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Derbyshire Royal British Legion members on mass pilgrimage in Belgium

Mel Buxton, Bill Miller, Margaret Eldridge, Brian Eldridge, Vivien Miller, John Wallace.  (Dave Wallace and Mel Buxton missing from picture.
Mel Buxton, Bill Miller, Margaret Eldridge, Brian Eldridge, Vivien Miller, John Wallace. (Dave Wallace and Mel Buxton missing from picture.

Representatives of Royal British Legion branches from Derbyshire joined one of the biggest pilgrimages in the charity’s history to honour those who lost their lives in the First World War.

The eight-strong delegation is among thousands of pilgrims whose tribute will culminate in a parade in Belgium today (August 8).

Bill Miller, Vivien Miller, John Wallace, Dave Wallace, Brian Eldridge, Margaret Eldridge, Jan Buxton and Mel Buxton, are representing Chesterfield, Staveley, North Wingfield and Belper branches at the Great Pilgrimage 90.

The pilgrimage has attracted more than 2,200 other Legion representatives and dignitaries, including civic and military guests from the UK, Commonwealth and Northern Europe.

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

That pilgrimage culminated in a march through Ypres to the Commonwealth War Grave Commission’s Menin Gate memorial for a ceremony to commemorate the launch of The Hundred Days Offensive and in remembrance of those who never returned.

Pilgrims taking part in this week’s tribute have 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 bearing their branch standard and a wreath.

Peter Fairey, branch chairman of the Chesterfield branch of The Royal British Legion, said “Great Pilgrimage 90 is a unique opportunity for the Legion 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.”

Derbyshire Legion members Bill Miller, John Wallace and Brian Eldridge are bearing the standards, Vivien Miller, John Wallace, Margaret Eldridge and Jan Buxton will lay wreaths at Menin Gate on behalf of the Chesterfield, Staveley, North Wingfield and Belper communities.

Members of the Chesterfield and Staveley branches of The Royal British Legion worked in partnership with their community to bring a remembrance message on their wreath which forms part of an installation at the Menin Gate where it can be viewed by the public until the end of August.

Today’s parade and One Hundred Days ceremony will be followed by musical entertainment provided by The Central Band of the Royal British Legion.