Ulster’s role in the events which began unfolding across Europe 100 years ago must never be forgotten.
That was the message from a string of unionist figures as the world prepares to mark a century to the day since the declaration of World War One’s British-German hostilities on Monday, August 4.
Some areas have already begun hosting activities and this weekend sees a raft of events are planned across the Province ahead of Monday’s acts of remembrance – which include a ceremonial switching-off of lights from around 10pm at venues across the UK (see below).
The reason for the switch-off is to remember the words of Britain’s foreign minister of the day, Edward Grey, who had remarked as war broke out: “The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”
Senior Orangeman Dr David Hume, who is a historian as well as the Order’s director of services, paid tribute to the brethren who had been killed.
He said the actual numbers of Orangemen who enlisted is not known, but it was definitely in the tens of thousands.
“You had some lodges that almost ceased to function during wartime because so many members were serving,” he said. “And the impact of the loss was very significant in many areas as well, especially after the Somme.”
He added: “It’s important we never forget the sacrifice involved in conflict and war, when men and women are called on to serve. That’s no different today than it was 100 years ago.
“This is not just about statistics. It’s about fathers and brothers and sisters and daughters who served, and some of whom didn’t return”.
Although many individual Orangemen will doubtless be taking part in the commemorations this week, the main anniversary the organisation is going to be involved in will be that of the Somme in 2016.
DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, who is both an ex-UDR man and chairman of the Northern Ireland Co-ordinating Committee for the Centenary Commemorations of The First World War, had travelled to Dublin on Thursday for the unveiling of a cross honouring soldiers from the entire island who were killed in the conflict.
He said: “I am pleased that this cross of sacrifice will afford an opportunity for people from all over the island and across the world to pay tribute to those men from Ireland, north and south, who made the ultimate sacrifice in the First World War and subsequent conflicts.
“There is a growing awareness of the important role played by men from what is now the Republic of Ireland in the First World War, and I hope that the decision of the Irish government to erect this monument will inspire more people to explore this area of shared history”.
UUP MEP Jim Nicholson said it was right to honour all those who fought.
“The First World War saw warfare on a scale hitherto unimagined in human history, unleashing unprecedented death, destruction and misery,” he said.
“We in Northern Ireland have long had cause to remember the sacrifice and the suffering of those Ulstermen – the vast majority of them members of Carson’s Army – who joined the 36th Ulster Division and were sent to France to face the slaughter of the Somme on July 1, 1916.”
And the ramifications of the conflict affected those with Ulster roots from right across the old empire, not just on the island of Ireland itself.
Dr Hume added: “The first Australian killed in World War One was an Orangeman in the Naval Reserve.
“There was an Orangeman, General Sam Hughes, who founded the Canadian expeditionary force and there were an awful lot of Orangemen involved in the Canadian forces.
“One of the battalions in Manitoba was called ‘the Orange Battalion’ because it had so many Orangemen in it.”
A century on, he feels that there is little danger of their sacrifice being forgotten, with young people showing an interest in the conflict. He added that once the Order opens its new museum in Belfast next year, it will include numerous exhibits about the war’s impact on Ulster.
Today: 9am to 9pm in the Showgrounds – WW1 military vehicles, children’s activities and re-enactments.
Sunday: 2pm, wreath-laying at Cenotaph, followed by parade and a commemorative service at 3.30pm in the Showgrounds.
Today: A concert entitled ‘Journey of a Volunteer – From Carson’s Army to Kitchener’s Army’ will be held at 7.30pm at the Ulster Hall.
Tickets are £10.
Monday: Memorial service,
St Anne’s Cathedral. In attendance will be the Secretary of State, The Duke of York, Irish government representatives and major church figures.
This will be at 7pm, Admission is by invitation only
There will be a public candlelit vigil from 10pm to 11pm in the grounds of Belfast City Hall, which will switch its lights off.
A wreath will also be laid and the Last Post played.
Sunday: Remembrance service, St Patrick’s Church, 6pm.
Monday: Church service in Quay Lane, preceded by a short parade and wreath-laying ceremony from 7.30pm at the Cenotaph. At 10pm, Knockagh Monument will be lit up for an hour, and at 11pm the Cenotaph will be lit up in red.
Monday: Candlelit vigil in The Diamond, town centre, from 10.30pm, preceded by entertainment from the Coleraine Fife and Drums.
Sunday: The First Presbyterian Church will host a multi-denominational service from 7pm.
Sunday: Memorial Mass at 11am in St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Marlborough Street, with Irish government officials and the Royal British Legion. The public may attend.
Sunday: Remembrance service at Dundonald Cemetery, 2pm, where 77 World War One soldiers are interred.
KILLYLEAGH: Monday: Open-air commemoration at the Castle Square at 7pm, with 100 church bell chimes. World champion piper Richard Parkes will perform, and commemorative crosses laid.
Monday: The Island Civic Centre will be in darkness for a vigil from 10pm to 11pm.
At the Garrison Church in the headquarters of 38 (Irish) Brigade, members of the forces will gather at 10pm for a service – this is not open to the public.
Lights will be gradually extinguished until only a candle remains to light the commemorative window (left). Similar services are being held at military bases in Holywood and Aldergrove.
Monday: Newmills Community Hall to host memorabilia and talks from 10am.
Today: Noon to 4.30pm at North Down Museum will see WW1 re-enactments, music and exhibition tours.
Sunday: At 2.30pm at Bangor Town Hall, veterans and bands will march from Main Street to British Legion Hall on Hamilton Road, with a remembrance picnic in Ward Park from 3pm to 5pm.
Monday: Inter-denominational remembrance service 10pm at Hamilton Road Presbyterian Church. Afterwards there will be a ‘Lights Out’ candlelit vigil in Ward Park.