Britain’s Pals Battalions (2/14)

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The “Pals Battalions” were created in Britain as a way of generating mass recruitment of new soldiers to fight at the front over in France. It was thought that if men knew they were going to fight alongside friends and colleagues, they would be more inclined to sign up.

The first Pals Battalion was the “Stockbrokers’ Battalion” who were raised from the city of London to set an example, and these were soon followed by the formations of 100’s more Pals Battalions all around the UK, often named by location, such as the Leeds Pals, Bradford Pals, the Grimsby Chums (formed by former schoolboys of Wintringham Secondary School) and many others. Some battalions were formed by complete football teams, including their reserve team, staff members and supporters. Another was formed by the North Eastern Railway.

These battalion formations were a great success for recruitment, and families back home were more happy too knowing that their loved ones were in the company of friends, and they would look out for one another, however, many of these Pals battalions suffered devastating loses, and it was soon realised that this had devastating effects back home too, when so many from the same work place or same community were all wiped out together, such as the 1st and 2nd Bradford Pals, who out of a total of 2,000 men, suffered 1,770 casualties in the first hour of the Somme offensive.

The Accrington Pals were almost wiped out too, with 720 men sent into the battle, and 584 of them being killed or injured.

Eventually, because of this, recruiting in this way was phased out, and although the Pals battalions continued, numbers were replaced by drafts from more diverse areas of the UK. 

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