Belfast Telegraph

Junior Orange Order tribute to WWI soldier Samuel Williamson, who died aged 16

By Rebecca Black

One of the youngest soldiers killed in the First World War has been remembered by the most junior members of the Orange Institution a century after his death.

Belfast-born Samuel Williamson of the 36th Ulster Division was just 16 years old when he was killed by a large party of German soldiers while on patrol on March 29, 1916.

Members of the Junior County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast learned about his history, and during their annual Easter Tuesday parade, which was held in Carrickfergus yesterday, laid a wreath in his honour at the town's war memorial.

More than 1,000 brethren and bands took part in the main parade, which proceeded from Prince William Way at 12.30pm to Joymount car park.

Senior officers and juniors representing three Belfast districts and a number of other lodges from across Northern Ireland, accompanied by as many as a dozen bands, took part.

Among the dignitaries on parade included junior grand master Roy Nixon, as well as a number of visitors from Scotland and England.

Wreaths were laid as a mark of respect at the town's war memorial for the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, and in particular to Samuel Williamson.

The Rev Mervyn Gibson, chaplain of the County Grand Orange Lodge of Belfast, led a special remembrance service.

Samuel Williamson is believed to be the youngest soldier killed in First World War while serving with the Ulster Division.

He was born in Tigers Bay before his family later moved to Carrickfergus. He was just 14 years old when he followed his older brother Willie by joining the Army, even falsifying his age to enlist in the 9th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles (West Belfast Volunteers).

The young soldier undertook training at the tender age of just 15 before landing in France as part of the 36th Ulster Division. He fought bravely for several months before he was part of a patrol that was surprised by a large party of Germans on March 29, 1916.

During the fighting that followed, he was killed at just 16 years of age.

Writing to Samuel's mother, a Presbyterian chaplain said: "He was a good soldier, and died bravely while performing a very difficult and dangerous duty. His death is much deplored by all his comrades and officers."

Samuel is buried in Sucrerie Military Cemetery at the Somme.

The junior Orange parade has been held annually since 1919 and rotates around a number of host towns in Northern Ireland.

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