The Accrington Pals was a battalion of Kitchener's Army made up of brothers, neighbours and workmates from the town of Accrington who fought in the Great War. These young men went in search of adventure but instead found the horrors of war. (1998)
The East Lancashire town of Accrington was your typical industrial town of the time. For many decades the textile industry, the engineering industry and coal mining were the central activities of the town. These industries provided employment for the majority of the town's inhabitants, but often in very difficult conditions.
As the hot summer of 1914 was drawing to a close the town of Accrington was experiencing an economic downturn with many of its factories closing their doors. And with whispers of war on the horizon, the young male population saw this as an opportunity to replace the drudgery of life in the factories with adventure overseas. For others, it merely provided a paycheque to feed their families and pay the bills.
During the First World War, "Pals Battalions" were set up to encourage local people to recruit their brothers, neighbours, friends, and workmates to fight alongside each other. The Accrington Pals battalion was established and they were deployed to Egypt in early 1916 to defend the Suez Canal from the threat of the Ottoman Empire.
They were next moved to France where they first saw action in the Battle of the Somme. On the first day on the Somme, 1 July 1916, their division was to attack the village of Serre-lès-Puisieux and form a defensive flank for the rest of the British advance. The attack on Serre was a complete failure, although some of the Accrington Pals did make it as far as the village before being killed or captured.
Approximately 700 men from the Accrington Pals went into action on 1 July; 585 men became casualties, 235 were killed and 350 wounded in about half an hour. The unit was effectively wiped out on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
Produced by John McKenna ( First broadcast in May 1998)