In the summer of 2004 there were in the region of six Somme Associations in Northern Ireland. There was no linkage between the groups all operated independently but knew of each others existence. There was some exchange of information but that was mainly through individuals rather than at Committee level. It was fragmented but all shared the same purpose to remember those from Ulster who made the ultimate sacrifice on the 1st July 1916.
As the 90th Anniversary of the battle was approaching discussions took place between the groups and it was decided to form the Amalgamation of Somme Associations with a view of remembering with pride and dignity the sacrifice of all who died. As a result of this decision extensive planning and preparation was undertaken and up to 1000 men and women travelled from Northern Ireland, Scotland and England and took part at the Last Post ceremony on the 30th June and then held a service at the Ulster Tower on the following day.
On return it was decided that the umbrella group should continue to exist and build on the good work that was undertaken in 2006. One thing that did change was the name and the Amalgamation became known as the 36th Ulster Division Memorial Association. The membership felt that this reflected better the sacrifice of our forefathers during the Great War.
In 2007 representatives of the Association returned to Flanders and took part in the commemorations to remember the battles ninety years ago in and around that area and the unveiling of Memorials dedicated to the Irish Divisions. To conclude our commemoration of the Flanders battles we held a parade and service at Belfast City Hall Cenotaph.
Membership of the 36th Ulster Division is open to all, there is no restriction. We welcome all no matter what their religion or disability.
It our goal to: -
Increase awareness amongst our young
Facilitate those who wish to visit the battlefields
Co-operate with other groups of like mind
Preserve our history for the future.
Since 2007 the Association has continued to grow. Now in 2014 there are almost 50 groups affiliated to the 36th (Ulster) Division memorial Association. The member groups are spread throughout Northern Ireland, England and Scotland.
This year alone 6 new groups have joined the Association and we expect more will follow as the centenaries of the Great War approach.
Over the years the Association and it’s groups has;
• Marked the Third battle of Ypres every year by parading to the Cenotaph at Belfast City Hall.
• Visited the battlefields of France, Belgium and Gallipoli, Turkey.
• Held in exhibitions across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
• Held concerts in the historic Ulster Hall to mark certain events.
• Took part and organised parades to mark the centenaries.
• Met with representatives of the NI Assembly and the Department of Foreign Affairs, Dublin.
• Held parades throughout the UK to mark the sacrifice of the Great War.
• Used the arts to promote our culture and history including the hugely successful drama; From the Shipyard to the Somme.
• Provided training for our members on public speaking and Excel spreadsheets.
• Produced literature to educate.
• Worked with community groups here in Northern Ireland.
The Association will continue to play a full role with the Unionist Centenary Committee as we as a community work away through a Decade of Unionist Centenaries.