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Pages stolen from Pals' diary

AN irreplaceable piece of Hyndburn's history has been lost forever after pages from the Accrington Pals' war diary were stolen.

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BILL Turner looks at a copy of a book he has written on the Pals.

AN irreplaceable piece of Hyndburn's history has been lost forever after pages from the Accrington Pals' war diary were stolen.

The Observer has discovered that several pages from the Pals' original war diary - kept at The National Archives in Kew, London - were taken in the early 1990s, along with a number of other war documents.

But although most of the papers were later recovered, two pages from the Accrington Pals' diary, covering 20 to 29 October 1916 and 19 to 24 October 1917, were never found.

Local historian Bill Turner - a specialist on the Pals - was stunned at our discovery and said the original documents were "invaluable".

"This is absolutely appalling," he added. "The Pals seem to be paying the price for their fame when this sort of thing happens. It is unnecessary to take them, because it is so easy to make copies of them. The original documents are an invaluable part of the Pals' history, as they were the ones that were completed in the trenches."

However, he pointed out that copies had been made; these are kept at Accrington Library and the Queen's Lancashire Regiment Museum near Preston. Mr Turner said: "This by no means makes up for what has happened - something irreplaceable has gone for good - but at least it means all is not lost."

A spokesperson for The National Archives said that the person who stole papers from the War Office, Air Ministry and Admiralty records was later convicted for theft and criminal damage.

She added: "We deeply regret the loss of these irreplaceable documents and are constantly doing everything we can to minimise the risk of documents being stolen. We believe that the security measures are appropriate for making sure they are safe but also ensuring that the public are able to view the records freely. There have been no recorded cases of theft here in the last three years."

The 11th (Accrington) Service Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment, was formed in 1914 after the War Office accepted an offer from the Mayor of Accrington, Councillor John Harwood, to raise a full battalion from the area.

Accrington was the smallest municipal borough in the country to raise a battalion, but the Pals suffered devastating losses at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. A new battalion was later formed before it disbanded in 1919.