Apprentice Boys visit Great War battlefields

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The battlefields of the Somme and the infamous Ypres Salient were the focus of a tour undertaken by Broughshane Apprentice Boys.

Eleven members of the Club along with friends from Garvagh and Scotland were guided by Phil Hamilton of 36th Ulster Division Battlefield Tours.

The group was able to follow the journey of the local ‘service’ battalion, the 12th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles thanks to Phil’s expertise. They visited a number of locations including the graves of the unit’s first fatality and also the youngest soldier to die from the battalion.

On Day two, the group visited the Thiepval Memorial and the nearby Ulster Tower where they toured the trench system in Thiepval Wood.

A club spokesman said: “We awere given a superb overview of the battlefield and Phil explained in great detail the role which the 12th Battalion played on the first day of the Somme campaign. On day three we travelled to Belgium and again Phil provided with accuracy and detail the role of the 12th Battalion in battle of Messines, this day cumulated in a number of wreaths being laid at the Menin Gate, a very emotional experience for all involved.

“Throughout the tour a number of acts of remembrance were conducted with some of the group remembering family members who made the ultimate sacrifice and at other graves and memorials we honoured men from the battalion.

“The tour was an educational and informative experience and through our tour guide all members have a better understanding of the journey of soldiers from our local battalion, many who never made it back home and who lie at rest in Flander’s fields.”