Great Pilgrimage parade honour for Tameside family as RBL Ashton pays tribute
Tuesday 21st August 2018 @ 15:06 by Tom Greggan
Ashton Dukinfield News Tameside

A Tameside family have spoke of their pride after representing Ashton at a historic parade in Belgium.

14-year-old Molly Mason and her aunt and uncle, David and Karen Brown, took part in the ‘Great Pilgrimage 90’ on August 8th, from Ypres town centre to the Menin Gate.

Molly and Karen

They joined of Armed Forces veterans and supporters from across the world in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the First World War. The landmark event echoed the way the Legion commemorated the 10th anniversary of the conflict in 1928.

Before last Wednesday’s parade, Molly and Karen went on guided tours of First World War trenches, battlefields and cemeteries, such as the Somme and Tyne Cot.

“Our guide was really good and had carried out research on people named in the cemeteries, bringing the people to life for us,” Molly said. “Visiting Tyne Cot cemetery, the largest in the world, was very moving and the guide asked me to read the poem “In Flanders Fields”, which was a very moving experience.”

It’s thought Molly was the youngest person to take part in the parade, having only turned 14 in May. She was the Standard Bearer for the Ashton-under-Lyne branch’s women’s section, while Karen was their wreath layer.

“It was hard to parade on the cobbles, but I enjoyed it,” Molly said. “I was lined up with other standard bearers from the Greater Manchester Area, including Danny Quinn who was carrying the RBL Standard. The majority of the people taking part were older but I was treated just the same as everyone else.

“It was good to see the crowds clapping as we paraded through and Ypres and as the parade came to an end the Standard Bearers started singing ‘It’s a long Way to Tipperary’. It was nice to see the pride in some of the older people that were carrying Standards in the parade.”

David Brown in the parade.

Karen added: “The parade was amazing. To see all the Legion Standards on Parade, I was very humbled but proud to be representing Ashton. The Wreath layers were from all over the country with some community members representing their areas of the country. It was nice to meet people of all ages from a lot of different backgrounds, it made me think about the people that took part in the original parade and how they must have felt taking part in 1928.”

As the former National Parade Marshal, David had been involved in planning and preparation for the parade from its inception over 18 months ago. Despite some slight nerves before the trip, David says everything went to plan in tough conditions.

He said: “As a whole the parade ran smoothly; it was very surreal to see 1173 RBL standards on parade. Unfortunately, 12 Standard Bearers were unable to complete the parade but this could have been a lot worse as the heat had died down. The previous day, the temperature had been 38 degrees but it dropped on the day of the parade to around 25.

“It was a difficult job getting everyone formed up for the parade- a total of 2200 people! We had to ensure that parade marshals were in place throughout the parade to ensure everyone kept in step.”

The Ashton branch of the RBL was well represented on the pilgrimage.

Danny Quinn represented the branch as a standard-bearer while Chris Moulton laid wreath on behalf of the branch. Molly and Karen represented Ashton women’s section; Molly as standard-bearer and Karen as wreath-layer, while Chelsea Egerton carried the county youth standard and branch-member Janet Egerton laid wreath on behalf of RBL county youth.