The Menin Gate, designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield, stands at the eastern edge of the town of Ypres [now Ieper] on the road where tens of thousands of British and Commonwealth troops marched out to the trenches of the front line of The Salient. A salient is part of a line that bulges out into the enemy's line.
In the early weeks of WW1 there was a 'race to the sea' as the German army tried to outflank the British Expeditionary Force. They did not succeed and the subsequent stalemate resulted in the front lines becoming stationary in the trench system that characterised most of the war.
In this most northerly sector of the front, the line ran from Nieupoort on the coast due south towards Armentières, 35 miles away. But at the town of Ypres the line bulged east to form the salient some 5 miles deep. The German lines occupied the Passchendaele Ridge, which formed the perimeter of the salient. Ypres, lying in the cente of this shallow bowl, was shelled daily for the entire war.
It was imperative to hold Ypres. If the Germans had been able to break through they could have turned south and 'rolled up' the Britsh lines and then the French lines, south of the Somme river.
The Ypres Salient was the scene of 5 major offensives by either side. From October 1914 to October 1918 nearly 200,000 British and Commonwealth sildiers were killed. The Menin Gate commemorates 'the missing' - more than 54,000 of those who have no known grave.
When the panels of The Menin Gate could take no more names, some 35,000 more were commemorated at Tyne Cot cemetary 6 miles away.