The Orange Order had more members volunteer for military service in World War 1 than any other politico-religious organisation in the world. It is estimated that more than 200,000 Orangemen saw service in World War 1 including 80,000 from Canada alone. It is estimated that 3 out of every 10 Canadian soldiers who enlisted were members of the Orange Order.
Many Orange Lodges never reopened after the war due to the very high number of Lodge members who were killed. In addition to Orangemen from Great Britain and Canada, Orangemen from the United States, Australia, New Zealand and several smaller countries volunteered their services for King and Country.
The first Australian killed in World War 1 was Able Seaman William George Vincent. He was a member of Melbourne Loyal Orange Lodge No. 92.
The sacrifice of Orangemen was great as was their bravery. The resolve of those young men may be seen in the dying words of Brother Private F. Holt, 4th Kings Liverpool Regiment, (a member of Loyal Orange Lodge No. 782 in England) fatally wounded at Neuve Chapelle on April 14th, 1915 who told his comrades "I have done my duty to my King and Country and I have not forgotten the Orange obligation I took in 782".
- Private George Richardson - Prince of Wales Royal Rifles of Canada
- Sergeant-Major Robert Hill Hanna – 29th (Vancouver) Battalion, CEF
- Captain later to be Colonel John Weir Foote (Reverend) – Canadian Chaplain Service attached to the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry
- Riflemen Robert Quigg – Royal Irish Rifles
- Private Abraham Acton – The Border Regiment
Recommended for the Victoria Cross were Private Robert Dixon, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and Lieutenant J McCormick also from Canada.
With so many Orangemen at the front many Lodges were shut down during the war. Being at the front however didn’t stop the Orangemen from commemorating the Twelfth of July on July 12th, 1915. Private George Sherwood, a Belfast native serving with the Canadian Army Service Corps, describes the occasion:
"We (the Canadians) all gathered together with a good many Ulstermen to celebrate the Battle of the Boyne. The procession started from "Shrapnel Square" and was headed by an old scout mounted on a white horse with its mane and tail plaited with Orange and Purple ribbon. Next came the fife and drums well decorated with Orange Lilies and "No Surrender" was painted on the flag we carried".
Unfortunately, there have been many attempts by some to rid the military history books of any information of the bravery and sacrifice of the Orangemen and to disgrace the name of this loyal institution. This lead to the idea by members of No.6 District, Belfast, to have a memorial to our fallen Brethren erected in a small garden behind the Ulster Tower at Thiepval, which marks the site of the Schwaben redoubt against which the men of the 36th (Ulster) Division advanced on July 1st, 1916. The memorial reads:
"This Memorial is Dedicated to the Men and Women of the Orange Institution Worldwide, who at the call of King and country, left all that was dear to them, endured hardness, faced danger, and finally passed out of the sight of man by the path of duty and self sacrifice, giving up their own lives that others might live in Freedom. Let those who come after see to it that their names be not forgotten."