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‘The Preston Pals fought with distinction on the Western Front and were driven by a steadfast determination to fulfil their duty to their King and Country by confronting the face of battle.’

There was no official Memorial to the Preston Pals, except some that are listed on the Harris Museum's Roll of Honour. Our aim was to create a permanent Memorial which is placed on Preston Railway station, as this was probably the last place most of the company saw as they departed for the Great War.

 

 The company was formed in 1914 after the Secretary of State for War Earl Kitchener called for a volunteer army. The idea was to encourage groups of friends or 'pals' to sign up and go to war together. Many Pals companies sprung up in northern industrial towns, the most famous in this area being the Accrington Pals.
The late Joe Hodgson, a volunteer at the Queen's Lancashire Regiment Museum in Fulwood, said men 'were sleeping outside on the floor they were so keen to join up'. An advert for the Pals was published in the Lancashire Daily Post on August 31, 1914, and ran for four days.
It read: 'Will those who would like to join apply here any afternoon or evening this week – the earlier the better. Cyril Cartmell, Town Hall, Preston.'
Consequently the Preston Pals became known as Cartmell's company. It was a quick way of getting men to enlist and after three days enough men had been recruited.
The Preston Pals then became 'D' company, 7th Battalion, the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. They were medically examined and took their allegiance to the King and paraded on the Flag Market before being sent off for training at Tidworth in Wiltshire.
Sadly, little is known about the Preston Pals. Although they were part of the 7th Battalion, they were not actually documented as a Pals unit in the official Regimental histories. This is probably because they were only a company, when most other Pals units were battalions. Also, there is no war memorial dedicated to the Pals and only some are listed on the Harris Museum's roll of honour.
Once their training was over, the Pals were mobilized with the 7th LNL and sailed for France on 16th and 17th July 1915. From then on, it was all go, with route marches, inspections, specialised training and trench digging. On 25th September 1915 when the Battle of Loos began, the battalion was in reserve south of Laventie in the northern part of the battlefield and they were moved up to the front line three days later. Their first taste of battle was in the Orchard Salient, when the Pals were ordered to hold the front line with A Company. Although the Germans were not particularly active, this was considered to be a dangerous part of the line.
The concept of Pals units was dealt a fatal blow on the Somme on 1st July 1916 and it was the fate of the 31st Division in particular, which included the Accrington, Bradford and Leeds Pals, which convinced the Army that a concentration of casualties from the same area needed to be avoided in future. It was of these units that it would be said, “They were two years in the making and ten minutes in the destroying.”

The Memorial in its final position on Preston Railway Station, from where the Pals departed Preston


The Preston Pals and the 7th Bn LNL were in support during the initial attacks, but were moved up to strengthen the line at La Boisselle later in the day and it was here that they would be heavily committed for the next few days.
After the shock of heavy losses on 1st July, which still rank as the worst in the history of the British Army, the High Command looked to capitalise on major gains south of the Albert-Bapaume road. Two weeks later, revised tactics met with spectacular success and the Germans were driven back from the Bazentin Ridge on a front of over 6,000 yards. The British were now learning how to attack their tenacious and well organised enemy, but in their turn, the Germans were adopting new tactics in defence to repel their own enemy’s determined aggression. During the early hours of 23rd July,the 7th Bn LNL attacked from the north of the village of Bazentin-le-Petit in the direction of Martinpuich and were met by fierce resistance. Well positioned machine guns brought the attack to a standstill and retreat to the starting point was the only option. The Battalion War Diary records that they received orders to attack on a 300 yards front at 12.25 am and “reached the first objective but suffered very heavy casualties”. The Pals in D Company also “had heavy casualties . . .” and “Captain Thompson and 2nd Lt. Hoyle were killed. The Company had got to within a few yards of the German Front Line, but was again held up by machine guns”.
It is difficult to assess just how many of the Preston Pals were lost on that day and research is ongoing to find a final number. However, casualties for the whole 7th Battalion LNL came to 10 officers and 213 other ranks, killed, wounded or missing.
On 7th June 1917, when the Flanders Offensive began at Messines, it would be an altogether different story. Following the explosion of nineteen mines along the Messines Ridge, C and D Companies led the attack on the battalion front and captured all their objectives. According to the Battalion War Diary casualties were slight. During the Great War, the Preston Pals fought with distinction on the Western Front and theirs was a typical Pals unit. Imbued with an intense pride in their roots, they would train and fight alongside friends and family in the pursuit of justice and glory. They, as all the volunteers who flocked to the Colours, were driven by a steadfast determination to fulfil their duty to their King and Country by confronting the face of battle.

 

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or set up a regular giving amount by standing order, please contact us HERE

News in brief

John Shaw, Sculptor and letter carver who has been commissioned to produce the Memorial

Visit his website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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