‘The whole event was very emotional’: Long Melford represented at remembrance pilgrimage

Left to right: Audrey Wreford, chairman, Martin Richards, branch secretary, Matt Baker, standard be

Left to right: Audrey Wreford, chairman, Martin Richards, branch secretary, Matt Baker, standard bearer, John Nunn, branch president Picture: JEFFREY JAMES PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: Archant

Members of the Long Melford branch of The Royal British Legion joined thousands on a pilgrimage of remembrance to a World War One battlefield, which culminated in a parade and ceremony in Belgium.

The Royal British Legion (RBL) event, known as Great Pilgrimage 90 (GP90), took place from August 5-9 – and was one of the largest in the charity’s history.

GP90 marked 90 years since the original Royal British Legion Pilgrimage in 1928, which saw 11,000 World War One veterans and war widows visit the battlefields of the Somme in France and Ypres in Belgium, a decade after the conflict ended.

Legion members Matt Baker and Martin Richards represented the Long Melford Branch and the local community at the event, as standard bearer and wreath layer respectively.

Both members toured some of the same battlefields and cemeteries visited by those on the 1928 Pilgrimage, before marching along the original route through Ypres, to the Menin Gate on August 8, bearing their branch standard and a wreath.

There were more than 2,200 other RBL representatives and dignitaries, including civic and military guests from the UK, Commonwealth and northern Europe present.

Once at the Menin Gate, Mr Baker laid a wreath on behalf of the Long Melford community with the tribute card being written by a local school pupil.

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Mr Baker, who is branch secretary of the Long Melford branch of the RBL, said: “Great Pilgrimage 90 was a unique opportunity for the RBL community to come together and bear our standards along the same route in Ypres taken 90 years earlier by the veterans and widows of the First World War.

“The whole event was incredible and very emotional for those of us who had family members lost in WW1.”

The Long Melford branch standard will be emblazoned with a scroll reading ‘Ypres2018’ – which is the first time the local standard has had such an honour since the branch was formed in the 1920s.

The standard will again be paraded on Remembrance Day in Long Melford.

On Monday evening Mr Baker and Mr Richards were presented with framed certificates commemorating their participation in the GP90 event by district councillor John Nunn, president of the Long Melford branch, and chairman Audrey Wreford.