Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Darren Chester and Mayor of Ieper Jan Durnez have signed a Memorandum of Understanding as part of the final arrangements for the replicas of the famous Menin Gate lions to be permanently displayed at the Menin Gate Memorial in Belgium.
The replicas, to be gifted to the City of Ieper, are part of the government's efforts to strengthen the bonds forged between Australia and Belgium on the Western Front over a century ago.
"During the First World War, thousands of Australian troops marched through the Menin Gate on their way to the Western Front. Today, the names of more than 6,000 Australians with no known grave are listed on the Menin Gate Memorial," Minister Chester said.
"On behalf of the Australian government I am proud to finalise the arrangements of this gift to the people of Ieper, which will be an everlasting reminder of the bond between our two countries."
After the First World War, the Menin Gate became the site for a memorial and lists the names of more than 55,000 British and Dominion soldiers killed in Belgium, many who have no known grave.
"As an expression of gratitude for the more than 13,000 Australian soldiers who died in Belgium during the First World War, the original Menin Gate lions were given to Australia in 1936," the minister said.
"The lions have been on display inside the front entrance of the Australian War Memorial since 1991, but were last year loaned back to the City of Ieper for the centenary commemorations of the Flanders campaign."
The new replica lions will be displayed on the plinths in front of the Menin Gate Memorial where every evening the residents of Ieper honour every Australian who served in the First World War by sounding the Last Post.