The Menin Gate Lions leave the Australian War Memorial in preparation for their journey to Canada (Photo: Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial PR91 058 1)

Australian War Memorial's 'Menin Gate Lions' go on loan for Centenary

Posted on on 22 September 2014
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A pair of stone lions from the Australian War Memorial in Canberra will be lent to Canada for the First World War Centenary.

The Menin Gate lions, originally from Ypres, are going to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa for an exhibition.

The statues guarded the eastern approach to Ypres before the war and construction of the Commonwealth memorial to the  missing which is the setting for the nightly 'Last Post' ceremony.

Hundreds of thousands British and Commonwealth soldiers marched passed them on their way to the front along what became known as the Menin Road.

The lions were badly damaged in the shelling which destroyed the medieval town of Ypres between 1914 and 1918. 

They were donated to the Australian War Memorial by the Mayor of Ypres in 1936 and almost 50 years later, it was decided to reconstruct them.

Since 1991, they've greeted visitors at the entrance to the memorial and museum in the Australian capital, Canberra.

(Photo: Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial PAIU2010 099 01 1)

The Menin Gate lions are being lent to the Canadian War Museum for a First World War Centenary exhibition, entitled Fighting in Flanders – Gas. Mud. MemoryThey'll be accompanied by the painting, Menin Gate at Midnight.

Dr Brendan Nelson, Director of the Australian War Memorial,  said he was honoured to be able to recognise the Australian–Canadian relationship with the short-term transfer.

“The Menin Gate lions stood on either side of the Menin Gate at the entrance to Ypres in Belgium. It was through these gates that both Australians and Canadians marched between 1914 and 1918,” he said.

"Menin Gate at midnight, one of the best-known works of art at the Memorial, was painted to represent the spirits of those men with no marked graves who perished on the battlefields around Ypres.

“The opportunity to present these iconic items together symbolises the shared experiences of allied soldiers during the First World War."

Menin gate at midnight, painted by the war artist Will Longstaff in 1927, has been on display at the Australian War Memorial since it opened in 1941.

The lions will return to Canberra in mid-2015, before being flown to Ypres for the centenary of the battle of Passchendaele in 2017.

Information & images supplied by the Australian War Memorial, Canberra

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News