble afterwards, and donated to the Australian War Memorial by the Mayor of Ypres in 1936, as a token of friendship.

In September 2014, they were removed from display at the Memorial's entrance in Canberra to start their long journey to Ottawa.

Menin Gate at Midnight depicts an army of ghostly soldiers marching across a field in front of the Commonwealth memorial to the missing in Ypres, which Longstaff revisited at night after its unveiling on July 24th,1927. 

The Australian war artist said he had a vision of spirits of the dead rising out of the ground around him.

Louise Hand, Australia's High Commissioner to Canada, commented: “This painting is rightly loved by Australians and we know Canadians will be equally moved by the ghostly image. 

“I am glad that we have the opportunity to share it. The lions are grand and monumental, perfect partners for the painting.”

The Menin Gate bears the names of more than 54,000 Commonwealth soldiers whose graves are not known. Among them are almost 7,000 Canadians and 6,000 Australians.

Centenary News writer, Christopher J. Harvie, offers his personal view of Menin Gate at Midnight here.

Fighting in Flanders – Gas. Mud. Memory. will be on display at the Canadian War Museum from November 7th 2014 to April 26, 2015. The exhibition was developed by the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, in partnership with the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, Belgium. More details can be found here

Information & images supplied by the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News