Six of the best war memorials around the world

The Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium

The town of Ypres became the focal point of the World War I deadlock in the Flanders Fields, and tens of thousands of soldiers marched through the town's Menin Gate exit on the way to die in the trenches. 

After the war, a huge barrel vaulted arch was constructed on the spot, engraved with the names of 54,896 whose bodies were never found or identified. Standing inside it, those names become an all-surrounding shroud. And when the local fire brigade's buglers play the Last Post at the nightly 8pm ceremony, it's impossible not to be moved.

See www.lastpost.be

The Australian War Memorial, Canberra

The Last Post can also be heard at the Australian War Memorial, just before 5pm. But recent changes to the ceremony have added a personal touch. Daily, the story of a different Australian who died fighting for his or her country is told, with their photograph displayed in front of the Pool of Reflection.

Before that, however, there are the absorbingly detailed galleries. The World War I gallery is due to reopen after a major renovation in December, but the Australian-slanted stories of World War II and more modern conflicts can still keep visitors occupied for hours.

See www.awm.gov.au

Korean War Veterans Memorial, Washington DC, USA

There's no shortage of war memorials around Washington DC's National Mall to choose from, but the one commemorating the Korean War is the most arresting. Thousands of photographic images of soldiers and support staff have been sandblasted into a heavy granite wall, while 19 statues of men poised for action in full combat gear stand in the middle. At night, when the statues are lit from below, they seem especially eerie and stripped of humanity. 

The simple message emblazoned in silver on another wall – "freedom is not free" – adds to the lump-in-the-throat chill.

See www.nps.gov/kwvm.

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 Clairiere de l'Armistice, Compiegne, France

World War I came to an end in a forest clearing, 70km north-east of Paris, when German leaders met their Allied counterparts to sign an Armistice in a railway carriage. When France surrendered to Nazi Germany in 1940, Hitler insisted the surrender took place in the same spot, in the same carriage.

A replica of the carriage now stands inside the small, volunteer-run museum on the site. But around are the tanks, railway tracks and monuments depicting the German imperial eagle being smashed that greet French Presidents every time they come to pay respect on November 11. 

See www.musee-armistice-14-18.fr

The American Cemetery and Memorial, Manila, Philippines

It's the sheer scale that's humbling in the largest of the US World War II cemeteries. Covering 62 hectares, the 17,206 graves are laid out in orderly arcs and interspersed with mahogany trees, bringing a peaceful sense of structure to the neatly mowed lawns. Most are marked with crosses, but there's the occasional Jewish star too.

The memorial itself is a history lesson spread over four chambers. They are covered with mosaic maps telling the story of the American campaigns across south-east Asia and the Pacific during World War II.

See www.abmc.gov.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin, Germany

The abstract nature of Peter Eisenman's​ memorial – usually known as the Holocaust Memorial – is a major part of what makes it evocative. Right in the centre of Berlin, it's a field of 2711 concrete slabs. They're of varying height, and deliberately spaced so you have to walk through in single file. The further in you go, the higher the slabs, building the sense of unease and intimidation. No one's told what to think or how to relate to the memorial, although there is an information centre at the edge explaining what happened during the Holocaust.

See www.stiftung-denkmal.de.

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