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The Prince of Wales attends commemorations in Belgium to mark the centenary of Passchendaele – The Third Battle of Ypres

31st July 2017

HRH speaks at Passchendaele commemorations

The Prince of Wales attended commemorations in Belgium today on behalf of The Queen to mark 100 years since Passchendaele, also known as The Third Battle of Ypres.

Exactly 100 years after thousands of British and Commonwealth troops fought at Passchendaele, The Prince, accompanied by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, joined Prime Minister Theresa May and The King and Queen of The Belgians for a ceremony at the Tyne Cot cemetery near Ypres. 4,000 descendants of those who fought were also in attendance.

More than 100 days of fighting in the summer and autumn of 1917, starting on July 31, left more than half a million men dead or injured on both sides. The Tyne Cot cemetery is the largest Commonwealth burial ground in the world, with 11,971 servicemen buried and remembered there - 8,373 of whom are unidentified.

The Prince of Wales and Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence during a wreath laying ceremony at the Artillery Wood Cemetery in Ypres

The Prince of Wales and Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence during a wreath laying ceremony at the Artillery Wood Cemetery in Ypres

During the service, The Prince of Wales spoke of the "courage and bravery" of British soldiers killed at Passchendaele.

In an address to those gathered, The Prince said: "We remember it not only for the rain that fell, the mud that weighed down the living and swallowed the dead, but also for the courage and bravery of the men who fought here."

"Drawn from many nations, we come together in their resting place, cared for with such dedication by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, to commemorate their sacrifice and to promise that we will never forget."

After the service, His Royal Highness and The King and Queen of The Belgians opened the Zonnebeke Church Dugout, a preserved First World War dugout which forms part of the Memorial Museum Passchendaele, and the new British Memorial Garden. 

Next, The Prince of Wales and Their Majesties met families and descendants of those who fought and fell during the battle at the Passchendaele Memorial Park before The Prince attended the Welsh National Service of Remembrance at the Welsh National Memorial Park.

During the Service of Remembrance, His Royal Highness paid tribute to two Celtic poets killed on the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele.

The Prince spoke Welsh as he paid tribute to the country's war dead at the imposing standing stones and dragon edifice of the Welsh National Memorial.

At the memorial, His Royal Highness read verse by Robert Williams Parry, in praise of Welsh-language poet Hedd Wyn who was killed 100 years ago on Monday, the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele.

There was also music from The Prince's official harpist, Anne Denholm.

Finally, The Prince of Wales visited Artillery Wood Cemetery, where hundreds of Welsh and Irish soldiers are buried.

The Prince and Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones laid wreaths at the graves of Hedd Wyn and the Irish poet Francis Ledwidge, who was killed on the same day 100 years ago.

Address given by HRH The Prince of Wales at the Passchendaele Service at Tyne Cot Cemetery

Published on 31st July 2017

One hundred years ago today the Third Battle of Ypres began.  At ten to four in the morning, less than five miles from here, thousands of men drawn from across Britain, France and the Commonwealth attacked German lines.  The battle we know today as Passchendaele would last for over one hundred days.  We remember it not only for the rain that fell, the mud that weighed down the living and swallowed the dead, but also for the courage and bravery of the men who fought here.

The advance was slow and every inch was hard fought.  The land we stand upon was taken two months into the battle by the 3rd Australian Division.  It would change hands twice again before the end of the war.
 
In 1922 my great grandfather, King George V, came here as part of a pilgrimage to honour all those who died in the First World War.  Whilst visiting Tyne Cot he stood before the pillbox that this Cross of Sacrifice has been built upon, a former German stronghold that had dominated the ridge.
 
Once taken by the Allies, the pillbox became a forward aid post to treat the wounded.  Those who could not be saved were buried by their brothers in arms in make-shift graves; these became the headstones that are before us today.
 
After the end of the war almost twelve thousand graves of British and Commonwealth soldiers were brought here from surrounding battlefields. Today a further thirty four thousand men, who could not be identified or whose bodies were never found have their names inscribed on the memorial.
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