Pals Battalions in WW1: Football Teams, Villages Towns and Occupational Affiliations
At the start of WWI, Britain was faced with the realisation that they had too few men ready to fight.
- There was no system of conscription in place and the public was not yet ready to embrace mandatory military service.
- Various schemes were put in place to try and encourage enlistment but none were successful in supplying enough men for the army.
In the first weeks of the war therefore, Lord Derby encouraged men in towns and villages across the country to join up with the promise that they would all be able to serve together, brothers, cousins, friends all together.
- This appealed to the British public and by September 1914, fifty towns and villages had formed ‘chums’ or ‘pals’ battalions.
- The promise of these young men all being able to serve together was honoured but sadly the thing that had contributed to the success of the scheme was to have unseen devastating consequences at their first real test.
- The Battle of the Somme claimed whole communities of young men who had played and grown up together and brought a generation of heartache to the towns and villages they left behind.
Melvyn Bragg contributes an excellent Youtube video about the fate of the Accrington Pals, the 11th Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment