Orangemen parade at NI venues to remember Battle of Somme

Orangemen march through Dromore in Co Down, laying a wreath at the war memorial before heading to the church service in the town's cathedral
Orangemen march through Dromore in Co Down, laying a wreath at the war memorial before heading to the church service in the town's cathedral

Thousands of Orangemen have paraded across Northern Ireland to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme – in which thousands of their forebears paid the ultimate sacrifice.

The Orangemen, many of whom were members of the 36th Ulster Division, lost their lives fighting against Germany on the French battlefield in 1916.

Crimson-clad bandsmen were among those parading through Dromore

Crimson-clad bandsmen were among those parading through Dromore

The 36th Ulster Division suffered some 5,500 casualties on the opening day of the battle on July 1, with some 3,500 Irish soldiers from both sides of the community losing their lives in total.

On Sunday afternoon formal commemoration parades took place in Armagh city, Omagh, Cookstown, Enniskillen, Limavady and Dromore. All of the services were held simultaneously.

A separate drumhead service will take place in Co Antrim next weekend.

The memorial events come ahead of the actual centenary on July 1, when the Orange Institution, along with the entire nation, will reflect on the bravery of all servicemen who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the seminal battle on the Western Front.

The war memorial statue in Dromore towers above the crowd

The war memorial statue in Dromore towers above the crowd

Edward Stevenson, Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, said the memorial services and associated commemoration parades would be a “fitting and solemn tribute” to the fallen.

He said: “The Battle of the Somme will forever be seared into the psyche of the Orange family, given the huge sacrifice by members of the Institution on the front line.

“Indeed, many brethren attending the memorial services will have relatives who fought and died for the freedoms we enjoy today.”

Deputy Grand Master Harold Henning attended the Co Down parade in Dromore.

“We had all of Co Down out today, totalling around 1,500 Orangemen,” he said. “In fact, the two churches we marched to could not cope with our numbers. It was an excellent turn out to commemorate our brethren who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”