Shaw man joins Great Pilgrimage to First World War battlegrounds

A great-grandad from Shaw has returned from an emotional and poignant trip to the site of two World War One battlegrounds.

Alan Wrigley, 85, joined forces with Alison Clowes – both members of the Saddleworth branch of the Royal British Legion – to take part in the Great Pilgrimage 90 event.

They joined 2,200 RBL members on the pilgrimage to the former battlefields of the Somme in France and Ypres in Belgium as part of World War One centenary celebrations.

GP90 marked 90 years since the original RBL Pilgrimage which saw 11,000 WW1 veterans and war widows visit the Somme and Ypres a decade after the conflict ended.

The event, between August 5-9, was one of the largest in the charity’s history.

The 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.

Alan, a former member of the East Lancashire Regiment, laid a wreath on behalf of Saddleworth British Legion at the Menin Gate.

“When I was told they were putting my name forward for the trip, I thought it might be a bit sensitive,” said Alan who served for three years in Egypt at the height of the Suez crisis.

“But I also thought it would be good to go on,” added sprightly Alan, a former bricklayer who still works at the B and Q store in Rochdale.

Alan’s dad, Harry Wrigley, served and was injured during the First World War.

“I am a lucky man to be here,” he smiled.

Standard bearer Alison added: “The trip was fantastic and very rewarding.

“We visited areas of the Somme and around Ypres, visiting different monuments, and learning about the history of what happened in each area.

“It was a huge honour and a privilege to be able to take part, knowing this would be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“It was a very moving and emotional week, visiting the different memorial areas in the two days before with people from a variety of backgrounds.

“My highlight would be standing at the Menin gate with all the other standard bearers, knowing I was a part of something so important.”

The pair were joined by standard bearers and wreath carriers from the Lees & District, and Royton branches of the Royal British Legion plus civic and military guests from the UK, Commonwealth and Northern Europe who were taking part.

Paddy Diamond of the Saddleworth Branch of The Royal British Legion said: “Great Pilgrimage 90 was 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.”

Alison and Alan were provided with a donation towards expenses from the Saddleworth branch courtesy of a trust fund established in memory of former member, Norman Franklin.

If you want to find out about your local Royal British Legion branch, then visit their website:

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