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Performance of Morpurgo short story part of Passchendaele commemorations

The battle of Passchendaele was fought near Ypres between July 31 and November 10 1917.

A new exclusive short story by War Horse author Michael Morpurgo will be performed in Belgium to mark the centenary of the First World War’s battle of Passchendaele.

Extracts from The Wipers Times, the play by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman about the satirical newspaper produced by troops fighting around Ypres, will also be performed at the commemoration in the Belgian town.

Images from the war will be projected on to the town’s Cloth Hall, which was destroyed and later rebuilt, and the event on Sunday July 30 will also feature interviews with First World War veterans and accounts from soldiers, nurses and loved ones.

It will be preceded by the traditional Last Post ceremony that has taken place every evening since 1928 at Ypres’ Menin Gate – inscribed with the names of more than 54,000 soldiers whose bodies were never found or identified.

The following day there will be a ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Tyne Cot cemetery attended by thousands of descendants of the men who fought in the battle.

The battle of Passchendaele was fought near Ypres between July 31 and November 10 1917, in battlefields that turned to liquid mud.

Allied forces suffered more than 320,000 casualties and German losses are estimated to be between 260,000 and 400,000.

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The battlefield turned to mud. (DCMS/PA)

Mr Morpurgo’s live reading of his From Farm Horse To War Horse, specially written for the event at the Cloth Hall, will be accompanied by an appearance by the horse puppet Joey from the National Theatre stage adaptation of War Horse.

He said: “We are now a hundred years on from the battle of Passchendaele, one of the most appalling battles of the First World War, in which thousands upon hundreds of thousands of soldiers suffered and died.

“It is a moment to reflect on their lives, and on the terrible nature of that war and of all wars, and on the importance of maintaining peace. They fought for our peace.

“That is what we must not forget, which is why we must continue to tell the story, to pass it on.”

Mr Hislop, whose grandfather was at Passchendaele and survived, said it would be “extraordinary” to participate in the commemorations.

The story of The Wipers Times was a “remarkable, forgotten story” worth including in the event, he said.

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