Battle of the Somme East Belfast parade marks anniversary

DUP MLAs Robin Newton, Peter Weir, Gordon Dunne, William Humphrey join Gavin Robinson MP at East Belfast Somme Parade
DUP MLAs Robin Newton, Peter Weir, Gordon Dunne, William Humphrey join Gavin Robinson MP at East Belfast Somme Parade

The mini-heatwave brought massive crowds out last night in east Belfast for the largest and longest running Battle of the Somme anniversary parade,

More than 3,500 men from the 36th (Ulster) Division and the 16th (Irish) Division were killed at the Somme in 1916.

Last night’s parade saw over 40 lodges and 35 bands leave Templemore Avenue at 7.30pm.

Speaking just before he set off on the parade, Orange Order Grand Chaplain Mervyn Gibson told the News Letter he expected a great evening.

“I am looking forward to a big night on parade in east Belfast,” he said. “There are massive crowds out already.”

There were no official protests organised, and Mr Gibson said he was hoping for a peaceful night – although he said there would be “a heavy police presence” at the Short Strand.

“We do get the odd golf ball thrown at us there, but hopefully not tonight,” he added.

District Master Raymond Spiers said: “While the primary focus of the parade is to commemorate the Battle of the Somme, this year – on the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli – there will be special mention of the contribution made by the Anzacs during our memorial service.”

He added: “Ballymacarrett Orange Hall is bedecked with the Australian and New Zealand flags in honour of those who fought from these great countries.”

Some 11,000 Australian and New Zealand Army Corps members died alongside 29,500 British and Irish troops in the campaign.