Order pays tribute to Canadian war heroes

Canadian Orangemen and troops who fought and paid the supreme sacrifice in the First World War have been remembered by the Loyal Institution.

Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, laid a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance at the Order’s Belfast headquarters this week to commemorate those who lost their lives a century ago during the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

In tribute to the fallen, Canadian Red Ensign and Orange Standard flags were lowered to half-mast.

In April 1917, all four divisions of the Canadian Corps, fighting together as a unit for the first time, moved forward to secure one of the most formidable and best defended German positions on the Western Front. The capture of Vimy Ridge is widely regarded as the greatest feat of Canadian arms in the Great War. Over 3,500 men were killed in the battle, with approximately 7,000 injured.

It is estimated that as many as 200,000 Orangemen from across the world served in the Great War. However, the call to arms was particularly strong in Canada and Newfoundland.

According to Battles Beyond the Boyne, the Grand Master of Canada was able to say in 1916 the “fifty thousand of our members from this jurisdiction are on active military service”. W.G Gamble, the Grand Master of British Columbia, said: “Our men have been encouraged to enlist, and today the Orange Order has the proud distinction of having more men at the front than any other society.”

By November 1918, it was estimated that 80,000 Canadian Orangemen had enlisted.

Among them was Major James McCormick, originally from Belfast. By 1914 he was living in Canada where he raised a band of men who joined the Winnepeg Regiment to come and fight in the war. He went on to fight at Vimy Ridge and was later recommended for a Victoria Cross following an action at Hill 70 near Lens in August 1917.

After the war, he became a Stormont MP and named his home on the Gilnahirk Road, ‘Vimy’, after the battle.

Paying his respects to all those who lost their lives, Mr Stevenson said: “In this decade of centenaries it is important to remember the global nature of Orangeism’s contribution to the war effort. None more so than those Canadian brethren who contributed so valiantly to the Allied advance, most notably at Vimy Ridge.

“We owe each and every one of them an immense sense of gratitude and we are indebted to those who served with such distinction. We salute the bravery of all those who voluntarily chose to bear arms in the defence of the freedoms we enjoy, and take for granted, today.”

Published on the 13th April 2017
Article taken from the Orange Order

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