Our office was proud to host the Routes of Remembrance wreath during its time in Northern Ireland. An initiative started by the Veterans Charity, the moving memorial brings people together to honour and remember those who have fallen as a result of serving in the Armed Forces.
We travelled throughout Northern Ireland with the wreath, visiting various Veterans' groups and places of interest as part of this moving act of Remembrance.
Fiona Sinclair, Deputy Head of the Northern Ireland Veterans' Support Office, collected the wreath from Belfast City Airport, where it had just arrived on a flight from the Outer Hebrides. On the first day of the tour around Northern Ireland we visited Cregagh, Wandsworth and Ormeau Royal British Legion. Did you know that the Montgomery Road where the legion is was named after Field Marshal Montgomery? The surrounding streets are also named after camp sites from World War One, including Thiepval Avenue and Picardy Avenue.
Later in the day we met with the team from Decorum NI and took the wreath all the way up to the base of Scrabo Tower! We were also joined by Veterans' Champion for Ards and North Down, Trevor Cummings. We then brought the wreath to Decorum NI in Bangor and heard the stories of some of their Veterans and service users.
The next day we visited the historic Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast. We were joined by Andy Allen and members of his charity Veterans’ Support NI - AAVS.
We held a moment of silence in front of the Harland & Wolff war memorial, which pays tribute to over 400 workers who died in the conflict during World War I. We then took the wreath across the shipyard and proudly held it underneath the iconic cranes of Samson and Goliath.
The following day we took the wreath to the Garden of Remembrance at Belfast City Hall. We were hosted by the Deputy Lord Major of Belfast, Alderman Tom Haire, and we were joined by the Vice Chairman of the Royal British Legion in Northern Ireland.
Representatives from the Royal Naval Association, Ireland Area 12, Belfast Branch and NI Submariners were in attendance, as were the Royal Air Force Association, represented by the NI Region Standard Bearer and the Carrickfergus Branch Standard Bearer. Also present were a Standard Bearer from Oldpark & Cavehill RBL and the Chairman of the Regimental Association of the Royal Irish Regiment.
We then went to Campbell College, where the cadets Pipes & Drums band led a procession with the wreath into the Great Hall, and a two-minute silence was held in front of the school's war memorials. We were joined by the Veterans’ Commissioner, Danny Kinahan, representatives from the Royal Naval Association and members of staff from Campbell College.
In the Great Hall the photographs of 126 pupils and one member of staff who lost their lives in WW1 are displayed, forming The Men Behind the Glass exhibit. You can watch the band in action by clicking here.
The next stop on our journey with the Routes of Remembrance wreath was the Tandragee War Memorial, the Banbridge War Memorial, and the Francis Crozier monument in Banbridge.
The act of remembrance held in Tandragee was led by a piper from the Frontier Pipes and Drums, Northern Ireland's only Veterans' pipe band. We were joined by Ricky McGaffin from the Tandragee Veterans’ Support Centre, Jeff Geoghegan from the UDR Association, Gregory Dillon, Chair of the Tandragee Royal British Legion, Matthew Dillon, Chair TVR President of Tandragee Royal British Legion, and RBL members Andrew Rolland, Maurice Grafton and Tom Gorringe – along with his dogs Flossy & Max!
We were also joined by Alan Cupples from Help for Heroes, Martin Callan from SSAFA, our Arts, Culture & Heritage Positive Pathways Navigator, Laura and the Veterans’ Champion and Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Alderman Glenn Barr.
The wreath also made it to Carrickfergus Castle, the Knockagh Monument, Whitehead War Memorial, and even the Giant’s Causeway! Thank you to our colleagues including Noel Williams from the RAF Association, Alderman John Carson, Veterans’ Champion for Mid and East Antrim Council, and all Veterans involved in this leg of the journey.
We had a jam-packed day with the wreath in the city of Londonderry. Many thanks to Alderman Ryan McCready, the Veterans’ Champion for Derry City and Strabane council area for hosting us, and making sure the wreath reached as many people as possible!
Our first stop was Drumahoe, where we were met by the Royal British Legion Riders, who transported the wreath by bike from location to location. We then visited the Veterans’ Hub Londonderry and the Royal British Legion Waterside Branch, where we were greeted by the Chairman and President.
Our next stop was Ebrington Square, where we were joined by members of the public and pupils from Oakgrove Integrated Primary School, Ebrington Primary School and Lisnagelvin Primary School, and led by piper Bertie Campbell across Ebrington Square to the International Sailor Statue. We then took the wreath to the Diamond War Memorial, passing through the historic Shipquay Gate and towards the Guildhall where we were joined by the Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Alderman Graham Warke, and pupils from Fountain Primary School.
We then headed to Limavady, where we gathered at Christ Church and held a two-minute silence by the Commonwealth War Graves. We were joined by the Chairman, President and Treasurer of the Royal British Legion Limavady Branch, the Chairman of the Royal Artillery Association, the President of the Ulster Defence Regimental Association, and Veterans from the local area.
We then took the wreath to Mussenden Temple and Downhill House. Mussenden Temple was built in 1785 and Downhill House was used a living quarters for RAF servicemen and women during WW2. We were joined by Jen and Billy from the Beekeeper’s Lodge, Sharon McKillop, Causeway Coast and Glens Veterans’ Champion, and Veterans from the local area.
We then headed to Kilkeel, where we gathered at the War Memorial in the grounds of Mourne Presbyterian Church, and were joined by members the Schomberg Society colleagues from Help for Heroes, Let’s Do Veterans’ Support and our Positive Pathways Arts, Culture & Heritage Navigator, Laura.
Two World War One Re-Enactors formed a guard of honour, chaplain Andy Burns MBE gave a warm welcome to all who had gathered, and George McKee from Kilkeel Silver Band introduced the act of Remembrance by playing “The Last Post” bugle call.
We then visited MAPS of West Tyrone in Omagh. We were hosted by the Chairman of MAPs, Richard Scott MBE, along with MAPS members, and representatives from some of the local Royal British Legions including Chairman of the Castlederg RBL, Chairman of the Omagh RBL, Chairman of the Newtownstewart RBL and Vice Chairman of the Fintona RBL.
Reverend Eleanor Hayden from the Omagh Methodist Church also joined us during our visit, and we held a two-minute silence to mark the occasion. The wreath was laid under the Roll of Honour and beside the Book of Remembrance from WW1, both proudly displayed in the MAPS office. We then took the wreath to the Baronscourt Estate to see The Duchess of Abercorn’ Veterans’ Garden Project, which takes place within the grounds.
For our last visit with the wreath we were joined by Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis, and Veterans' Commissioner for Northern Ireland Danny Kinahan for a moment of Remembrance at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens.
We would like to thank everyone who supported us on our journey with the wreath - it has been wonderful to bring so many people together for this very special moving memorial.