Battlefields pilgrimage ‘biggest RBL membership event in modern history’

The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr Lindsay Millar, with standard bearers, wreath bearers, branch officers and other officials ahead of the battlefields commemoration.
The Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr Lindsay Millar, with standard bearers, wreath bearers, branch officers and other officials ahead of the battlefields commemoration.

A party from Mid and East Antrim Borough is taking part in a commemorative pilgrimage to the battlefields of the Somme and Ypres.

A decade after the end of The Great War, the British Legion (as it was then known) organised for veterans and war widows to visit both sites before marching to the Menin Gate in Ypres on August 8, 1928.

Exactly 90 years later, thousands of Legion representatives will recreate the 1928 Battlefields Pilgrimage and visit the same battlefields.

They will then parade their branch standard and a wreath along the same route to the Menin Gate for the One Hundred Days ceremony to commemorate the last 100 days of World War One and represent an entire generation that served while defending their country.

Branches from Ballymena, Carrickfergus, Larne, Whitehead, Broughshane and Cullybackey were hosted by the borough’s first citizen, at a special reception in The Braid, Ballymena.

The Mayor, Cllr Lindsay Millar said: “The Great Pilgrimage 90 will be the Legion’s biggest membership event in modern history and will consist of two representatives from each registered branch taking part in the Legion’s official Great Pilgrimage 90 two-day battlefields and cemeteries tour.

“We in Mid and East Antrim have extremely strong bonds with our military services and the Royal British Legion. These hugely important events are fitting tributes to the fallen and all of those who suffered loss and hurt as a result of the conflict a century ago.”

Following the ceremony, members will join spectators in Ypres Market Square for an afternoon of comradeship, exhibitions and musical performances.

A total of 66 branches and three groups from Northern Ireland are travelling to Ypres, and all 11 branches from the Republic will be represented - some 168 RBL members from across the island will make the trip.