Local veterans return from WW1 pilgrimage

The veterans proudly march, shoulder to shoulder, carrying the branch standards aloft during their pilgrimage to the battlefields and cemeteries of the First World War.
The veterans proudly march, shoulder to shoulder, carrying the branch standards aloft during their pilgrimage to the battlefields and cemeteries of the First World War.

Members of Inverurie’s Royal British Legion branch have returned home after a landmark tour of First World War battlefields and cemeteries in France and Belgium.

The Scottish delegation of 47 standard bearers and wreath layers from 23 legion branches across the country attended the Great Pilgrimage 90 (GP90).

This event retraced the steps of the 11,000 World War One veterans and war widows involved in the initial Royal British Legion pilgrimage in 1928.

The original tour, which marked a decade since the fighting ended, involved visits to the battlefields of the Somme in France and Ypres in Belgium.

Keenon Hawkin, branch manager, said: “The Inverurie branch proudly represented the people of Inverurie at a unique occasion, where we carried our standards and wreaths with our comrades from around the world to commemorate the last 100 days of World War One.”

Just as it did 90 years ago, the pilgrimage culminated in a parade through Ypres to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Menin Gate Memorial for a ceremony to commemorate the launch of the Hundred Days Offensive.

The occasion was the biggest membership event in the Legion’s history, as more than 2,200 representatives and dignitaries from the UK, Commonwealth and Northern Europe took part.

Royal British Legion Scotland chief executive officer, Kevin Gray MM, who was part of the event, said: “It was an emotional journey as the entire legion community came together to pay respects to the brave men and women who gave their lives defending their countries.

“The event highlighted what being a legion member is about, as thousands paraded shoulder to shoulder through the Menin Gate and came together in the Great Square afterwards in a display of comradeship and remembrance. I’m honoured to have been part of it.”