Leyton Orient's proud history of service in the Great War was revisited recently when over 100 Leyton Orient supporters made the journey over to Belgium to pay their respects in the town of Ypres and surrounding area in what was the inaugural tour by Orient fans to this part of Flanders - a trip that was organised by Steve Jenkins in conjunction with Leyton Orient Supporters' Club and the O’s Somme Memorial Fund.
Having departed Leyton at 07:30 the coaches made their way to Dover and then over to Calais, before driving up along the coastand heading inland to Lijssenthoek British Cemetery where a former O lies buried - Private James Greechan 17740.
Before the war inside-forward James Geechan had joined Clapton Orient from Brentford in 1907, having previously played for Scottish sides Bo'ness, Hibernian and Petershill. He made thirty-three appearances for the Orient scoring 11 goals before joining Glossop. Greechen went on to play for Stockport County, Albion Rovers, Carlisle United and Bathgate FC.
A wreath-laying service took place which was lead by Leyton Orient Chaplain Neil Kinghorn with 'Last Post' and 'Reveille' sounded by the buglers of the 17th Pals' Battalion Band who were also in attendance. The wreath was laid by Beverley Allen on behalf of Leyton Orient Football Club and Supporters' Club.
The O's contingent then made their way to Ypres and the Novotel Hotel where the entire party were booked.
The next morning the tour continued to Vancouver Corner to visit the Canadian Memorial 'The Brooding Soldier', before moving onto Langemark German Cemetery - the first time a German cemetery had been visited on and organised O's WW1 tour.
After the laying of a wreath the tour then made its way to Passchendaele which next month commemorates the centenary of the Third Battle of Ypres - ultimately to become known as the Battle of Passchendaele.
Lunch was held at a bar in the village after which the coaches made their way to the official Passchendaele Museum in Zonnebeke.
Saturday evening was for many the highlight of the tour when the 17th Pals' Battalion Band paraded in the town square in Ypres before marching up the street to the Menin Gate to take part in the world famous Last Post ceremony. This really was the proudest of moments, not only for the band but all the O's fans who witnessed the event.
On the Sunday morning, the tour continued to Tyne Cot British Cemetery and Memorial - the largest British and Commonwealth war cemetery in the world where 11,965 soldiers lie buried, of which 8,369 are unnamed.
Lunch was taken at Hooge Crater visitor centre before the tour moved on to Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing and then to St Yvon - the site of the now famous Christmas Truce of 1914. This is where the British Tommies and German Boche played football in no-mans-land.
A special wreath-laying ceremony took place at the UEFA Christmas Truce memorial which heralded the end of the tour and the coaches then headed back to Calais and ultimately Leyton.
This was a really successful tour, which was not only of significant historical interest, but also an occasion which lead to a great time of bonding and socialising for all Orient supporters.
Please note details of next years O's Somme Tour will be published soon.
WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.