A Lisburn contingent recently took part in a pilgrimage to Gallipoli, there to search out the graves of local soldiers who died in the WWI campaign of 100 years past.
In this, the centenary year of the 1915 Gallipoli, or Dardanelles, campaign, Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council’s Alderman James Tinsley and Councillor Aaron McIntyre, with Lisburn Museum Curator, Brian Mackey, joined a Somme Association prilgrimage to the Turkish peninsula.
At a formal service of commemoration at Green Hill Cemetery - in the presence of HRH the Duke of Gloucester and senior representatives of the UK, Republic of Ireland and Republic of Turkey - the two councillors laid a wreath in memory of those Irish soldiers killed in the campaign.
Recent research by Lisburn Museum determined that of the 20,000-plus UK (including Ireland at the time) and Commonwealth soldiers who lost their lives in the battle, more than 40 (many buried in unmarked graves on the peninsula) were men of Lisburn and district.
As the local party visited the landing beaches, battlefields, cemeteries and memorials, the three made efforts to find, an informally remember, those men.
Said Mr Mackey: “The Cape Helles Memorial at the tip of the peninsula was found to record 19 names largely engraved upon the Royal Irish Rifles and Royal Inniskilling and Armagh Fusiliers panels.
“They were commemorated by individual poppy crosses and a council wreath was laid at the foot of the stone obelisk.
“It was also possible to find and commemorate three Lisburn born soldiers – Private Robert McReynolds, Private Christopher Pelan and Sergeant Thomas Donegan, who are buried in isolated cemeteries.
“Finally, the names of two Magheragall men, who had emigrated before the war and fought in the Australian New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) were found in Lone Pine Cemetery – Private Alex Martin and Private H A Gill – and their memory was also commemorated.”
Alderman Tinsley and Councillor McIntyre described the visit as an unforgettable experience, all the more deeply significant for the opportunity to personally commemorate those from Lisburn and district who were lost in the campaign.
In a report to the council, they said: “To visit the Gallipoli Peninsula is to make a pilgrimage to some of the most emotive battlefield landmarks in one of the most terrible wars in human history.
“To see a beautiful, classical landscape once made desolate by the awful human tragedy of so many lives lost, for no ultimate Allied strategic gain, was a moving experience, and one made all the more poignant by the privilege of being there during the centenary year of the conflict.”