A bugler whose tributes to war casualties have moved thousands of New Zealanders has played for the last time.

Ninety-year-old Antoon Verschoot has blown the Last Post with a group of buglers at Menin Gate in Belgium since 1954.

The eight buglers - all volunteer firemen - play the famous war tribute every night of the year at eight o'clock to honour the hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers killed in Western Front battles near the town of Ieper, better know by its French name Ypres.

Most New Zealand casualties are buried in nearby cemeteries or named in memorials to the missing. But the names of eighty soldiers who served with other Allied forces are inscribed on Menin Gate, and a simple plaque records the service of Kiwi troops.


Thousands of New Zealanders visiting war cemeteries in Belgium and France have witnessed the Menin Gate ceremony, which is run by the Last Post Association. This year its chairman, Mr Benoit Mottrie, was made an honorary member of the NZ Order of Merit in the Queens Birthday honours list.

The association says Mr Verschoot has played in some 15,000 of the 30,000 ceremonies held since the event started in 1928.

He has also performed at Anzac and New Zealand memorial services. He blew his last tribute at the weekend.

The elderly bugler told a Belgium website that the time had come for him to retire. He said he had found the freezing winter evenings hard-going, and his wife Suzanne was pleased he had decided to quit.

Asked about his musical style, Mr Verschoot said: " A lot of people think that to play the bugle you simply put it up to your lips and the Last Post comes out. No, no, no."

The association said the only time Mr Verschoot was late to a service occurred when he was stuck on the wrong side of Leper's level crossing while a freight train rumbled past.

His wife and daughters were present when Mr Verschoot, as chief bugler, sounded the salute to the fallen a final time and handed his instrument to his successor.