When the Orange Order was formed
in 1795 many of its early members
had seen service in the ranks of the
That early link with the military has
been maintained to the present day
and Orangemen and women have
worn the uniform of their country
with distinction in all the arenas of
war and peace.
From the 1798 rebellion in Ireland, through the Napoleonic Wars, to the Two Great Wars, the Falklands, Irish Terrorism, Iraq and Afghanistan, Members of the Orange Institution have been in the forefront of the fight for freedom. Today our Members continue this tradition.
Even a casual observer will realise the tremendous part played by the Orange Institution in keeping the torch of freedom burning brightly through the sacrifice of its members.
There is however another side to this relationship and it was largely soldiers who were responsible for the spread of Orangeism from Ireland across the world.
A few brief examples will illustrate the point.
Whilst most of the stories recounted here refer to World War I we start with an event from an earlier but equally famous battle - the Battle of Balaclava.
After the famous charge into "the valley of death" a British soldier assisting in the removal of the dead and wounded came across a local plundering the corpse of one of the soldiers of the Light Brigade. Apprehending the thief the soldier found that he had taken from the body a piece of parchment which the soldier, being an Orangeman, recognised as a Warrant. The dead soldier had been Worshipful Master of his Lodge and was carrying the Warrant into battle when he was killed.
From the 1890's various regiments in the British Army had Lodges operating within the regiment but it was during the Boer War that we find the first references to soldiers from various regiments forming a Lodge at the front.
This was of course to become a common occurrence during World War I when numerous Warrants were issued not only to troops but also to sailors and most ships in the Royal Navy had Lodges "on board" at this time.
Indeed the first British naval casualty of World War I was Able Seaman William George Vincent Williams, a Member of L.O.L.92, Melbourne, Australia, killed in action on 11th September 1914.
It is estimated that in excess of 200,000 Orangemen from across the world saw service during the first War some 80,000 from Canada alone. This has been described as Orangeism's greatest triumph and its heaviest defeat. Triumph in the number of volunteers who joined the war effort but defeat in that the Institution lost so many of its young men.
The resolve of those young men may be seen in the dying words of Bro. Pt. F. Holt, 4th Kings Liverpool Regiment, (a Member of L.O.L.782) fatally wounded at Neuve Chapelle on April 14th 1915 who told his comrades "I have done my duty to my King and Country and I have not forgotten the Orange obligation I took in 782".