Parade remembers ‘those who gave their tomorrow for our today’

Cllr Andrew Wilson, Major Mark Gannon, Honorary Colonel Danny Kinahan.  INCT 22-740-CON
Cllr Andrew Wilson, Major Mark Gannon, Honorary Colonel Danny Kinahan. INCT 22-740-CON

The contribution of a Northern Irish regiment to the battle of the Hitler Line has been commemorated in Carrickfergus at the weekend.

Sunday saw a parade and service marking the 70th anniversary of the Second World War offensive, in which the North Irish Horse Regiment played a significant role.

Commemorations began with a wreath-laying ceremony at the cenotaph, with the parade then moving to Joymount.

This was followed by a short service inside Carrick Castle, with the parade reassembling in Quay Lane and moving on towards High Street and Carrickfergus Town Hall.

The event was attended by around 100 people despite rather wet weather conditions, according to local councillor Andrew Wilson. “It was heartening to see so many local people and school children come out on a Sunday morning for the act of remembrance and church service,” he added.

“It is so important to remember those who gave their tomorrow for our today.”

Danny Kinahan MLA, an Honorary Colonel within the regiment, said: “It was a fantastic day. Thank you to Mayor Alderman Billy Ashe and all in Carrickfergus Council for allowing us to parade and mark the 70th anniversary of the Hitler Line breakthrough, where so many North Irish Horse gave their lives so bravely.”

A number of pupils from Downshire School in the borough were also involved in the weekend’s commemorations.

The students, who teamed up with the local authority and North Irish Horse on a Churchill tank restoration project, also produced a full size model of the original made entirely from waste materials.

The replica tank is currently on display in Carrickfergus Civic Centre.

Meanwhile Sheila McClelland, Town Clerk and Chief Executive of Carrickfergus Borough Council, said the local authority was ‘delighted’ to host the prestigious event.

“This year’s event marks the 70th anniversary of this strategically important battle in which the North Irish Horse Regiment played such an important role,” she added.

“Carrickfergus Borough Council is very proud to have forged such a strong working relationship with the North Irish Horse Regiment and look forward to welcoming the arrival of the refurbished Churchill tank, due for positioning in a location close to the cenotaph later this year.”

A number of defensive lines were set up in Italy during the Second World War to delay the movement of Allied Forces northwards.

This included the ‘Winter Line’, which was a collective name for the connected Gustav, Bernhardt and Hitler Lines. These heavily fortified positions halted the advance of the Fifth Army in late 1943.

It took four major offensives between January and May 1944 to break through, with the last causing heavy losses to the North Irish Horse Regiment.