Big thank you from

Poignant memories recalled for Lisburn Royal Ulster Rifles


Members of the Lisburn Royal Ulster Rifles Association at Arnhem Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery.
Members of the Lisburn Royal Ulster Rifles Association at Arnhem Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery.

ON my last Battlefield Tour of the season I had the privilege of having on board a group of Royal Ulster Riflemen and their friends from the Lisburn RUR Association.

During the eight days we visited places I imagine were poignant for those Riflemen, places where previous Royal Ulster Riflemen had fought and died.

Billy Donald, the Association photographer.We visited the beaches of Dunkirk from where the Rifles were evacuated in May and June 1940. The Dunkirk Memorial honours those who have no known grave from the time of evacuation — the Royal Ulster Rifles have a panel on that memorial with the names of their dead inscribed in stone. We drove through the area outside Dunkirk where in 1940 the Rifles had been responsible for holding back the attacking Germans to allow as many men as possible to be evacuated from the beaches.

We moved on to Ypres and Messines where in 1914 — 1918 the predecessors of the Royal Ulster Rifles — the Royal Irish Rifles - fought and died in great numbers. Their dead lie buried in the beautifully kept Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemeteries in the Ypres Salient. And the names of those Royal Irish Riflemen who have no known grave are inscribed on the Menin Gate in Ypres.

I was privileged to be able to lead the Evening Sunset Act of Remembrance on one of the evenings in Ypres. I found it very moving to watch as all of our Riflemen, dressed in Regimental green blazers, ties, medals and corbeens (hats) marched forward to lay a wreath in memory of their comrades from a previous generation. After the ceremony a number of people who had been present came over and said how impressed they were with the Riflemen, their turnout and their demeanour.

While we were at the Menin Gate the Riflemen asked me on their behalf to make a presentation to the co-ordinator of the Last Post Association, who organize the nightly ceremony. He received a Lisburn City plaque, courtesy of Cllr. Ronnie Crawford.

Before we left the Ypres area we also visited the site of the attack in June 1917 where the men of the 36th Ulster Division and the 16th Irish Division, coming from different political backgrounds, fought and died side by side. Not far from there we visited the Island of Ireland Peace Park and Tower.

The 'Bridge Too Far at Arnhem' was another touching visit for the Riflemen. We visited the famous Bridge where the paratroops of the British First Airborne Division held out for so long against all odds. We also visited the Cauldron where many of the paratroops made their last stand, followed by the site of their withdrawal across the Rhine when this was the only option for the beleaguered troops. In a short Act of Remembrance I led in Arnhem Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery the Riflemen — and all of us - paid tribute to the courage of those men from 1944.

So much more could be written about all the places we visited. But the Riflemen want to say 'thank you' to Lisburn City Council for the donation the Council gave them in support of their trip. It was much appreciated - as were the umbrellas donated by another donor. Fortunately the umbrellas were not needed throughout the tour.

If anyone is interested in further details of the Battlefield Tours I lead, there are three different tours, one in May and two in September. Between them they take in, as well as what is mentioned above, the Somme, the D Day Landing Beaches, Pegasus Bridge, Vimy Ridge, the French Resistance, one of Hitler's V2 Rocket blockhouses, a Nazi Deportation Camp and so much more. Full itineraries can be had by phoning me on 9269 0701.

Mr Maurice Leathem, from the Royal British Legion in Lisburn, recently organised a collection to raise funds for 40th Royal Artillery, who are based at Thiepval Barracks. The collection raised over £2000 for the troops. Mr Leathem would like to thank everyone who contributed to the collection. Mr Maurice Leathem, representative of the Royal British Legion presents a cheque to Major David Clarke of the 40th Regiment of The Royal Artillery for the sum of £2135. Present at the handover in the Mayor's Parlour are (14): Sergeant Will Bennett, 40th Regiment; Alderman Jeffrey Donaldson MP MLA, Lisburn City Council; Alderman Ivan Davis, Lisburn City Council; Mr Gary Griffiths, 40th Regiment; Mayor of Lisburn, Councillor Allan Ewart and Sergeant Alan Crawford. Photo Simon Graham/Harrisons

Ulster Star