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BVRC and BMA honoured at Ypres

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Lest we forget: the wreath made to pay tribute to the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps, which served gallantly in two World Wars (Photograph provided)

The contribution of Bermudian soldiers in the First World War will be recognised this weekend in Belgium.

Martin Buckley, department manager at the Bookmart at Brown & Co in Hamilton, organised two wreaths to be placed at the Menin Gate in the Belgian city of Ypres, scene of some of the bloodiest fighting of the war.

One wreath bears the cap badge of the Bermuda Militia Artillery and the other the badge of the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps.

The BMA and BVRC were segregated military units raised by the Act of Parliament in 1895.

Both served on the Western Front during the First World War, and in Europe and North Africa during the Second World War.

Mr Buckley said both regiments made a significant contribution to the war effort.

They were amalgamated in 1965 at the end of segregation to create the Bermuda Regiment.

The Queen granted it the title Royal Bermuda Regiment in 2005 to honour its 50th anniversary.

The Regiment and its forerunners have a long history of dedicated and loyal service to the Crown and Bermuda dating back to 1612.

Mr Buckley said: “I thought it was really important that the sacrifices made during the First World War are recognised, and that recognition is extended out from just the UK.

“We hear a lot about the role of British soldiers and the role of Canadians and the Anzacs, but the part played by smaller communities around what was the British Empire is often overlooked.

“I think it’s important that we don’t forget that. The expression ‘lest we forget’ could not be more important.”

He said: “Bermudian troops in the BVRC were the first colonial troops — non-Dominion and non-Indian empire troops — to see action on the Western Front. Not a lot of people know that.

“It’s also very important to recognise the contribution of the BMA.

“They served with distinction doing a particularly onerous job and were right in the thick of it alongside the Canadian Corps at Vimy Ridge and as part of a British Corps in Ypres.”

Mr Buckley said before he moved to Bermuda six years ago he and his father, veteran Tony Buckley, would make regular trips to recognise those who lost their lives in the First World War.

He said his family had been involved in the conflict, and that two of his ancestors lost their lives.

Mr Buckley said: “Every year for 25 years or so myself, my father and some colleagues from his time in the Army, have visited Ypres and other battlefields on the Western Front and for Armistice Day we would take wreaths for his regiment.

“With the 100th anniversary, I thought it would be nice if Bermuda was recognised in Ypres on that day as well, given the important role the island’s two regiments played.

“I arranged with the Royal British Legion in the UK to have two wreaths made up.

“My father and his partners took them to Belgium on Thursday night and they will be laid at the Menin Gate Memorial.”

The Hall of Memory at Ypres contains names on stone panels of 54,395 Commonwealth and colonial soldiers who died in the Salient but whose bodies have never been identified or found

Bermuda’s veterans will also be celebrated on the day with the annual Remembrance Day Parade on Sunday.

Carol Everson, case worker for the Bermuda Legion, said invitations to veterans and their companions for the post-Remembrance Day parade lunch on Sunday had been delayed at the post office, so many ex-Services personnel had not received them. Ms Everson said that veterans and their companions should go to No 6 Shed on Front Street after the ceremony as in previous years.

Fighting men: the wreath made to pay tribute to the Bermuda Militia Artillery, which served gallantly in two world wars (Photograph provided)
Honouring soldiers: Martin Buckley with his father Tony Buckley during a past Armistice Day in Ypres, France (Photograph provided)