Belgian buglers to play Last Post during ceremony for martyrs at India Gate
Brothers Rik and Dirk Vandekerckhove will play the “Last Post” — a salute to those who had lost their lives for Belgium’s freedom — along with personnel of the Indian Army, Navy and Air Forcedelhi Updated: Nov 07, 2017 11:44 IST
On a sunny Monday afternoon at India Gate, twins Rik and Dirk Vandekerckhove from Belgium could be easily mistaken for two foreign tourists at one of their sightseeing pit stops.
The 58-year-old Ypres residents, however, entered the high-security Amar Jawan Jyoti on a mission — with their bugles.
The brothers were at the rehearsal of the wreath laying ceremony to take place on Tuesday which will be commemorated by Belgium’s King Philippe at India Gate. They will play the “Last Post” — a salute to those who had lost their lives for Belgium’s freedom — along with personnel of the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force.
“India’s ties with Belgium date back to the dark days when the world was plunged into the devastating first World War from 1914 to 1918. Indian soldiers fought and died for Belgium’s freedom in Flanders’ fields during the critical First and Second Battles of Ypres which ended on October 14, 1914 and April 22, 1915 respectively. The names of these valiant soldiers are inscribed on the Menin Gate Memorial along with those of other allies who died in the Ypres Salient during the war,” said Benoit Mottrie, chairman of the Last Post Association in Ypres.
Names of 55,000 soldiers are inscribed on the Menin Gate Memorial out of which 412 names are of Indian soldiers with no known graves. The people of Belgium daily pay tribute to their memory in the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate Memorial with a touching bugle call. The brothers play the bugle at the ceremony every day. The ceremony began in 1928 and has been held daily since 1929, except when Germany occupied Ypres from 1940 to 1944.
At India Gate the bugle tribute takes place every time a dignitary visits and a wreath laying ceremony is conducted. “This is not a daily affair here. However, this is probably the first time people from another country will play the bugle with us,” said an army personnel who was overseeing the rehearsals.
The Vandekerckhove brothers, however, faced a minor bump at the rehearsals as the tuning of their bugles did not match with their Indian comrades. “There is different in pitch in our instruments. We tried tuning them but it is nearly impossible. They will arrange two bugles for us tomorrow,” said Rik who works as the local fire department chief in Ypres, and has been a bugler since 1982.
Rik and Dirk, who is also is a fireman and has been playing since 1984, got acquainted with the choreography of the routine at the Monday rehearsals.
However, this is not the first time that the two travelled abroad for playing the Last Post. “We have been to Australia and New Zealand. This is our tribute to the 1,38,000 Indians who fought in the Ypres Salient, the 20,000 who died and 412 with no known graves,” Dirk said.
The buglers are part of a contingent which has come with the Belgian royal couple — King Philippe and Queen Mathilde — who arrived in New Delhi on Sunday.
They are on a seven-day visit to India for talks aiming at boosting cooperation between the two countries with focus on further ramping-up trade and investment ties.
This is King Philippe’s first state visit to India after his ascension to the throne in 2013. He is accompanied by a business delegation of nearly 90 people comprising CEOs of Belgian companies.