100 years on: troops’ return from the battlefields marked
ONE HUNDRED years ago Guernsey’s fighting men returned home from the First World War to a glorious welcome.
Tomorrow, those men and their fallen comrades will be commemorated in a special parade and service organised by the Royal British Legion on behalf of the Bailiff, Sir Richard Collas.
A century ago, on Thursday 22 May 1919, the Lydia arrived from Le Havre, France, at the White Rock and 5,000 islanders welcomed back the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry.
At 10.30am on Sunday 25 there was a parade service at Town Church conducted by the Dean of Guernsey; Tuesday 27 saw the Colour of the 1st (Service) Battalion RGLI – given to them by the King ‘in recognition of their gallantry and devotion to duty displayed by all ranks during their service in France 1917 to 1919’ – which was handed to the Dean; and on Thursday 29 the streets thronged with a welcome home march and fete for ‘Our Boys’, which included the Navy, Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, Royal Irish Regiment, Royal Irish Fusiliers, 1st Battalion and 2nd Battalion RGLI, as well as men of other regular units.
‘The parade will mark the 100th anniversary of the homecoming and victory parades,’ explained Russell Doherty of the Guernsey Military History Company.
‘Several happened in quick succession back in the day and there were hundreds of men at a time. But the parade on the 29th, that was for everybody, all the servicemen had a chance to parade. And that’s what we’ll be doing. It’s not just about the RGLI, it’s to commemorate all of the Guernsey units. The other units that often historically get overlooked.’
The company will represent these units by wearing the badges and insignia of the contingents. They will be: D Coy 6th Battalion Royal Irish Regiment; D Coy 7th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers; 9th Divisional Ammunition Column; 321 Quarrying Company Royal Engineers; 245 (Guernsey) Army Troops Company Royal Engineers; and the RGLI.
‘I do not believe that this has ever been done before. Some of the badges have had to be specially reproduced for the occasion.’
The Guernsey Military History Company has around 24 regular members. ‘We have a problem getting us all together as we have some members who are actual serving officers and some members in Jersey – we’re pan-island. In fact, it’ll be a Jerseyman in the parade as a period Naval officer.
‘We’re only one small section of the parade. The Bailiff has been a great First World War celebrations supporter and has taken an active interest in all the events.’
The parade takes place tomorrow and will consist of island standards, local cadet units and Guernsey veterans and will be led by the CCF Corps of Drums.
Forming at 9.50am in Winston Churchill Avenue, Cambridge Park, there will be an inspection by the Bailiff and Christopher Beaumont, the Seigneur of Sark, who is the president of the Sark branch of the Royal British Legion. The parade will then follow the route of the original in 1919, which will be down Candie Road, across St Julian’s Avenue, into Ann’s Place, then down Smith Street and along High Street. It will be followed by a service in the Town Church.
‘It’s a nice touch to pay homage to these men,’ said Mr Doherty.
‘To doff the cap.’
Members of the public are welcome to watch the inspection and to attend the service at Town Church.