Orangemen pay visit to battlefields of WW1 during week-long tour

Orangemen pay visit to battlefields of WW1 during week-long tour

12 July 2017

CASTLEWELLAN District LOL No 12 has undertaken a week long battlefield tour of Great War sites.

The group of 54 attended a large number of sites of historical or local significance.

On Thursday, June 29, the group visited Ypres and specifically the Yser Canal area which was the location of the events that inspired John McCrae’s poem ‘In Flanders Fields’.

In the adjoining cemetery the grave of J Donnelly, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, from Kilcoo was located and a cross positioned upon it. 

That evening the party attended the evening commemoration at the Menin Gate Memorial to the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of World War I and whose graves are unknown. A wreath was led by Castlewellan WDM Bro Trevor Orr escorted by Deputy District Master Bro Victor Morrow and Bro Kenny Cromie.

The next day, en route to the Somme area the party stopped off at three cemeteries Tyne Cot, the largest in Belgium, Essex Farm and Sanctuary Wood. 

The party also stopped of at the grave of Nationalist MP Major Willie Redmond, Sixth Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment.

Saturday, July 1, was a more formal and emotional day as members visited the Thiepval Museum. Members of Castlewellan District LOL No 12 and other visiting Orangemen paraded to the Thiepval Memorial led by piper Gilbert Cromie. 

Early in the afternoon they again paraded to the Ulster Tower where at the Orange Memorial garden the Bro Rev George Speers dedicated the District’s Great War bannerette which had been presented to them by Deputy District Master Bro. Victor Morrow. At each of these events the brethren attended the formal services organised by the British Legion and The Somme Association. 

Later in the afternoon the Castlewellan District organised the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland’s official service at the Orange Memorial which is adjacent to the Ulster Tower. A large gathering assembled to participate in the service which was conducted by the District Chaplain Bro Rev George Speers and included the reciting of Binyon’s ‘For the Fallen’ poem and the playing of a lament. 

The District Officer’s laid a wreath followed by representatives of other Districts and lodges including Killyleagh. 

On Sunday, July 2, after a short service in the hotel the party resumed their tour visiting a number of sites across the Somme region. 

The District also carried out plans to visit the memorial to the 16th [Irish] Division at Guillemont as a mark of respect to the many men from the Annsborough, Castlewellan, Dundrum, Kilcoo and Newcastle areas who had served and in many cases lost their lives.

The morning of Monday, July 3, brought the group to a number of sites worthy of note, including the military cemetery at Fricourt, with its metal crosses instead of headstones serving as a reminder of the losses sustained by the Germans.