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Friends Of The Somme Mid Ulster Branch
Friends of The Somme Mid Ulster Home Page   Mid Ulster Friends of the Somme
  Somme Visit 2009
Saturday Day 1

27th June 2009 On Saturday 27thJune 2009, Fifty-three members of our group travelled with Logan Coaches, stopping of at Magherafelt, Cookstown, Dungannon and Larne. We arrived at Larne Ferry Terminal for the 0730hrs sailing to Cairnryan and made our way down to Port of Hull where we boarded the 1900hrs sailing for Zeebrugge, Belgium.
Sunday Day 2

28th June 2009 On Sunday 28th June , departing the Port of Zeebrugge at 0930hrs on , we made our way to Fromelles, Aubers Ridge area for our first visit of the tour. After checking into Ibis Hotel, St. Omer, France in the late afternoon the group then proceeded to St. George's Memorial Church, Ypres (Ieper) Belgium for our annual evensong service and act of remembrance. The evening service was officiated by Canon Ray Jones. Dame Patricia Windsor-Hawkins MBE addressed the congregation, Martin Brennan led the exhortation while Wesley Wright spoke a few words about Mrs Rita Hawkes, a church member and good friend of our group for many years, who passed away recently.
  The Hymns sung during the service were, All people that on earth do dwell - Fight the good fight - and - Abide with me.
  The readings were spoken by Mrs Jennifer Mullan (Ephesians 6) and Mr Walter Mullan (Matthew 5: 1-12). After the service the group assembled outside St. George's for their annual procession to the Menin Gate Memorial for the Last Post Service. There our member Jack Price (Lisburn) assisted by Mr Jeffrey Lamont BEM (Cookstown) and Mr Jim Scott MBE. (Moneymore), laid a wreath on behalf of our group. David McNeill (Larne) placed a poppy cross in memory of 10 men from Larne district who were lost and have no known grave.
  The group then proceeded to St George's Church Hall for a social evening before returning to their hotel at St. Omer.
Monday Day 3

29th June 2009 Monday 29th June, our first visit was to Locre (Loker) Hospice and the grave of Major William Redmond who died of wounds on 7th June 1917, where we held an act of remembrance. David McNeill (Larne) pronounced the exhortation and Joe Hattrick (Desertmartin) laid a poppy cross while Rodney Dillon piped the lament. The group then visited the grave of Private Jones (Welch) who was one of the 346 British soldiers shot at dawn. Our next visit was to Irish House Cemetery and the grave of Private Samuel Junk, (Kingsmills, Stewartstown) who also died on 7th June 1917. His nephew Sam Stockman assisted by Walter Millar (Stewartstown) laid a wreath, Bobby Dickson pronounced the exhortation while Rodney Dillon piped Abide with me. After lunch Dr. Foster Kelly laid a poppy cross at the 16th Irish Division Memorial at Wytschaete and Martin Brennan laid a cross on the grave of an Unknown Soldier In the afternoon the group visited Passchendaele Memorial Museum 1917 at Zonnebeke, Belgium before travelling on to Langermarck German Military Cemetery where the group held another act of remembrance. Wesley Wright (Chairman) addressed the members before Bobby Dickson pronounced, "Let us celebrate all who have lived and died in the service of mankind. Almighty and Eternal God, from whose love in Christ we cannot be parted, either by death or life. We pray all the people in all countries torn apart by conflict and bring before you the sufferings of all mankind as a result of war - the homeless, hungry and bereaved. Be with our armed forces - comfort and heal all those among them who suffer in body, mind and spirit."
  "Grant O Lord, to all the bereaved, the spirit of faith and courage, that they may have strength to meet the days to come with steadfastness and patience, not sorrowing as those with out hope, but in thankful remembrance of thy great goodness in past years; and this we ask in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord."
  Bill Ferguson ( ) then pronounced an exhortation while Rodney Dillon played the lament as George Ferguson laid a wreath to the German war dead on behalf of our branch. Later we travelled to Ploogsteert Memorial to commemorate Private F.R. Lee, the great uncle of our member Mrs Yvonne Ferguson. We also commemorated 10 men of the Cookstown District and David McNeill (Larne) placed a cross to 6 men from Larne District who are remembered at the memorial. John and Margaret Rodgers laid a poppy cross on the grave of Margaret’s great uncle, Private Alexander Leacock. Across the road at Hyde Park Corner (Royal Berks) Cemetery, David McNeill (Larne) placed crosses on the graves of T. Caldwell (2nd Royal Irish Rifles from Kilwaughter) and T. Gray (2nd Royal Irish Rifles, Islandmagee).Our last visit of the day was to Messines Ridge Military Cemetery where Wesley Wright honoured Sapper J.M. Allen (Australian Engineers) and David McNeill (Larne) placed a cross on the grave Sergeant D. English (14th Royal Irish Rifles).
Tuesday Day 4

30th June 2009 Tuesday 30th June and the group’s first visit was to the Ulster Memorial Tower at Thievpval where they were taken on a tour of the excavated first world war trench systems at Thiepval Wood, escorted by tour guide Teddy Coligan. After Lunch the group made their way to Delville Wood, South African Memorial.
  Later they took in an act of remembrance at the 16th Irish Division Memorial Cross at Guillemont where Billy Dowie read the exhortation and Rodney Dillon played a lament while Dr. Foster Kelly (Magherafelt) laid the wreath on behalf of the group. During the day David McNeill (Larne) visited Guards Cemetery at Les Boeufs where he placed a cross on the grave of A. Nelson (2nd Irish Guards). He also visited the grave of W. Murray at Caterpillar Valley Cemetery at Longueval. Situated within this cemetery is the New Zealand Memorial where David placed a cross to the memory of James Simpson (1st Auckland Regiment) David and our group are grateful of the assistance of our friends Mr & Mrs Charles and Blanche Crossan during these visits.
  The last visit of the day was to Rocingy - ecingcourt military cemetery where Mrs Yvonne Ferguson laid a wreath for her great uncle Private Ernest Armstrong. Bobby Dixon also visited the grave of a family relative, Private Thomas Hunter.
Wednesday Day 5

1st July 2009 Wednesday 1st July (93rd Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme). The group made their way to the commemoration and service of remembrance at Thiepval.
  The service was introduced by H.M. Ambassador to France, Sir Peter Westmacott. The prayers and hymn was led by the Reverend Patrick Irwin, British Chaplain, Supreme, Headquarters, Allied Powers, Europe. The opening hymn was "Lead us heavenly Father, lead us" The lesson, from John's Gospel, chapter 15, verses 9-17 was read by The Rt. Hon. Shaun Woodward, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. After the second hymn, "Oh Valiant Hearts", the exhortation was pronounced by Mr Eddie Hefferman, Royal British Legion, followed by the sounding of the Last Post, the silence, Reveille and the Lament.
  After the placing of wreaths, the prayers were led in French by Deacon Jean-Pierre Cardon and in English by Reverend Patrick Irwin who then read the sermon followed by the hymn, "Abide with me" The Benediction and closing blessing were followed by the singing of both the French and British National Anthems.
  Afterwards the members visited the Thiepval Memorial To The Missing Of The Somme which commemorates the names of some 72,000 men who were lost in the region during the First World War. Rita Hudson placed a poppy cross to her great uncle, George Watterson (Highland Light Infantry), and David McNeill (Larne) placed a cross to the memory of 39 men from Larne district who have no known grave.
  While the group stopped to lunch nearby at Authuille Military Cemetery, Billy Dowie visited the graves of Gilbert MacIntyre (9th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers), 2nd Lieutenant Robert McCalmont (8th Royal Irish Rifles), Private William Boland (8th Royal Irish Rifles) and Private David McKeown (14th Royal Irish Rifles). David McNeill (Larne) placed crosses on the graves of W.J. Kirkpatrick (107 Machine Gun Corps) and F Lynas (2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers). After lunch the group presented a wedding gift to our members, Mr and Mrs Neville Ferguson on the occasion of their recent nuptials, before proceeding to the Ulster Tower for the commemoration and act of remembrance there. Once again the Reverend Patrick Irwin and the Rt. Hon. Shaun Woodward where there to follow on from the opening of the ceremony by Dr. S.I.G. Adamson, OBE, Chairman of the Somme Association. The Hymns played were, Now thank we all our God" and "Onward Christian Soldiers". After the Act of Remembrance, the official wreaths were laid, followed by our group wreath which was laid by Ethel Coulter (Cookstown) escorted by Mrs Yvonne Watters (Tobermore) and Mrs Lorraine Scott (Whitecross) followed by the blessing and the singing of both the French and British national anthems.
  Our chairman, Wesley Wright along with member Billy Dowie and secretary Des Gordon proceeded to Hamel Military Cemetery to visit the graves of Private W. Brown and Private John Manson (12th Royal Irish Rifles) and Privates - F. Foster M.M., W. Gordon, W. Robb, J. Hamilton, R. Wilson, T. Chambers, J. Long, W. Lunn, S. McWhirter all who served with the Royal Irish Fusiliers. Billy Dowie, David McNeill and Des Gordon then visited Connaught Cemetery and the graves of Sgt. Joseph Bennett MM (9th Royal Irish Rifles), George Swain (9th Royal Irish Rifles), Pte. Sandy Little (9th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers), and James Dobbin (14th Royal Irish Rifles). Billy and Des then proceeded to nearby Mill Road Cemetery and the graves of Pte. Isaac Black (9th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers) and Pte. John Mayne (13th Royal Irish Rifles).
  After this some members attended the Thiepval Memorial LOL 1005, Convoy, Orange Service of Remembrance at the Obelisk adjacent to the Memorial Tower, where the address was given by Reverend Ivan Dinsmore. Our following members laid wreaths on behalf of their respective Lodge or District. Tommy Swann (Killyman District LOL No:1), Ian Scott (Markethill District, Bellek LOL 528), brothers George and William Ferguson (Ballybriest LOL 277), Hazel Mullan and Yvonne Ferguson (Kennedy's LOL 162), Walter Mullan (Ochill LOL 275), Bobby Dickson (Tyrooney LOL 1275), David Black (Sixmilecross District LOL No:7), John Rodgers (Cranny LOL 1015), Sam Stockman D.M. laid a cross of behalf of (Ballynenagh LOL 142) assisted by Bro. Ken Ferson. Other visits on the day included, John and Margaret Rodgers who laid a cross on the grave of Private J Hammond at Connaught Cemetery, Thiepval and a group visit to Pozieres Memorial where Dr. Foster Kelly played a wreath on the memorial to his uncle Lieutenant A.G. Dignan (South Irish Horse). David McNeill placed a cross to the memoray of 8 men from Larne District with no known graves.
  Our last visit of the day was to Albert Communal Cemetery and the grave of Private Skelton on behalf of our members Jack and Kathleen Price (Lisburn) who laid a wreath as Rodney Dillon piped a lament.
Thursday Day 6

2nd July 2009 Thursday 2nd July gave our members a free day to chose their own excursions, some members chose to visit the Historical Museum and site of the WW2 German V2 Rocket emplacements, while others took the day to relax and enjoy some of the local sites of St. Omer.
Friday Day 7

3rd July 2009 Friday 3rd July saw our first visit as a group to the French National Memorial and Cemetery at Notre Dame de Lorrette where we carried out an act of remembrance. Mr Bobby Dickson led in prayer followed by an exhortation by Wesley Wright (chairman) A wreath was laid on the alter by our member and past chairman, Jim Gallagher (Dungannon) as Rodney Dillon piped a lament.
  The group then proceeded to Vimy Ridge and the Canadian Memorial where new members where taken on a tour of the first world war trench and tunnel systems. David McNeill placed a cross to the memory of 5 men from Larne district who have no known grave. Following lunch the group made there way to the Loos Memorial where our member Rita Hudson laid a poppy cross in remembrance of her great uncle Private Marshall Watterson (Highland Light Infantry) Mr and Mrs Walter and Jennifer Mullan along with our member Hazel Mullan laid a cross for Lieutenant Andrew John, Viscount Stuart. David McNeill placed crosses to the memory of A. Scott (10th Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders) and W. Woods (10th Highland Light Infantry). The last visit of the day was to Philosophe British Military Cemetery at Mazinggarbe where David McNeill placed a poppy cross to the memory of William O’Regan (7th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers) and Martin Brennan visited the grave of Private John O’Neill on behalf of the O’Neill family (Ardboe, Stewartstown, Cookstown)
Saturday Day 8

4th July 2009 Saturday 4th July we left our hotel in St. Omer to visit the Memorial at Dunkirk where the group held an act of remembrance. Bobby Dickson led the group in prayer as Martin Brennan pronounced the exhortation as Rodney Dillon piped a lament. Jason Lamont who was celebrating his 19th birthday laid the wreath. Crosses were also placed on the memorial to the memory of Cookstown men, Private William Slaine (Royal Irish Fusiliers) and Private John Joseph Murphy (Pioneer Corps) The group then travelled to Oostende for the afternoon before travelling on to the Port of Zeebrugge for the 1900hrs overnight sailing to Hull.
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