Pals Battalions

Discussion in 'World War 1' started by liverpool annie, Dec 29, 2008.

  1. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Lord Kitchener was appointed Secretary for War in August 1914. His main task was to persuade men to join the British Army. At a meeting on the 19th August it was suggested by Sir Henry Rawlinson that men would be more willing to enlist if they knew they would serve with people they knew. Rawlinson asked his friend, Robert White, to raise a battalion composed of men who worked in the City. White opened a recruiting office in Throgmorton Street and in the first two hours, 210 City workers joined the army. Six days later, the Stockbrokers' Battalion, as it became known, had 1,600 men.

    When Lord Edward Derby heard about Robert White's success he decided to form a battalion in Liverpool. Derby opened the recruitment office on 28th August 1914 and by the end of the day had signed up 1,500 men. It was Derby who first used the term a "battalion of pals" to describe men who had been recruited locally.

    When Lord Kitchener heard about Derby's success in Liverpool he decided to encourage towns and villages all over Britain to organise recruitment campaigns based on the promise that the men could serve with friends, neighbours and workmates. These units were raised by local authorities, industrialists or committees of private citizens. By the end of September over fifty towns in Britain had formed pals battalions. The larger towns and cities were able to form more than one battalion. Manchester and Hull had four, Liverpool, Birmingham and Glasgow had three and many more were able to raise at least two battalions. In Gasgow one battalion was drawn from the drivers, conductors, mechanics and labourers of the city's Tramways Department.

    In August 1914 several young men who had attended Winteringham Secondary School in Grimsby suggested to the former headmaster that he should form a battalion from his former pupils. He agreed and by the end of October he had recruited over 1,000 members into what they called the 'Grimsby Chums'. Other schools, including five of Britain's leading public schools, also formed battalions.

    West Ham United supporters also formed their own Pals Battalion. The 13th (Service) Battalion (West Ham Pals) were part of the Essex Regiment. In his book War Hammers: The Story of West Ham United During the First World War, Brian Belton argues that the battle cry of the West Ham Pals was "Up the Irons." They saw action at the Somme, Ypres, Vimy Ridge and Cambrai. The war took a terrible toll on these men. Over the next three years the battalion suffered casualties of 37,404 killed, wounded and missing.

    In September Mrs. E. Cunliffe-Owen gained permission from Lord Kitchener to raise a sportsman's battalion. This battalion included two famous cricketers and the lightweight boxing champion of England. Later, a group of friends formed a footballers' battalion.

    Pals battalions made up a significant proportion of Kitchener's army. Between September 1914 and June 1916, a total of 351 infantry battalions were raised by the War Office through the traditional channels whereas 643 battalions were raised locally.

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