Karen pipes formal lament at Menin

Karen McAleese
Karen McAleese

A teenager from Ballymoney has had the honour of piping the formal lament at the world famous daily Ceremony of Remembrance at the Menin Gate in Ypres in Belgium.

Cadet Pipe Major Karen McAleese piped her musical memorial in front of a hushed and reverend international audience gathered in the small Belgian town to honour the memory of the soldiers of the former British Empire and its allies who died in the Ypres Salient during the First World War.

The Last Post Ceremony has become part of the daily life in Ieper (formally known as Ypres) and the local people are proud of this simple but moving tribute to the courage and self-sacrifice of those who fell in defence of their town.

Karen was in Belgium as part of a wider battlefield study tour to the Somme and Ypres areas organised for Cadets by the Army Cadet Force Association Northern Ireland.

In the centenary year of the Somme Offensive the group visited Etaples Military Cemetery, the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in France before taking in many important historical sites in the Somme area including the Lochnagar Crater, the Tank Corp Memorial and The Windmill at Pozières, the Dickens Memorial, the Devonshire Trench, the Sunken Road and the Thiepval Memorial.

Wreath laying ceremonies and a short Remembrance Service were conducted at the Ulster Tower and Guillemont and both were enriched by Karen’s piping.

Karen said: “You think you know about World War 1 because you study it at school, but visiting the places where it all happened and where so many people died makes it seem so much more real and so sad. It was a study tour which I know I will always remember and the invitation to pipe the Lament at the Menin Gate made it incredibly special for me. It was nerve-wracking and spine-tingling at the same time.”

On behalf of the Cadets, Colonel McCleery thanked all those who made the trip possible, notably sponsors RFCA (NI), CCFA and AFCA and paid tribute to tour guide, Colonel Derek Smyth OBE.