Documentary From Irish Radio RTE- Accrington Pals
The Battle of the Somme began on July 1 st 1916. After a prolonged artillery barrage
which was intended to shatter the German line and obliterate the barbed wire
defences, the British emerged from their trenches and marched doggedly forward.
The Germans had deep dugouts which protected them from the shelling and much
of the barbed wire remained intact. The British were mowed down like corn before
When War broke out in August 1914 Captain James Milton from Chorley took
steps to form a ‘Pals’ battalion based on Chorley and district. They became part of
the Accrington Pals, the 11th Battalion. And it was this battalion that was to play a
major part in the Somme offensive.
Almost 20,000 British troops were killed that morning. Imagine if there had been
television back then. Imagine the evening news - 20,000 British troops were killed
this morning in an unsuccessful attempt to overwhelm the German line. Wouldn that
that have halted the war in its tracks? Back in 1916 the truth of what happened
emerged only slowly as telegrams arrived at houses throughout East Lancashire.
There were not many streets where curtains were not drawn.
By the 3rd September, thirty men had signed up and they were eventually formed into a Company
to join a newly raised battalion at Accrington. By the end of September the Chorley Pals Company
as they became known was up to full strength, with some 212 men and 3 Officers. They became C
Company of the 7th Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment, although this was changed to the
11th Battalion on the 10th December 1914, known thereafter as the ‘Accrington Pals’ (although
men from Chorley, Blackburn and Burnley were in the ranks).