Orange Order pays tribute to Irish Somme heroes

Assistant Grand Master Rev Mervyn Gibson lays a wreath in remembrance of those servicemen who lost their lives at Guillemont and Ginchy during the Battle of the Somme 100 years ago this month Pic: Graham Curry
Assistant Grand Master Rev Mervyn Gibson lays a wreath in remembrance of those servicemen who lost their lives at Guillemont and Ginchy during the Battle of the Somme 100 years ago this month Pic: Graham Curry

Orangemen who paid the supreme sacrifice whilst serving with the 16th (Irish) Division at the Battle of the Somme have been remembered by the Loyal Institution.

Assistant Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Rev Mervyn Gibson, laid a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance at the Order’s Belfast headquarters to commemorate those who lost their lives a century ago during the respective battles at Guillemont and Ginchy in France.

More than 1,200 men from across the island of Ireland died in the fighting against German forces over a six-day period during the Somme.

Among those killed in action was Co Down soldier, and Orangeman, Edward Aicken.

The Newtownards man, 29, served with the 8th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers of the 16th (Irish) Division and lost his life on the front line at Guillemont on September 6 1916.

Private Aicken, a father-of-two, was a member of Conlig Village Star LOL 695.

Other known Orange casualties during the Great War included Bro William Wilson, from Cookstown, who served with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and Banbridge Orangeman, Ernest McDowell, from the Royal Irish Rifles.

Paying tribute, Rev Gibson said: “It is important we should pay our respects to all those who lost their lives when answering the call of duty during the Battle of the Somme.

“Not just members of the Orange Institution who served valiantly with the Irish regiments at Guillemont and Ginchy, but all Protestants, Roman Catholics, those of any faith and those of no faith at all.

“We salute every one of them for their courage, professionalism and selflessness.”

Approximately 200,000 Orangemen from across the world served during the First World War, with thousands seeing action at the Somme. They included brethren from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, as well as divisions from across the British Isles, especially the 36th Ulster Division.

At least five Orangemen were awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry, including Robert Quigg from Bushmills for his outstanding bravery on the battlefield.

A special exhibition commemorating the valour and sacrifice of members of the Orange Institution who fought at the Somme is ongoing at the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast.

‘The Lily and the Poppy’, which runs until December, marks the centenary of the battle and chronicles the contribution of thousands of Orangemen on the front line.

A number of significant items relating specifically to Orangemen who served with the 36th Ulster Division and other regiments from the period feature in the exhibition, as well as a number of battlefield incidentals and other artefacts.

The Museum of Orange Heritage is appealing for information, photographs and artefacts relating to the service of Orangemen and women during 1916, especially at the Battle of the Somme.

The museum is particularly keen to hear from anyone with family links to those who served in the 16th (Irish) Division.

Please contact 028 9070 1122 or email info@orangeheritage.co.uk