After the harsh winter weather and now that spring is back in the country, the Menin Gate underwent its annual cleaning at the beginning of April under the guidance of the owner and administrator of the monument, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The monument was thus literally and figuratively prepared for last Sunday, the commemoration of ANZAC Day.
The CWGC Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, or Menin Gate, is the Memorial to the Missing, which lists nearly 55,000 names of those Commonwealth forces who lost their lives during the First World War and have no known grave.
David Cappoen, team leader responsible and experienced in cleaning: "The cleaning of such a large monument is carried out by six people and takes an average of two weeks."
The CWGC opted for a gentle and ecologically sound cleaning method. Some parts were cleaned with steam, others with a soft brush or by rinsing with water. The combination of low pressure and high temperatures in steam cleaning ensures that green deposits and dirt are removed from the natural stone. In the stairwell, a piece of natural stone was deliberately not steam cleaned. Instead, it was decided to apply enzymatic products to the natural stone. Enzymatic products are more environmentally friendly alternatives to treat biofilms and thus promote cleaning.
Wim Pira, manager of CWGC's construction department: "We opted for local and superficial cleaning. After all, larger restoration works of the monument are in preparation. The CWGC is constantly evaluating its working methods and also conducting research into the best solution for both our sites and the environment."
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission places a high priority on safety. To ensure that all ongoing maintenance work is carried out in the most corona-safe manner possible, David's team of six was therefore split into smaller teams of two. Three cherry pickers are needed to carry out these works. Before being allowed to work at height, CWGC craftsmen are extensively trained both in the handling of the machines and in safety measures.
David Cappoen says: "Safety is very important as we are working at heights of up to 25 metres. The areas where we work are closed off by safety fences, the colleagues in the aerial work platform wear a harness and are constantly anchored to the work cage by a lifeline. While three colleagues work continuously at heights, their bubble colleague on the ground is constantly working to ensure safety there as well, not only for himself but also for the many curious people who show an interest in this quite spectacular work."
On Sunday 25 April, we commemorated the Australian and New Zealand forces that lost their lives in the First World War. The annual special Last Post will also be Corona-proof this year. At 11 a.m. wreaths were laid under the CWGC Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial by the Ambassadors of Australia and New Zealand, the Mayor of Ypres, Director of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The Last Post Association gave a short speech, two clarion players and a bagpiper.