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24 September 2014

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You are in: Lancashire > History > Local History > The Accrington Pals

Lancashire boy soldier

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.

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Will Marshall (pic: North West Sound Archive)

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
created: 23/06/2006

Have Your Say

Was one of your relatives involved in the War?

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

carol brindle
my grandfather mr john wildman born 1890 and was in the lancashire fusiliers and fought and survived the battle of the somme my grandfather has been shown on the history channel carrying a soldier out of the trenches on his back and it is beleived that soldier died shortly after . i also have a picture of my grandfather that was printed in the bolton news nw lancashire on thursday the 31st of july 2008 the tittle being (new film reveals life and death in the trenches)having looked for my grandfathers name in all the listings of soldiers who fought along side of him i am unable to find any such record of my grandfather.

Jennifer May
My Grandfather,Albert Edward Ritchings (was i believe the brother of Pamela Bartons Grandfather) was a signaller with the Pals. He was awarded the MM.

Russell Davies
Grandfather.. he was posted as missing on 18/10/1916 and has no known grave, his name is on the Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval,my Mother was 4mths od when he died an never knew him

Ann Cassidy nee Cunliffe
My grandfather was killed at the Battle of the Somme I always feel proud that the sacrifice wasn't in vain.

Pauline Hoggarth
My Great uncle William Kershaw was killwed at the battle of the Somme aged just 17

georgia
my great great grandad was killed in world war I and his name is on the meningate at belgium

Karen Hrabec
If anyone has any info on Patric Gerald MulrooneyPatric James Mulrooney both Accrington pals. 32 Croft St Accrington. I would be gratefull. One was my Great Grandfather and the other my grandfather.

Hlda Topping
I am looking for information about my Uncle Gunner Wilfred Prescott from Wigan 38th Div.RoyalField Artillery Died July 18th1917 Etaples France

kayleigh
My great great grandad was killed 2 days before the war ended

Paul Evans
My Great Grandfather was fatally wounded while serving with the Royal Warwicks, tomorrow i'll remember him and all the other brave men and women of this country who have made the ultimate sacrifice for all of us....lest we forget

Pamela Barton
My grandfather, William Henry Ritchings looked after horses whilst serving with the Accrington Pals.

karen Hrabec
My Great Grandfather was killed in France 1918. I am doing research on my family tree and and i have found out he was in the 6th Border Reg. Accrington His name was Partlin. I have also discovered that my Great Grandfather Patric Mulrooney also fought in the war. Accrington Pals. Royal Engineers. Trying to put everything together to compleate my family tree.

Chris Woodworth
My grandfather, also Chris Woodworth, came from Oswaldtwistle and joined up, under age, in 1914. He joined up in Accrington, but transferred to the Royal Field Artillery (C Battery, 122 Brigade, 38th (Welsh) Division, and saw much fighting on the Western Front. He was gassed and wounded, but he also won the Military Medal and was mentioned in dispatches. He became a signaller - one of his duties was to take the signal announcing the Armistice. As he delivered it to Brigade HQ he passed a row of men who had been killed that day. His health was never good, but he died in 1965. He was a nice man.

Dorothy Kirkley
My grandfather was in the 7th Lancashire Fusseliers. He used to live in Accrington. He survived the Grat War but the stories he told me still bring tears to my eyes.

Michael Kemp
My grandfather (Frederick Kemp) was injured by shrapnel in the great war at the battle of the Somme. Fortunately he survived & finished the war in hospital. He had four Brothers (Clarence, John, Thomas & Harold), & one sister, Elizabeth all from Gt Harwood. Harold, Royal Marines Light Infantry, was killed on 28th September 1918 aged 20 years & Clarence, West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince Of Wales Own)was killed on 3rd November 1918 aged 18 years.My grandfather never talked about the war, or his involvement. He died July 1984vat the age of 91 years. His legacy is a large family of in excess of 40 children, grandchildren & great grandchildren & great-great grandchildren.

David Staves
My Grandfathers brothers where part of the many who lost their lives fighting in the Accrington pals

carole stables
my grandfather joseph sutton was in the accrington pals

cricketer mick
my grandfather william martin was invalided out of the machine gun corps after being gassed during the second world war.whilst i was preparing drawings of accrington stanley football ground on livingstone road accrington to improve the facilities to enable the club to gain entry to the football league in 2006 after 44 years in non league football i realised that the whole of the accrington pals battalion of 36 officers and 1076 men could fit into the coppice terrace which has a capacity in the region of 1100 supporters.i was made even more aware of the pals history because it was almost 90 years to the day 1st of july 1916 when 585 men were killed or injured in a twenty minute period when the pals went over the top with fixed bayonets towards the enemy trenches.i imagined those 1112 heroes all dressed in uniform home on leave at the coppice end of the football ground roaring on the reds.it almost feels to me at least that the coppice terrace was formed for the accrington pals.inspired by the pals story and the new era that accrington stanley were about to embark upon i wrote a simple poem (my first)which linked the football club and the pals together.called.return to the football league.oh where are we now.at the football ground on the other side of town.next to the crown and the accrington nori.the football ground in all its glory.its taken forty four years to dry up the tears.at the football ground on the other side of town.you can still see the coppice and its war memorial.at the football ground on the other side of town.when the pals come home they'll have stanley to cheer.at the football ground on the other side of town.and we'll toast them all in bitter beer.at the football ground on the other side of town.the pals did us proud and we'll return the favour.at the football ground on the other side of town.on stanley on.dedicated to the accrington pals.1st of july 2008.anyone interested in learning more about the accrington pals should in my opinion read the definitive book written by the late bill turner of accrington.a fantastic read.

elaine fallon
my Gran lived in griffin st Blackburn, she was put on widows pension, thinking granddad was died,until she was watching a film in a picture place in Witton On the screen came Will Rhoda Barnes go home her husband George was waiting for her! she broke out in a rash that lasted quite a while with shock!!! I have been doing my ancestors finding out grand Barnes father was a gipsy living on the boats on Blackburn cannels, but that another story!

fiona brown
my great grandad was in ww1 and survived, he was too old to fight in ww2 but he was an air-raid warden instead.

C Moore
My grandfather Jack (John) Nicholson was an Accrington Pal

james pendleton
one of my relatives called james pendleton was in the accrington pals and survived the battle of the serre. i cant find him in any records of being in the accrington pals but he did move to the lancashire fusiliers.

callum dawes
is there a accrington pal with the surname dawes

Lauren
I am a student at Moorhead and I was featured in the radio broadcast on the Accrington Pals, I am also having my drama work shown at Howarth Art Gallery to comemmorate the 90th anniversary of the battle of Somme and I am very proud to be part of this whole project that what keep the awareness of the Accrington Pals going and hopefully help lots of people learn more about the battle and the men who fought in the war for us. I have really learnt a lot during all this work we have done and I now know more about the war and everything The Accrington Pals did for us.

beverley cudworth
my great great grandfather earl whittaker died in arras in march 1918, he was one of the accrington pals. Earl whittaker was a corporal. earl whittaker was from burnley.

Peter Melling
I am 56 and my own grandfather fought in the Somme. From what I remember he was a machine gunner with another Lancashire regiment – just one of many that we should be eternally indebted. He was critically injured and for the efforts of an unknown Scottish companion, would have died with all those other poor souls on the battlefields of France and Belgium. Thankfully for me, he received medical treatment and ended up with a metal plate in his skull and an impediment for the rest of his life until he died in 1976. He was however lucky. I remember as a child, ‘old soldiers’ (many destitute and disabled – blind, limbless, disfigured etc) making their way up and down Garstang Road, Fulwood, Preston in the 50’s and even then as a young child, feeling a sense of the futile nature of war. The fact that my grandfather (and presumably thousands of other veterans) rose to his feeble feet often with tears in his eyes when the National Anthem was played meant, and still means a lot to me. I hope that our younger generation and others in this multicultural society we now live in retains as much as possible of this waning passion for our Nation

Peter McCready
My grandfather,Pvt.William McCready was killed approx. six weeks before the Armistice after enduring four years of trench warfare and being gassed. He was from Oldham and was in the King's Own Regiment. I sure would have liked to have met him! Peter McCready Burnaby, Canada

Stu
these are the real heroes of our country and should not be forgoten

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