BRUSSELS – Senior members of the United Kingdom’s royal family on Monday paid solemn tribute to the half a million combatants that laid down their lives at the Battle of Passchendaele, one of the bloodiest in World War I, which began at dawn exactly 100 years ago.
Charles, Prince of Wales, along with King Philippe of the Belgians, attended the Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing to lead the ceremony of remembrance.
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge; Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge; Queen Mathilde of Belgium and UK Prime Minister Theresa May were also in attendance, along with several descendants of those killed in the battle, whose remains still lie beneath a vast array of white tombstones lined with red poppies.
Alternatively known as the Third Battle of Ypres, the campaign saw the Allies fight against the German Empire from the muddy trenches of the Western Front from July 31 to Nov. 6, 1917.
After an estimated 275,000 Allied soldiers and 220,000 Germans lost their lives during the battle ? the exact number of casualties remains disputed among historians ? the Entente Powers managed to advance a mere 8 kilometers (5 miles).
Monday’s ceremony underscored the futility of the Great War and its greatest legacy: the pointless loss of millions of young lives due to the geopolitical ambitions of their rulers.