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    Lions to guard memory of Australians in Ypres

    Military Shop
    Posted by Military Shop on Nov 7, 2018 11:00:03 PM

    They are a familiar sight for those who have visited the Australian War Memorial in Canberra - two stone lions guarding the entrance to the Memorial Courtyard. 

    The Menin Gate lions were donated to the people of Australia by the Belgian government in 1936. For 300 years prior, they had guarded too the Menin Gate entrance to the city of Ypres. During the First World War, hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers would have passed through their watchful gaze as they left the city for the trenches of the Western front. The City of Ypres is indelibly linked with the devastating warfare that took place in Flanders during the War. The Battle of Passchendaele (Third Battle of Ypres) which took place during the latter half of 1917 claimed the lives of almost 500,000 combatants on all sides. The city itself was devastated by German artillery bombardment.

    When they were donated to Australia, the Menin Gate lions bore the scars of Ypres as a frontline city. The stone statues were severely damaged and would have to undergo extensive restoration. The work was carried out by Polish-born sculptor Kasimiers Zywuszko, who worked from period photographs to restore the lions to their original prowess. The restoration was completed in 1987. In 1991, the lions were installed in the current positions in the foyer of the War Memorial.

    80 years after the statues were originally donated, the Australian government commissioned a pair of replica stone lions. These statues are a gift to the Belgian people to mark the special relationship, and shared sacrifice, that binds these two nations. The new lions were sculpted from the same blue-grey calcareous stone, which is only found in Belgium, and were unveiled at a ceremony on 6 November. Appropriately, the pair has been installed in the city of Ypres, at the Menin Gate, where the original lions once stood.

    Minister for Veteran's Affairs, Darren Chester, attended the unveiling and commented on the bond between Belgium and Australia:

    “Our soldiers in their thousands once walked between these gates on route to the battlefields ... It is with great pride that the Australian Government has the opportunity to unveil these new lions today, a special gift and lasting reminder of our appreciation for the city in never forgetting Australia’s sacrifice.”

    “As the Anzac Centenary period draws to a close, commemorating 100 years since the First World War and its many battles, it is important that Australia never forgets the city of Ieper, just like they will never forget us,”. 

    Topics: WW1, Great War, Military History

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