An Armistice Day remembrance service, organised by the Orange Institution, took place in the Garden of Remembrance at Schomberg House in east Belfast today.
Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, addressing the assembled Orangemen, said: “This year, our commemoration is particularly poignant, as we reflect on the bravery of those who fought and died at the Battle of the Somme.
“One hundred years later, we quite rightly remember with pride all those who served, and in particular those who lost their lives, during the momentous battle of the First World War.
“We think of those in the 36th (Ulster), as well as the 10th, 11th and the 16th (Irish) Divisions, and reflect on the many tens of thousands of members of the Orange Institution worldwide who bravely enlisted at that time.
“I, along with colleagues, had the honour of laying a wreath at the Orange memorial at Thiepval this summer as we marked the centenary of the outbreak of the most attritional battle on the Western Front, and acknowledged the immense contribution of Orangemen on the front line.
“As we approach the 100th anniversary next week of the end of the seminal 141 day conflict, it is only fitting we recall the courage and fearlessness of those who fought on our behalf.
“Many of our forefathers took their Orange ritual and tradition with them to the trenches, with some even wearing their sashes as they went over the top to face the enemy.
“Their bravery and heroism, along with their Protestant peers, was equal to that of their fellow Roman Catholic soldiers, and those from a nationalist tradition, who fought valiantly in unison for King and country.
“Today, we remember and pay our respects to them all.”
He added: “It is also right we pause and acknowledge the fallen of other Great War battles and those who paid the supreme sacrifice during the succeeding Second World War.
“We think at this time of those who died in the service of the British Crown many thousands of miles away from home. Among them many Ulstermen and women who gave their lives not only to protect this country, but also in the interests of democracy across the world.
“As part of our annual commemoration, and immortalised on the memorial stone, we also remember over 300 members of our Institution who were murdered during the Troubles.
“A very large number of them, including an Orangewoman, served in the security forces when they were ruthlessly and unmercifully killed by evil people.
“We remember their bravery during the darkest days of our Province’s history. We particularly think of those who donned the uniform of the Ulster Defence Regiment, the Royal Ulster Constabulary and other law enforcement agencies, who courageously and selflessly resisted the threat posed by armed terrorists.
“Many were murdered because they were Protestants, and some were singled out by republicans simply because they were Orangemen.
“As a large fraternal organisation, we remember all the families who have lost loved ones and let them know they have our full and unequivocal support.
“We are also mindful of those relatives who continue to face obstacles and intolerable delays in their legitimate quest for justice. The truth must always prevail for those innocent victims of terrorism who suffered the most.
“On this the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, it is only right that we pause and remember all those who gave their today so we could have our tomorrow.
“As we stand secure in their memory, we will never forget them and their sacrifice.”