Members of the Rye branch of the Royal British Legion (RBL) joined thousands of Armed Forces veterans and supporters from across the UK and the world in a pilgrimage of remembrance to some of the First World War’s most poignant sites.
A two-mile march through Ypres in Belgium to the Commonwealth War Grave Commission’s Menin Gate Memorial, led by 1,100 standard bearers, was the culmination of the three-day event.
The event saw 2,200 participants visit the First World War trenches, battlefields and cemeteries of France and Belgium.
Paul Whiteman and David Pawsey attended the Great Pilgrimage 90 as representatives of Rye British Legion as a standard bearer and wreath layer respectively.
They first visited battlefields, memorials and war graves on the Somme, then Flanders Fields, culminating with 1,150 standard bearers, and 1,150 wreath bearers, from all over the UK marching through Ypres, Paul carrying the Rye RBL standard, and David carrying the wreath for the fallen of Rye.
David said: “To lay the wreath at the Menin Gate was the greatest honour I could have, a humbling and emotional experience for both of us.”
Paul said he was very moved to stand a few yards from the Menin Gate on which is the name of his great uncle, Charles Herbert Scott, from Beckley, who died on August 10, 1917, and has no known grave.
Bob Gamble, the Royal British Legion’s head of commemorative events, said: “GP90 was the legion’s biggest membership event in modern history and is a suitable tribute from the members of the Royal British Legion in honour of the First World War generation, echoing the way the British Legion community commemorated the 10th anniversary of the conflict in 1928.”
The Menin Gate Memorial is dedicated to the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient and whose graves are unknown.
Designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield and built and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the Menin Gate Memorial was unveiled on July 24, 1927.