An Army with Banners

somme association

In Ulster at the time many men were members of the Orange Order. The Order was dedicated to the strengthing of Protestantism and had a tradition of marching to commemorate Battles and conquests. Most notably the victory of Prince William over King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
In December of 1910 a letter was sent to every Lodge along with a form seeking particulars of Lodge members who, in the event of Home Rule becoming law, were willing to take “active steps” to resist its enforcement. It read :
“Brother Orangemen : we address you at a grave crisis in the the history of Ireland. Mr Redmond the [Irish Nationalist leader ] and the party servants of the American Fenians procured for their schemes the help of the socialist [ the nascent Labour party ] and the radicals [ the Liberal Party ] of England. Under cover of an attack upon the House of Lords they are striking a deadly blow at the Union. If they obtain a majority at the election, Home Rule may be carried over the veto of the second chamber in two years. In these circumstances you have two duties to perform ; You must use every effort to defeat them at the polls , neglecting no opportunity of influencing votes in Great Britain. But you are equally bound to prepare for a struggle in this country if we should fail to carry the elections. Already steps are being taken to enroll men to meet any emergency. Orangemen must set the example to other Unionists by voluenteering their service...

orange order somme
Loyal Orange Lodge 862 just before the Battle of the Somme

Parallel with these developments the Ulster Unionist Council formed a secret committee to oversee approaches to arms dealers with a view to acquiring weapons for an Ulster army.
Colonel Robert Wallace, the County Grand Master of Belfast, who had served in the Boer War wanted to get the Orangemen to adopt a military formation but was worried about the legality of organising this, learned from the barrister, J.H. Campbell (Carsons colleague as a member for Dublin University and future Lord Glenavy) that drilling was perfectly legal provided that it was used by those training to make themselves more efficient citizens for the purpose of mainting the constitution of the United Kingdom and protecting their rights and liberties there under and provided it was authorised by two justices of the peace.In March 1911 Wallace wrote to a fellow officer of which he had serving with recording how he was to go about this :
“I am trying to get my Districts in Belfast to take up a few simple movements - learning form fours and reform two deep, and simple matters like that. I suggested some time ago the advisability for the men to march on the Twelfth in fours, and not to struggle along in the way that they have been accustomed to....”
This had proved to be successful as could be seen at the first great demonstration of loyalty....

orange order somme
Loyal Orange Lodge 862 after the Battle of the Somme

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