Orangemen from Banbridge will tread in the footsteps of heroes next year, marking the centenary of the end of the First World War with an intrepid fundraising challenge.
Brethren from No Surrender LOL 20, and the surrounding district, are planning to trek 130km in a walk of remembrance along the Western Front, symbolically travelling from the Thiepval Memorial in France to the Menin Gate in Belgium.
Sixteen participants aim to complete their historic journey over the course of four days next May. Proceeds from the commemorative walk will go towards both the children’s cancer unit in the Royal Hospital and Cure4cam, aiding the local family of Cameron Truesdale, 12, in their bid to raise money to travel to Mexico to receive treatment for a brain tumour.
Lodge secretary Stuart Magill said members wanted to remember, and pay their respects “in a special way”, to those who paid the supreme sacrifice.
He said: “As we walk members will be passing dozens if not hundreds of memorials and cemeteries. Some of these will have the names of men associated with our lodge and Banbridge District. At all of these stops we plan to lay wreaths.”
A total of 41 members of LOL 20 went to war over a century ago, with four killed in active service. At least 39 men from Banbridge District lost their lives.
Mr Magill confirmed their planned walking route would incorporate notable sites, including Vimy Ridge and the largest German graveyard in France.
Significantly, brethren also intend to pay their respects at the gravesides of two Catholic soldiers, Major Willie Redmond and Rifleman Anthony O’Neill, the youngest member of the 36th Ulster Division to be killed, aged 15.
The journey will also have great personal poignancy for those taking part. Mr Magill plans to lay a wreath in memory of his great-great uncle, William Close, on the actual 103rd anniversary of his death on the front line.
As for preparation, Stuart maintained there are no plans for a strict training regime, rather planned group walks.
“We are well used to walking as Orangemen!” he joked.
Lodge members launched their fundraiser at at Banbridge Civic Building, hosted by Lord Mayor Gareth Wilson.
Deputy Grand Master Harold Henning was also present.
He said: “The brethren of LOL 20 are to be commended for this innovative fundraiser. We wish them well in their symbolic walk.
Last month, another Banbridge lodge, LOL 423, presented £38,000 to the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice after climbing four UK peaks in four days.
To make a donation, visit the JustGiving website, searching for walk of remembrance.
Alternatively, follow ‘Walk of Remembrance May 2018’ on Facebook.