A Somme centenary exhibition commemorating the valour and sacrifice of the many Orangemen who fought in the First World War battle has opened in Belfast.
‘The Lily and the Poppy’ at the Museum of Orange Heritage in the east of the city marks 100 years since the first day of the four-month-long brutal encounter in France.
The exhibition chronicles the contribution of thousands of Orange Institution members on the front line during 1916, and includes a number of significant items relating specifically to those Orangemen who served with the 36th Ulster Division.
Many locally recruited regiments are featured and a number of battlefield incidentals, weaponry and personal items will be on display at the Cregagh Road site until December.
The exhibition was officially opened on Monday by John McAreavey, a veteran with the Irish Guards, to the noise of a bugle which sounded the advance at the Somme all those years ago.
It is estimated 200,000 Orangemen from around the world served during the First World War, with thousands seeing action at the Somme. At least five Orangemen were awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry, including Robert Quigg from Bushmills.
Edward Stevenson, Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, said: “The Battle of the Somme will forever be seared into the psyche of Orangeism, given the huge sacrifice by members of the Institution on the front line.
“In this centenary year we remember those Orangemen not only from Ulster, but across the Commonwealth, who selflessly volunteered and fought on the battlefields, and paid the supreme sacrifice on our behalf.
“It is well documented that many Orangemen went over the top in the heat of the battle proudly wearing their collarettes or Orange ribbons on their uniforms, and never returned. In this context, the lily and the poppy are poignantly symbolic as the flowers of a generation lost in battle.”
Mr Stevenson added: “This exhibition is an educational asset regarding the Great War and the Orange contribution to it, as well as a fitting tribute to all of those who gave their lives so valiantly at the Somme.”
Curator of the Museum of Orange Heritage, Dr Jonathan Mattison, said: “The contribution of Orangemen at the Somme cannot be overstated. It is important in this centenary year that we as an organisation not only pay tribute to all those who fought at the Somme, but particularly highlight the prominent role of Orangemen on the battlefield.”
Opening hours are from Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm. For group bookings contact 028 9070 1122.