Local RBL members make historic pilgrimage

Photo of a group of standard bearers at the GP90 event.

On 8th August 2018, five members of the Stoke Gifford branch of the Royal British Legion (RBL), alongside thousands of other Legion members, recreated the march to the Menin Gate in Ypres that took place 90 years ago.

The original pilgrimage was organised to commemorate 10 years since the end of WW1 and gave veterans and war widows the opportunity to visit the battlefields of the Somme and Ypres before marching to the Menin Gate on 8th August 1928. Exactly 90 years later, the Great Pilgrimage 90 took place.

Karen Falconer (standard bearer), Antony Peters (wreath layer), John Moloney (branch chairman), Brian Hewitt MBE and Veronica Caradine attended the event as representatives of the Stoke Gifford branch of the Royal British Legion. Karen and Antony were part of the one thousand plus members who led the spectacular two-mile march through Ypres to the Commonwealth War Grave Commission’s Menin Gate memorial.

When describing the event, John Moloney said:

“Being part of such an historic event, representing Stoke Gifford branch in commemorating those that lost their lives in the First World War, was an honour and something I will never forget.”

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 and 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 and will remain in place for public viewing for at least two months.

Brian Hewitt MBE, who stood with the crowds to watch the march, said:

“It was a fabulous occasion, the atmosphere was incredible and the crowds were very supportive. 2,300 wreaths were laid at the Menin Gate – what a sight to see! Although it was very emotional and there were a lot of tears, it was well worth the trip and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

• Contact the Stoke Gifford RBL branch at SGRBL@gmail.com, or visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/StokeGiffordRBL

Photo of the Great Pilgrimage 90 ceremony in progress at the Menin Gate.

Photos: 1 A group of standard bearers at the GP90 event, including Stoke Gifford representatives Karen Falconer (on right) and Antony Peters (5th from right). 2 Ceremony at the Menin Gate, Ypres.

This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of the Stoke Gifford Journal news magazine (on page 14). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to over 5,000 homes in Stoke Gifford, Little Stoke and Harry Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.

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