The Accrington Pals
The 1st July 2006 marked the 90th anniversary of the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, when the Accrington Pals suffered devastating losses. We take a look at the history of the Pals...
What happened at the Battle of the Somme?
The plan was simple. After an initial weeklong bombardment of the German front line their defences would be destroyed, General Sir Douglas Haig claimed, 'not even a rat would be alive' at the end of it. The Infantry would then advance to take hold of the German positions and a charge of Cavalry would sweep through Cambrai to Douai, breaking the enemy line in two.
Unfortunately, this approach did not go according to plan. Therefore, when the men went over-the-top at 7.30 am on 1 July 1916, wave after wave were simply mown down by enemy fire. Approximately 60,000 men were killed or wounded by the end of the first day. The French, attacking where the defences were weaker, had been more successful yet without back up from the British they were unable to hold on to their advance.
Convinced of eventual success Haig allowed the bloodshed to continue despite the growing losses. By the time he called off his 'Great Push' on 28 November 1916 more than 450,000 British, 200,000 French and 650,000 German soldiers had been slaughtered. After four months of fighting the Allies had advanced a distance of no more than five miles.
Will Marshall (North West Sound Archive)
A moving account of that fateful day 90 years ago on July 1st 1916 when the Accrington Pals went over the top was recounted by the last survivor Will Marshall who died in 1995. In an interview recorded some ten years earlier he told how all his colleagues were killed within seconds and he was left alone and wounded on the battlefield...
Steve and Jenny Butterfield from Hapton near Burnley made the journey to the former Somme battlefields to visit the grave of Jenny's grandfather and to take part in the 90th anniversary commemorations in July 2006...
Children at Moorhead School in Accrington feel proud of their home town, and improvise a family dealing with the reality of life in the trenches, in particular the Accrington Pals...
last updated: 05/11/2008 at 10:46
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Ann Cassidy nee Cunliffe