LOL 221

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Orange Order & The Military

Orange Memorial at Thiepval

orange_memorial_thiepval

The idea of a Memorial to our fallen Brethren was first raised some years ago by Members of No.6 District, Belfast.

The concept received impetus at the time of the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme when a number of Brethren present at the Commemorations in Thiepval formed the opinion that there was an attempt to remove the Orange presence from military history and specifically from the 36th Ulster Division.

It was determined that as always truth must prevail and to ensure that the sacrifice of our Members is ever remembered a decision was taken to proceed with the Memorial.

The Memorial is dedicated to all those from the Orange Family worldwide who have given their all for faith and freedom in numerous conflicts across the world.

It has been sited near Thiepval on the Somme Battlefield - an area which during World War I saw possibly the finest example of Orange patriotism and self sacrifice by soldiers from throughout the Empire.

The Memorial stands 8ft. high and is made from black polished granite and bears an appropriate motif representing World Orangeism.

The entire cost of this has been met by voluntary donations from Brethren and Sisters throughout the World.

The Inscription on the Memorial Reads:

This memorial is dedicated to the men and women of the Orange Institution worldwide, who at the call of King and Country left all that was dear to them, endured hardness, faced danger, and finally passed out of the sight of man by the path of duty and self sacrifice, giving up their own lives that others might live in freedom. Let those who come after see to it that their names be not forgotten.

When the Orange Order was formed
in 1795 many of its early members
had seen service in the ranks of the
Volunteer movement.

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".

UDR Beret & Collarette
LOL 862 Before After Somme

LOL 862 Before The Battle of the Somme

LOL 862 After Somme

LOL 862 After The Battle of the Somme

Many books of the period deal with the Orange spirit found among the troops and this is reinforced by Bro. Edward McCullough who on return to his Lodge, Northcote Temperance L.O.L.204, having been invalided out of the Royal Irish Rifles after shrapnel wounds advised his Brethren "the heart of every Orange soldier on active service turns to his Orange Lodge and the most frequent topic in camp, on the march and for that matter in aciton itself was Ulster and Orangeism".

One group of Orangemen among the 5th Camerons used what spare time they had most beneficially in perfecting the Orange Lecture.

The Boyne Anniversary at the front was first celebrated on 12th July 1915. Bro. George Sherwood a native of Belfast serving with the Canadian Army Service Corps tells the story.

"We (the Canadians) all gathered together with a good many Ulstermen to celebrate the Battle of the Boyne. The procession started from "Shrapnel Square" and was headed by an old scout mounted on a white horse with its mane and tail plaited with Orange and Purple ribbon. Next came the fife and drums well decorated with Orange Lilies and "No Surrender" was painted on the flag we carried".

The 12th has always been celebrated by Orangemen on service including 1944 in the Far east.

Every opportunity was taken to further the Orange cause and the military Lodges lost no time in seeking out new candidates. A report of the December 1915 Meeting of Young Citizens Volunteers L.O.L.871 meeting in the attic of a bomb damaged house advised that there was a long list of candidates proposed.

A letter from a Brother written under fire some 500 yards from the enemy front line to the Secretary of his mother Lodge in London states "kindly remember me to all the Brothers. Henry wishes to join our Lodge if God spares him to get back. I hope to be able to add a few more good members".
A Lodge was even formed in a prisoner of war camp in 1916.

Many Orangemen have been decorated for their bravery and the first Orangeman to win the Victoria Cross in World War I was Bro. Private Abraham Acton of Whitehaven who received his award for "conspicuous" bravery on 21st December 1914 at Rouges Blanc.

The role of the Order in the military would require several volumes to fully pay tribute to the entire story.

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