Leper is the Dutch and only official name. The town has a long history, being raided by the Romans and during the Middle Ages was a prosperous city with a population of 40,000. It was renowned for its linen trade with England and was mentioned in the Canterbury Tales.
The city's French name Ypres is most commonly used in English due to its role in World War I when French was the official language used in Belgium and was therefore on all the maps. During the war, because the British troops had trouble pronouncing its name, they nicknamed the city "Wipers."
It was an area of intense and prolonged fighting in the Great War - the city itself was devastated and was one of the first places to experience chemical warfare.
After WW1 the town was rebuilt using money paid by Germany in reparations, with the main square including the Cloth Hall and Town Hall, being rebuilt as close to the original designs as possible (the rest of the rebuilt town is more modern in appearance).
The village of Passchendaele is a few km away as is Tyne Cot Cemetery (the largest Commonwealth Cemetery). In fact the entire countryside contains numerous small war graves on land that was permanently deeded to the Commonwealth.
Hill 60 nearby was mined by the British and then the 1st Australian Tunneling Company. The Australians
At 3:10 a.m. on 7 June 1917, 19 mines filled with 450,000 kilograms of explosives, were detonated under the German lines. The blasts created one of the largest explosions in history, reportedly heard in London and Dublin, demolishing a large part of the hill and killing approximately 10,000 German soldiers.
MENIN GATE MEMORIAL TO THE MISSING
Soldiers often passed through the Menenpoort on their way to the front lines with some 300,000 of them being killed in the Ypres Salient. Of these, 90,000 have no known graves.
Completed in 1927 - The Menin Gate was originally intended to record the names of Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient and whose graves are unknown. On completion they realised it was not large enough and so a cut off date of 15 August 1917 was chosen and the names of 34,984 missing after this date were instead inscribed on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing. The Menin Gate Memorial does not list the names of the missing New Zealand and Newfoundland soldiers, who are instead honoured on separate memorials (including Tyne Cot).
Every evening at 20:00, buglers from the local fire brigade close the road which passes under the memorial and sound the Last Post. Except for the occupation by the Germans in WW2, this ceremony has been carried on uninterrupted since 2 July 1928 (it was sounded in Surrey UK instead). On the evening that Polish forces liberated Ypres in the Second World War, the ceremony was resumed at the Menin Gate despite the fact that heavy fighting was still taking place in other parts of the town.
The carved limestone lions adorning the original gate were damaged by shellfire in WW2 and were donated to the Australian War Memorial in 1936 so that all visitors to that Memorial pass between them.
Tyne Cot was originally a dressing station with 4 bunkers on the site. Those who died at the dressing station were buried here and later the site was chosen as one of several when known grave sites were consolidated. Two of the bunkers are still in the cemetery.