24th July marked the anniversary of the opening ceremony of the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium in 1927. In attendance was a member of the Downside monastic community, Dom Stephen Rawlinson. 

Here in the Downside Abbey Archives we hold the archive of Dom Stephen, mainly concerning his time as a military chaplain in the Great War. Within the archive is his programme for the opening ceremony and his invitation, admitting him to the causeway north pavement. This was a place reserved for British and Belgian soldiers.

Dom Stephen would have been in this place of honour due to his rank of Colonel and position as Assistant Principal Chaplain on the Western Front. In this role he managed hundreds of Catholic chaplains in their day to day duties. This piece of history is just one of the thousands of incredible items in the Downside Archives. We also have images of Ypres and the Menin Gate taken in the early 1930’s during a monastic trip to Belgium within our photographic archives.

Lord Plumer, in his speech given as he opened the memorial, said, ‘It was resolved that here at Ypres, where so many of the ‘Missing’ are known to have fallen, there should be erected a memorial worthy of them which should give expression to the nation’s gratitude for their sacrifice and its sympathy with those who mourned them. A memorial has been erected which, in its simple grandeur, fulfils this object, and now it can be said of each one in whose honour we are assembled here today: ‘He is not missing; he is here’.

To read more about the archive collections, click here. To arrange a tour of the archives and library, email a member of staff here.