Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Friday, August 5, 2016

One Pals Battalion and One Man's Story from 1 July 1916

Pals Battalions were a uniquely British phenomenon. Britain was the only major power not to begin the First World War with a mass conscripted army. After the war broke out, it quickly became clear that the small professional British Army was not large enough for a global conflict.

In a wave of patriotic fervor, thousands of men volunteered for service in Lord Kitchener's New Armies. As part of this, it was realized that local ties could be harnessed for national gain. Many more men would enlist if they could serve alongside their friends, relatives, and workmates. Dozens of the Pals Battalions saw their first action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

The Lonsdale Pals Marching Through Nearby Carlisle

The Lonsdale Pals (11th Border Regiment) was a volunteer battalion raised by Lord Lonsdale of Lowther Castle, located near the Lake District of England. The battalion fought with the 32nd Division on the opening day of the Battle of Somme on 1 July 1916 and supported the capture of Leipzig Redoubt on Thiepval Ridge, the sole British Army success north of the Albert-Bapaume road that day. The unit suffered over 500 casualties out of the 800 men who went into action, including 23 out of the 26 officers; the commanding officer, Lt-Col. Machell, was killed.

Private Fred Heslop

Frederick Edward Heslop was the son of Frances Heslop, a Warcop farmer’s daughter. The year after his birth in 1898 his mother married Leonard Coates. He was brought up at Orton in Cumbria but after his stepfather’s death, Frances and her seven children moved to Garnett Plain in Skelsmergh and lived there until she died in 1932. Fred worked at Ellergill Farm at Orton but volunteered at the start of the war and joined the Lonsdale Pals  and then the 32nd Divisional Cyclists Company. 

He died on 1 July 1916 on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Fred was 18 and has no known grave but is commemorated on the Thiepval Monument quite close to where he must have died.

Fred (Second from Right) with Three of His "Pals"

Sources:  Cumbria Museum of Military Life, The Lonsdale Pals Battalion, and Europeana: 1914–1918

1 comment:

  1. Some New Army enlistees were attracted by the pay. In the North there was concern that too many coal miners were leaving.