1st July 2016 marks 100 years since a battalion of friends, known as the Accrington Pals, gave their lives for their country in World War I. Radio Lancashire will be remembering the Pals with special shows next week and asked our drama students for their help. Some of our male GCSE and A-level drama students worked with Radio Lancashire today to record readings of letters written by the Pals, as part of these commemorative shows. As well as a way to pay respect to those who made the ultimate sacrifice, the work gave students an insight into the role of a voice actor.
In 1914, Accrington was a small factory town. Britain and Germany were at war, but the British Army did not have enough soldiers. The British government gave Lord Kitchener the job of getting many more young men to volunteer to join the army; he hit on the idea of ‘pals’. Groups of lads were encouraged to join up all together, becoming known as ‘Pals’ battalions. Despite the town’s small size, Accrington lads accounted for the biggest of the ‘pals’.
The Accrington Pals were deployed to France where they would take part in the Battle of the Somme. The plan seemed simple. General Sir Douglas Haig claimed that after a weeklong bombardment of the German front line their defences would be destroyed with ‘not even a rat” alive at the end of it. The Infantry would then advance to take hold of the German positions and a charge of Cavalry would sweep through Cambrai to Douai, breaking the enemy line in two.
Sadly the reality was that when the men went over-the-top at 7.30 am on 1 July 1916, wave after wave were simply mown down by enemy fire. By the end of the first day approximately 60,000 men were killed or wounded. The French, attacking where the defences were weaker, had been more successful but without back up from the British they were unable to hold on to their advance.
Haig allowed the bloodshed to continue, convinced that there would eventually be success despite the growing losses. By the time he called off his ‘Great Push’ on 28 November 1916 more than 450,000 British, 200,000 French and 650,000 German soldiers had been slaughtered. After four months of fighting the Allies had advanced a distance of no more than five miles.
You can hear our students on Radio Lancashire on Friday 1st July after 7am.