Tameside to be well represented at ‘Great Pilgrimage 90’ remembrance event in Belgium
Tuesday 7th August 2018 @ 17:56 by Tom Greggan
Ashton Glossop News Oldham Tameside

The biggest number of Royal British Legion members will come together in a pilgrimage of remembrance tomorrow, including many from Tameside.

Thousands of Armed Forces veterans and supporters from across the world have joined the historic ‘Great Pilgrimage’ 90 to Belgium and France, in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the First World War.

The landmark event will echo the way the Legion commemorated the 10th anniversary of the conflict in 1928. Then, some 11,000 veterans and war widows visited battlefields in France and Flanders, culminating in a march through Ypres to the Menin Gate, for a ceremony to commemorate the launch of the Hundred Days Offensive which sealed Allied victory.

Ninety years on, more than 2,200 members of The Royal British Legion will be taking part. A series of tours to First World War trenches, battlefields and cemeteries began on Sunday and the event will culminate tomorrow in a spectacular two-mile march to Ypres’ Menin Gate, featuring 1,100 standard bearers and 1,100 wreath layers.

Among them will be 14-year-old Molly Mason from Dukinfield. She has been involved with the Legion for about three years after her Uncle David, who is the former National Parade Marshal (up to May 2018), asked her if she would like to help send food parcels to troops overseas for Christmas.

14-year-old Molly Mason, from Dukinfield, will be one of the youngest people taking part in a two-mile parade through Ypres to the Menin Gate, in her role as standard-bearer for the women’s section of the Royal British Legion Ashton branch.

Since then, she has arranged for her scout group to attend the Remembrance Day parade in London in 2016 where she helped push elderly veterans in wheelchairs around the parade. Molly hopes to join the Army cadets in the future and has been undertaking training as a standard-bearer for the last six months, which she thoroughly enjoys.

Molly only turned 14 in May and will be one of, if not the youngest person taking part in tomorrow’s parade. She left for Belgium on Sunday with her auntie, Karen Brown, who will lay a wreath on behalf of the Ashton branch.

Since then, they’ve been taking part in a series of tours of First World War trenches, battlefields and cemeteries. Speaking before her departure, Molly said: “I’m looking forward to it. I’m not to sure what it’s going to be like. It’s going to be a historic event and different to anything I’ve ever done before.”

The Ashton branch of the RBL will be well represented on the pilgrimage.

Danny Quinn will represent Ashton as a standard-bearer while Chris Moulton will lay a wreath on behalf of the branch. Molly and Karen will be representing Ashton women’s section; Molly as standard-bearer and Karen as wreath-layer.

Chelsea Egerton will be carrying the county youth standard and branch-member Janet Egerton will lay a wreath on behalf of RBL county youth.

Molly and her auntie, Karen Brown, have spent two days in Belgium ahead of the parade, visiting battlefields, trenches and cemeteries.

Branch president David Brown has been appointed deputy parade marshal, and over the last 18 months, he has been instrumental in the organising and set-up of the pilgrimage.

“The plans started in 2016,” he explained. “Normally head office will run different things but this is the first time they’ve wanted the members to do it for themselves. They’ll do the logistics behind the scenes but for everything else, they wanted the members to do it and asked the branches to sign up. It costs £500 per person to go, but that’s for a battlefield tour, four-day trip with all expenses paid with hotels and meals. Then everybody meets on August 8th for this parade.”

He continued: “We’ve had regular meetings with officials in Ypres. I went over in January to formulate what we want to do. I’ve been there quite often so I knew what I wanted before I even went, but we wanted just to double-check because the logistics in the town centre aren’t easy.”

David will be assisted by 32 marshals on the day, among whom will be Mary Cahill, John Thornhill and Scott Pringle from Ashton.

Scott Pringle, chairman of the Ashton RBL branch, said: “GP90 is a unique opportunity for the Legion community to come together. The Ashton delegation is looking forward to proudly representing the town, and it’s absolutely fabulous to have so many members taking part.”

Three branches of the Royal British Legion will be representing the High Peak. Glossop, Chapel-en-le Frith and Hayfield will be in Belgium taking part in the Legion’s biggest ever gathering of members.

Alan Tideswell, who will be representing Chapel-en-le Frith as the standard-bearer, said: “It is an honour and privilege to be taking part in this once in a lifetime event to remember all those brave lads.

“More than 800 fathers, sons and brothers from across the High Peak community paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom in the Great War and this is our opportunity to say thank you to a lost generation from 100 years ago.”

A personalised wreath from each branch will be laid on behalf of their communities.

Members of the Saddleworth branch of The Royal British Legion will also be there. Local Legion members, Alison Clowes and Alan Wrigley, will represent the branch and the local community at the event as standard-bearer and wreath layer respectively.

Paddy Diamond of the Saddleworth Branch of The Royal British Legion, said: “The Saddleworth branch looks forward to proudly representing Saddleworth at the event.”

In all, 48 branches from the North and East Yorkshire will attend alongside many more from across the country, while members from Legion branches as far afield as Brazil, Thailand and Hong Kong and China will also be paying their respects on the Pilgrimage.