Uploaded on Oct 12, 2011
Melvyn Bragg takes his vintage cinema to the Queen's Lancashire Regiment Museum and Barracks in Preston, where he looks back at the First World War. Richard Bell talks about his great uncle Donald who received the highest award for valour during the Battle of the Somme in 1916, Les Bond describes the sacrifices made by his home town of Accrington's Pals batallion, and Rita Humphrey tells the story of her uncle Walter Tull - the first black officer in the British Army.
The Accrington Pals was a British First World War Pals battalion of Kitchener's Army raised in and around the town of Accrington in Lancashire. When the battalion was taken over by the British Army it was officially named the 11th Battalion, The East Lancashire Regiment.
The Accrington Pals joined the 94th Brigade of the British 31st Division. When the Accrington Pals moved to France where they first saw action in the Battle of the Somme. On the first day on the Somme, 1 July 1916, the 31st Division was to attack the village of Serre and form a defensive flank for the rest of the British advance. The 31st Division's attack on Serre was a complete failure though some of the Accrington Pals did make it as far as the village before being killed or captured. One of the battalion's signallers, observing from the rear, reported:
"We were able to see our comrades move forward in an attempt to cross No Man's Land, only to be mown down like meadow grass. I felt sick at the sight of the carnage and remember weeping."
Approximately 700 men from the Accrington Pals went in to action on 1 July; 585 men became casualties, 235 killed and 350 wounded in about half an hour. The battalion's commander, Lieutenant Colonel A.W. Rickman was among the wounded. A rumour that spread around Accrington was that only seven men had survived from the battalion and an angry crowd surrounded the mayor's house, demanding information.
The Accrington Pals were effectively wiped out in a matter of minutes on the first day on the Somme. The battalion was brought back up to strength and served for the remainder of the war, moving to the 92nd Brigade of the 31st Division in February 1918.
Special mention that was not given in this video but 'should' have been is a tribute to Mr William ("Bill") Turner for his lifes work, reasearch efforts, documentation and writings on The Accrington Pals:
The Accrington Pals by William ("Bill") Turner (Pen and Sword - ISBN 0-85052-360-5) (various re-prints 1986-98)
The Accrington Pals (tribute) by William Turner (Lancashire County Books - ISBN 1-871236-16-9) (1986-2000)
The Accrington Pals Remembered by William Turner (private publication?)
Accrington Pals Trail by William Turner (Leo Cooper - ISBN 0-85052-636-1) (1998)