Ypres marks start of WWI commemorations

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Ypres marks start of WWI commemorations

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EU leaders gather in Ypres in Belgium today to commemorate the outbreak of World War One 100 years ago.

The city is symbolic as it stood at the apex of the western front and for all four years of the war it saw heavy fighting, which destroyed the city completely.

It was also the first place poison gas was used in warfare. In all, 54,000 British and Commonwealth troops lost their lives here, along with thousands of Belgian and mainly colonial French troops.

“If these cemeteries didn’t exist one could forget that the events of nearly a hundred years ago happened and the millions of people that died. So by having the cemeteries here, it makes people aware that a war did take place,” says Senior Head Gardener for the Commonwealth War Graves commission Derek Richardson.

Thousands of visitors come very year, but for the centenary period some two million are expected. The city has renovated its Flanders Field museum for the occasion.