William has ‘teary moment’ at Passchendaele Last Post tribute

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge with flowers and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge during a ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves Commisions's Tyne Cot Cemetery. Picture: Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge with flowers and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge during a ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves Commisions's Tyne Cot Cemetery. Picture: Chris Jackson/Getty Images
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The Duke of Cambridge has described becoming emotional as he paid tribute to thousands of soldiers killed 100 years ago at Passchendaele.

William said it had been a “teary moment” as he attended the nightly Last Post ceremony on Sunday at the Menin Gate, a century on from the start of the bloody battle on Belgium.

He made the admission yesterday ahead of a major commemoration at the Tyne Cot military cemetery near Ypres, where thousands of British and Commonwealth dead are buried.

Speaking before yesterday’s service at the nearby Bedford House Irish cemetery, he told interns escorting relatives around the war: “It was phenomenal – a proper teary moment for me.

“At the end it was so amazing. It was very, very moving.”

The Prince of Wales later spoke of the “courage and bravery” of British soldiers killed at Passchendaele as he led commemorations at Tyne Cot.

A century after thousands of British and Commonwealth troops went “over the top”, Charles, William, Kate and Prime Minister Theresa May joined the King and Queen of Belgium and some 4,000 descendants of those who fought.

In his address to the gathering, Charles said: “We remember it not only for the rain that fell, the mud that weighed down the living and swallowed the dead, but also for the courage and bravery of the men who fought here.

“In 1920, the war reporter Philip Gibbs – who had himself witnessed Third Ypres – wrote that ‘nothing that has been written is more than the pale image of the abomination of those battlefields, and that no pen or brush has yet achieved the picture of that Armageddon in which so many of our men perished.’

“Drawn from many nations, we come together in their resting place, cared for with such dedication by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, to commemorate their sacrifice and to promise that we will never forget.”

More than 100 days of fighting in the summer and autumn of 1917, starting on July 31, left more than half a million men dead or injured on both sides.

The Tyne Cot cemetery is the largest Commonwealth burial ground in the world, with 11,971 servicemen buried 
and remembered there – 8,373 of whom are unidentified.

Kate then joined Belgian Queen Mathilde and German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel in laying wreaths at the graves of four German soldiers buried in Tyne Cot.

Charles also paid tribute to two Celtic poets killed on the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele.

He spoke Welsh as he paid tribute to the country’s war dead at the imposing standing stones and dragon edifice of the Welsh National Memorial.

He joined Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones and Chris Coleman, the manager of the Wales football team, in speaking in front of hundreds of civilians and soldiers.

At the memorial Charles read verse by Robert Williams Parry, in praise of Welsh-language poet Hedd Wyn – Ellis Humphrey Evans – who was killed 100 years ago yesterday, the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele.

Mr Jones, who was joined by all the Welsh political party leaders, told the crowd: “It’s difficult, looking around us today, to imagine what it was like then.

“Here we are in a peaceful place and the sun is out. It’s difficult to imagine the horror of what faced our soldiers and their families back home who didn’t know if they would hear from their loved ones for months or at all.”

There was also music from the Prince’s official harpist Anne Denholm.

Charles and Mr Jones then joined other dignitaries in visiting Artillery Wood Cemetery, where hundreds of Welsh and Irish soldiers are buried.

There they laid wreaths at the graves of Hedd Wyn and the Irish poet Francis Ledwidge, who was killed on the same day 100 years ago.

The prince spoke with Ledwidge’s great nephew Frank, Frank’s wife Nebi and their son James Ledwidge, 11.