Welcome to the Dunmow & District Branch of The Royal British Legion
GP90 - The Great Pilgrimage 90-years on
See also sub pages GP90 Photo Gallery & Kevin's Experience
A decade after the end of The First World War, eleven thousand veterans and war widows made a great pilgrimage to the battlefields of the Somme and Ypres before marching to the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium on 8th August 1928 for a Remembrance service.
...The Menin Gate in 1928
Exactly 90 years later on 8 August 2018, more than two thousand Royal British Legion members carried their Standards and wreaths along the same route to the Menin Gate, to commemorate the beginjning of the last 100 days of World War One, thereby representing an entire generation that served defending their country.
The Menin Gate today, across the moat...
Your Dunmow & District Branch’s Vice-Chairman George, who acted as Standard Bearer, and Secretary Kevin, who laid our wreath were our representatives at this“Great Pilgrimage 90” event.
On Wednesday 8th August 2018 the Pilgrimage culminated with a mass parade and march to the Menin Gate (pictured above & on the right) in Ypres, for a commemorative service to mark the centenary of the start of the series of battles that claimed thousands of British, Commonwealth, Allied, enemy & civillian lives during the ‘Last 100 Days’ of the First World War.
The march past was observed by invited diplomatic, civic and military guests. As part of this ceremony, each of the 1,152 Royal British Legion Branches attending from the UK and overseas (as far away as Thailand, Hong Kong & the Falkland Islands) brought a wreath with them containing a Remembrance message from their communities.
The wreaths were subsequently arranged into a display on the ramparts of the Ypres town walls & will remain in place for public viewing for at least two months.
Prominent in the parade were The Last Post Association, (LPA), which was also founded in 1928.
From that day its members have performed the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate. The only interruption to this homage to the fallen of the First World War was during the Second World War conflict of 1939 to 1945. To this day, the Last Post Association are still responsible for delivering that daily tribute at the memorial; fittingly they led the national commemorative service and VIP wreath laying at the GP90 ceremony.
Although the parade, wreath laying ceremony and Remembrance service was prioritised for RBL representatives, the LPA & Ypres community and VIP guests it was recognised that there was a wider participation. To try to include everyone of those participants, the whole event was shown on large video screens installed around the Menin Gate and also in the Great Market Square of Ypres.
Following the parade, everyone there was encouraged to join together to take part in an afternoon of comradeship and entertainment in the Great Square, where there were tableaux, stalls, exhibits & music.
OTHER DAYS' ITINERARY...
OK, so where else did they go?
On Sunday 5th August 2018 they joined a coach party for the drive to France, using a ferry to cross the Channel.
Over the two days prior to Wednesday's march (described above), our boys went on a guided tour of some of the battlefields and associated cemetaries and memorials. They visited two different general areas (Ypres and Somme); that tour was planned as follows:
Somme Day - Thiepval Memorial (image in the distance below) and Visitor Centre, Ulster Tower Memorial (see below - behind the gate), Connaught & Mill Road Cemeteries, Longueval NZ Memorial (see below middle) Vimy Ridge Memorial (see below) and Museum, Vimy Village Centre and Trenches, Notre Dame De Lorette, Arras Memorial (beow right) & Square, and Delville Wood.
Ypres Day - Tyne Cot Cemetery, Passchendaele Village and Church, Crest Farm, St George’s Memorial Church, St Martin’s Cathedral (interior pictured below), In Flanders Field Museum (exhibit pictured below), Passchendaele Museum, Menin Gate Memorial, Messines Village Centre & Church, Hill 60, NZ Memorial Park, Island of Ireland Peace Park and Tower.
Phew, they had their work cut out but managed to spend a little meaningful time at all those places in the two days alloted to them.
On the Thursday (9th), unlike hundreds of thousands of others one hundred years ago, our boys came safely home!
WE WILL REMEMBER THEM
Our Branch had previously voted NOT to use Branch Funds to pay for our participation in this event but changed stance when the realisation of such an event struck home. Thanks due to our Branch Members for their support.
THANKS TO THE CITY of YPRES-Tijl Capoen for the images around Ypres reproduced herein and to the RBL for the Menin Gate in '28 (© Imperial War Museums (Q 47901). Thanks also to the Crown (Crown Copyright) for the NZ Memorial at Longueval, The Commonwealth War Graves Commission for the other images of the Somme & finally Wikipedia for the Ulster Tower image.