WWI Soldiers To Be Honoured In Drogehda

As the role of Northern-based British servicemen and women in Afghanistan was recognised last weekend, it has emerged that the UK's Ambassador in Dublin is to travel to the historic banks of the Boyne next month to play his part in a commemoration and two day conference to recall Irishmen who died in the First World War in the service of the Crown.

Julian King, British Ambassador to the Irish Republic will jointly lead a Ceremony of Remembrance with Kevin Callan, the Mayor of Drogheda before joining a major conference on the Great War that will be held in the town's Westcourt Hotel.

Taking place on the weekend of the 5th/6th November it remembers "the Drogheda men who never came home" alongside the Irishmen from what is now Northern Ireland with former servicemen and women from the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) and the Royal Irish Regiment (RIR), and a large contingent of members from Whiteabbey Royal British Legion in Co Antrim in attendance.

Details have just been revealed of this major development that follows over a decade of cross-border co-operation that also involves ex-servicemen from the Irish Defence Forces organisation, ONE, with around 200 people, north and south to watch the laying of wreaths at the Drogheda War Memorial in Boyne-side Mary Street.

For the past few years, the Irish Tricolour has been dipped alongside the Royal British Legion's standards - incorporating the Union Flag - in what is now part of the Louth constituency of Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams.


The plans are all the more pertinent after the weekend's series of events to honour the role of both RIR and Irish Guards service personnel in various locations in Northern Ireland.

Friday's 'Beating Retreat' at the Balmoral Showgrounds kicked off the events to recognise the role of the Northern Irish soldiers in Afghanistan.

There was also a parade to honour the soldiers in Newtownards on Saturday and then, on Sunday, in Castlereagh again with a reception afterwards in the DUP-dominated Council's offices.

That's all just a month ahead of the traditional 'Remembrance Sunday' events across the UK, with the Drogheda Great War conference promising to be a major event too.

Facilitated by the Drogheda Cross Border Focus group and led by a former mayor and long-term friend of Northern Ireland ex-service groups, Sean Collins, the original 11am wreath ceremony and inter-denominational service is now seeing a major expansion.

Queen's University's Professor Keith Jeffries, journalist Kevin Myers and Ulster Unionist MLA Michael Copeland are just some of those taking part in the two-day event and dinner.

Mr Collins, who has been closely involved in celebrating the role of Irishmen in the British forces for over a decade now, said that a special visit would round off the event.

"There's an organised trip to the memorial for Drogheda soldier, Lieutenant Emerson at nearby Collon.

"He won the Victoria Cross in the WWI conflict and quite rightly is recalled with a picture and memorabilia in Whiteabbey Royal British Legion, which I spotted when on a visit there years back," he said.

"Out of that came the initial contacts that led to a small party of ex-soldiers from Co Antrim coming to Drogheda with the whole thing now happily developing into a far greater event to rightly recall the sacrifice of these often forgotten Irishmen."

James Emerson was 22 years old, and a temporary Second Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (Tyrone Volunteers) when he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 6 December 1917, on the Hindenburg Line north of La Vacquerie, France.

However, he died in action that same day.

His name is inscribed on the war memorial at the Church of Ireland parish church at Collon, County Louth and on the Cambrai Memorial to the Missing in France.


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