Poignant battlefield tour for local group

The group of 49 from Lurgan, Portadown, Banbridge and Scotland at Hill 62 near Ypres in Belgium
The group of 49 from Lurgan, Portadown, Banbridge and Scotland at Hill 62 near Ypres in Belgium

A group from Lurgan and Portadown joined others from Banbridge and Scotland for a ten day battlefield tour of Flanders and the Somme in Belgium and France.

The party of 49 were led by tour guide, Portadown man Robbie Wallace who planned the route so the group could visit a number of graves of those who had died in the Great War and whose relatives were on the tour.

The first three days were spent in the Ypres Salient and whilst there the group attended the daily Service of Remembrance at the Menin Gate.

Each evening the main road into Ypres town, over which the Menin Gate Memorial spans is closed. The local fire brigade sound the Last Post and Reveille ending with the exhortation.

This is a service which has happened every day since the end of WW1, apart from Christmas Day and when the Nazis occupied the city during WW2.

After a free day in Bruges the group travelled to Amiens where they based themselves to explore the Somme battlefields, with the highlight of the trip attending the 1st July Ceremony at the Ulster Tower.

The day started with the group’s own Service of Remembrance at 07:30 to commemorate the time the troops went ‘over the top’ at such great loss.

The group then travelled to the Ulster Tower where the Somme Association facilitated a Service of Remembrance, with those in attendance finding it a very poignant experience while also appreciating the presence of the Royal Family and the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment which helped make it a memorable occasion.

Some of the group then donned their collarettes and attended the Orange Memorial to the rear of the Ulster Tower where a short service was held by the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland in memory of all those who made the supreme sacrifice from the Loyal Orders.

The group finished its Battlefield Tour, again at the Ulster Tower, where the Band, Bugles, Pipes and Drums of the Royal Irish performed the Beating of the Retreat.