An exhibition commemorating the valour and sacrifice of members of the Orange Institution who fought at the Battle of the Somme has opened in Belfast.
‘The Lily and the Poppy’ at the Museum of Orange Heritage marks the centenary of the seminal battle during the First World War and chronicles the contribution of thousands of Orangemen on the front line.
A number of significant items relating specifically to Orangemen who served with the 36th Ulster Division and other regiments from the period feature in the exhibition, as well as a number of battlefield incidentals and other artefacts.
The exhibition was officially opened by John McAreavey, a veteran with the Irish Guards to the noise of a bugle, which sounded the advance at the Somme 100 years ago.
It is estimated 200,000 Orangemen from across the world served during the First World War, with thousands seeing action at the Somme. At least five Orangemen were awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry, including Robert Quigg from Bushmills for his outstanding bravery on the battlefield.
Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, said the Institution was “proud and honoured” to remember its fallen heroes of 1916.
He said: “The Battle of the Somme will forever be seared into the psyche of Orangeism, given the huge sacrifice by members of the Institution on the front line. In this centenary year we remember those Orangemen not only from Ulster, but across the Commonwealth, who selflessly volunteered and fought on the battlefields, and paid the supreme sacrifice on our behalf.
“It is well documented that many Orangemen went over the top in the heat of the battle proudly wearing their collarettes or Orange ribbons on their uniforms, and never returned. In this context, the lily and the poppy are poignantly symbolic as the flowers of a generation lost in battle.
“This exhibition is an educational asset regarding the Great War and the Orange contribution to it, as well as a fitting tribute to all of those who gave their lives so valiantly at the Somme.”
Curator of the Museum of Orange Heritage, Dr Jonathan Mattison, said: “The contribution of Orangemen at the Somme cannot be overstated. It is important in this centenary year that we as an organisation not only pay tribute to all those who fought at the Somme, but particularly highlight the prominent role of Orangemen on the battlefield.”
‘The Lily and the Poppy’ runs at the Museum of Orange Heritage, Cregagh Road, Belfast until 19 December 2016. Opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm. For group bookings, please contact 028 9070 1122.
Items on display at the exhibition include –
Warrant of Military LOL 862, East Belfast Volunteers, formed by members of the 36th Ulster Division
A sash which belonged to a member of Churchill LOL 1951 found on the front line
The lodge membership certificate of Victoria Cross recipient, Robert Quigg
Engraved pocket watch belonging to Hugh Tanner, presented to him by an Orange lodge, and carried with him when he fought with the 109th Brigade at the Somme
Lodge minute books that account for their members serving or who lost their lives
Battlefield incidentals including rifles, flare shells and an assortment of cartridges found near Thiepval Wood
An Illustrated hospital diary associated with the Ulster Division