Hyndburn has gathered together this morning to pay its respects to sons of the borough that fell on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the bloodiest battle in British military history, and nowhere was the losses of that felt more keenly than in Accrington.
Members of the armed forces serving and retired, dignitaries, guests, descendants of the Pals and members of the public gathered at the Accrington Pals Memorial Garden on Church Street at 7am for a commemorative service.
A 7.30am, a clear, sharp whistle shattered the reserved silence, signifying the moment the order was given to go ’over the top’ in France.
Within 20 minutes of the order being given on July 1, 1916, 585 Pals lay dead or wounded.
Reverend Ian Enticott, vicar of the United Benefice of Accrington St James and St Paul, led the service.
He said: “At 7.20am, whistles blew and men climbed from the trenches, as the bombardment of the German lines began.
“But the attack turned into carnage at 7.30, as the men began to advance into No Man’s Land, and walked in line towards the German positions.
“Machine gun and rifle fire immediately tore into the advancing lines of infantry.”
Corporal Oliver Gillibrand, of the 4th Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, read the poem A Soldier’s Cemetery, by John William Streets, who was killed in the battle aged 31. Trevor Dawson, chairman of the Accrington Branch of the Royal British Legion, spoke from a piece entitled For the Fallen.
He said: “They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old, age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn, at the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.”
The Lancashire Artillery band played the last post, as flags were lowered and a moment of silence was observed and wreaths laid.
Deputy Mayor Peter Britcliffe, addressed the crowd at the conclusion of the service.
He said: “It was a very moving service and I would like to thank all who came. A great deal of planning has gone into this and I would like to thank Hyndburn Borough Council.
On Broadway, a roll call of every soldier who served with the Accrington Pals will be read.
A century ago, at 7.30am on July 1, 1916, on that fateful first day of the Battle of the Somme, the 11th Service Battalion, The East Lancashire Regiment Accrington, or as we know them, the Accrington Pals, went ‘over the top’, walking into No Man’s Land under the cover of artillery and mortar fire.
The first day of the battle is known as the worst day in the history of the British Army as nearly 60,000 British men, all volunteers, were killed, wounded or listed as missing.
The Pals suffered severe losses and over 600 casualties, leaving the community back home shattered and hardly anyone untouched, with so many losing husbands, sons, brothers, uncles, friends and neighbours.
A series of commemorations across the borough got underway yesterday with a candlelit vigil at the Pals Memorial on Church Street where the Royal British Legion were joined by member of Accrington Pipe Band and Royal Artillery Band.
There was also a vigil at All Saints Church in Clayton-le-Moors followed by a wreath laying at the War Memorial in Mercer Park.
Members of every Hyndburn community also took part in a ‘March to the Front’ event, culminating in a performance theatre piece ‘Falling’ at Oakhill Park.
Accrington train station will honour the former railway workers who died fighting in the First World War on Friday. The station will stage a commemoration led by the railway chaplain, Richard Cook, at 2.30pm to remember the Accrington Pals battalion and also the railway staff who lost their lives in the battle of the Somme.
A first World War exhibition will launch this week at Accrington’s Haworth Art Gallery.
Friday, July 1
- St John The Evangelist Church, Addison Street in Accrington 10.15am
A Battle of the Somme centenary commemoration service with an act of remembrance will be held in the Pals Chapel. The church will remain open after the service until 4pm for anyone wishing to visit for private prayer.
- Roll Call for the Accrington Pals, Broadway, Accrington Town Centre from 9am (All timings are approximate)
A to Butler 9.05am to 10am; Butler to Flegg 10am to 11am; Fleming to Howarth 11am to 12noon; Howarth to Moss 12noon to 1pm; Moulding to Short 1pm to 2pm; Shuttleworth to Wildman 2pm to 3pm; Wilken to Youngs 3pm to approximately finish 3.20pm. Contact: Gayle Knight, Civic Arts Centre. Email email@example.com or call 01254 398 319.
- Accrington rail station, 2.30pm
A commemoration led by the railway chaplain, Richard Cook, to remember the Accrington Pals battalion and also the railway staff who lost their lives in the Battle of the Somme. There will be readings and dedications, followed by a two-minute silence and the laying of wreaths and the blowing of a final whistle. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org,uk or call the council on 01254 388111.
- Commemorative Concert - Accrington Town Hall 6pm-8pm
BBC Radio Lancashire’s live Somme Day Centenary concert will take place in Accrington Town Hall. All tickets are now allocated.
Saturday, July 2
- Commemoration fair on Barnfield Street in Accrington, 10am to 1pm
Jointly organised by Benjamin Hargreaves primary school and St Paul’s Church, this event will feature a tombola, bric-a-brac, face painting, bouncy castle and barbecue. Free entry. Donations will be given to Help For Heroes.
Tuesday, July 5
The Ballroom, Accrington Town Hall, 3pm
- Commemorative Film in Memory of the Accrington Pals - £3 per person (Tickets limited to 100). Call the Box Office on 01254 380 293.