Members of a Newtownabbey-based flute band are set to pay tribute to fallen World War One soldiers during a visit to battlefields in France and Belgium next week.
The group from Pride of the Hill Carnmoney Flute Band will travel to the sites with officers from Rathcoole Friends of the Somme.
The 59 local residents will depart to the World War One French and Belgian battlefields on August 15 to commemorate the role of the 36th (Ulster) Division during the Great War.
A spokesperson for the band said: “The pilgrimage will begin with both local groups parading and laying wreaths at the famous Ulster Tower, the first ever memorial on the Western Front.
“Later we will parade at Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, the largest memorial on the Western front. The memorial commemorates over 72,000 soldiers from the United Kingdom and South Africa who have no known grave.
“The Ulster Division, during the Battle of the Somme, would be awarded four Victoria Crosses, the highest award for gallantry.
“There are three Victoria Cross recipients from the Ulster Division on the memorial who were killed and have no known grave, Rifleman William McFadzean, Captain Eric Norman Frankland Bell and Lieutenant Geoffrey Cather, only Rifleman Robert Quigg would survive the horrors of the Somme.”
The first day will close with the groups parading at Bertrancourt, a small village that was used in 1916 by a field ambulance medical unit of the Ulster Division, prior to the Battle of the Somme.
The spokesperson added: “Rathcoole Somme has built a fantastic relationship over the years with the Mayor, Patrick Schricke and Deputy Mayoress, Celine Jassiak and along with the villagers will parade to the local Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery to pay homage to three Ulster soldiers and the other fallen commemorated in the cemetery.
“Following this act of remembrance, a bench will be unveiled at the local French memorial to commemorate the 36th (Ulster) Division.
“The bench, which has been made a member of our band, will be a permanent memorial not only for the role of the Division during the Great War, but a testament to the friendship between Bertrancourt and the two Newtownabbey-based groups.”
The following day the groups will travel to Belgium, stopping off at Gwalia Cemetery near Poperinghe.
Here they will pay homage to Rifleman George Forrester, from Dandy Street, Whitehouse.
Rifleman Forrester was the Grandfather of Somme Society member, George Crawford, who passed away earlier this year.
Tyne Cot will be their next stop before the band and Somme Society parade at the Menin Gate service in Ypres.
Detailing what will surely be a poignant segment of the trip, the spokesperson concluded: “On August 18, in partnership with Harlebeeke Council, Gil Bossuyt (a local historian) and 36th (Ulster) Division Memorial Association, both Rathcoole Somme and Pride of the Hill Flute Band will unveil a new 36th (Ulster) Division memorial on the banks of the Lys River.
“This will commemorate the crossing of the Division on the night of August 19 and August 20 1918.
“This crossing would mark the final stages of the role of the Ulster Division during World War One. Within seven days of the crossings and the fighting in open countryside, the General Coffin’s famous 36th (Ulster) Division would be withdrawn from the frontline. Little did they know that on the November 11 1918 an armistice would be called.”