Pals battalion

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A commemorative plaque for the Salford Pals. Salford Pals Plaque.jpg
A commemorative plaque for the Salford Pals.

The Pals battalions of World War I were specially constituted battalions of the British Army comprising men who had enlisted together in local recruiting drives, with the promise that they would be able to serve alongside their friends, neighbours and colleagues ("pals"), rather than being arbitrarily allocated to battalions. [1]

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Battalion military unit size

A battalion is a military unit. The use of the term "battalion" varies by nationality and branch of service. Typically a battalion consists of 300 to 800 soldiers and is divided into a number of companies. A battalion is typically commanded by a lieutenant colonel. In some countries, the word "battalion" is associated with the infantry.

British Army land warfare branch of the British Armed Forces of the United Kingdom

The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a part of British Armed Forces. As of 2018, the British Army comprises just over 81,500 trained regular (full-time) personnel and just over 27,000 trained reserve (part-time) personnel.



At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, believed that overwhelming manpower was the key to winning the war and he set about looking for ways to encourage men of all classes to join. This concept stood in direct contrast to centuries of British military tradition, in which the British Army had always relied on professional (rather than conscript) soldiers, and had drawn its members from either the gentry (for officers) or lower classes (for enlisted men). General Sir Henry Rawlinson suggested that men would be more inclined to enlist in the Army if they knew that they were going to serve alongside their friends and colleagues. He appealed to London stockbrokers to raise a battalion of men from workers in the City of London to set an example. Sixteen hundred men enlisted in this 10th (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, the so-called "Stockbrokers' Battalion", within a week in late August 1914.

Secretary of State for War British cabinet-level position

The position of Secretary of State for War, commonly called War Secretary, was a British cabinet-level position which existed from 1794 to 1801 and from 1854 to 1964. The Secretary of State for War headed the War Office and was assisted by a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for War, a Parliamentary Private Secretary who was also a Member of Parliament, and a Military Secretary, who was a general.

General is the highest rank currently achievable by serving officers of the British Army. The rank can also be held by Royal Marines officers in tri-service posts, for example, General Sir Gordon Messenger the Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff. It ranks above lieutenant-general and, in the Army, is subordinate to the rank of field marshal, which is now only awarded as an honorary rank. The rank of general has a NATO-code of OF-9, and is a four-star rank. It is equivalent to a full admiral in the Royal Navy or an air chief marshal in the Royal Air Force.

Henry Rawlinson, 1st Baron Rawlinson British soldier

General Henry Seymour Rawlinson, 1st Baron Rawlinson,, known as Sir Henry Rawlinson, 2nd Baronet between 1895 and 1919, was a British World War 1 general who commanded the Fourth Army of the British Expeditionary Force at the battles of the Somme (1916) and Amiens (1918) as well as the breaking of the Hindenburg Line (1918). He commanded the Indian Army from 1920 to 1925.

A few days later, the Earl of Derby decided to raise a battalion of men from Liverpool. Within two days, 1,500 Liverpudlians had joined the new battalion. Speaking to these men Lord Derby said: "This should be a battalion of pals, a battalion in which friends from the same office will fight shoulder to shoulder for the honour of Britain and the credit of Liverpool." Within the next few days, three more battalions were raised in Liverpool, forming the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th Battalions of the King's Regiment (Liverpool).

Edward Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby British politician

Edward George Villiers Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby,, styled Mr Edward Stanley until 1886, then The Hon Edward Stanley and then Lord Stanley from 1893 to 1908, was a British soldier, Conservative politician, diplomat, and racehorse owner. He was twice Secretary of State for War and also served as British Ambassador to France.

Liverpool Pals

The Liverpool Pals were Pals battalions formed during the First World War as part of the King's (Liverpool) Regiment. They, along with the Manchester Pals, are commemorated at a small memorial in France.

Kings Regiment (Liverpool)

The King's Regiment (Liverpool) was one of the oldest line infantry regiments of the British Army, having been formed in 1685 and numbered as the 8th Regiment of Foot in 1751. Unlike most British Army infantry regiments, which were associated with a county, the King's represented the city of Liverpool, one of only four regiments affiliated to a city in the British Army. After 273 years of continuous existence, the regiment was amalgamated with the Manchester Regiment in 1958 to form the King's Regiment, which was later amalgamated with the King's Own Royal Border Regiment and the Queen's Lancashire Regiment to form the present Duke of Lancaster's Regiment.

Encouraged by Lord Derby's success, Kitchener promoted the idea of organising similar recruitment campaigns throughout the entire country. By the end of September 1914, more than fifty towns had formed Pals battalions, whilst the larger towns and cities were able to form several battalions each; Manchester, for example, raised four battalions in August, and four more in November. From the perspective of the War Office, the Pals battalion experiment relieved the heavy strain on the recruiting structure of a suddenly expanded regular army as well as easing the financial strain. In September 1914 Kitchener announced that the organizers of locally raised units would have to meet the initial accommodation and other costs involved, until the War Office took over their management. Accordingly, many recruits for the new Pals battalions were initially able to live at home while reporting for daily basic training. [2]

The Manchester Pals were pals battalions of the British Army raised in 1914 during the Great War, formed as part of Lord Kitchener's New Armies. They were formed into eight battalions of the Manchester Regiment.

War Office department of the British Government responsible for the administration of the British Army

The War Office was a Department of the British Government responsible for the administration of the British Army between 1857 and 1964, when its functions were transferred to the Ministry of Defence. It was equivalent to the Admiralty, responsible for the Royal Navy, and the Air Ministry, which oversaw the Royal Air Force. The name "War Office" is also given to the former home of the department, the War Office building, located at the junction of Horse Guards Avenue and Whitehall in central London.


The "Grimsby Chums" was formed by former schoolboys of Wintringham Secondary School in Grimsby. Many other schools, including some of the leading public schools, also formed battalions. Several sportsmen's battalions were formed, including three battalions of footballers: 17th and 23rd (Service) Battalions, Middlesex Regiment, and 16th (2nd Edinburgh) (Service) Battalion, Royal Scots, the last-mentioned battalion containing the entire first and reserve team players, several boardroom and staff members, and a sizable contingent of supporters of Scottish professional club Heart of Midlothian F.C. [3] Out of nearly 1,000 battalions raised during the first two years of the war, 145 Service and seventy Reserve infantry units were locally raised Pals battalions. [2] Some Pals battalions were trade/social-background linked rather than area linked, such as artists' battalions and sportsmen's battalions. Professional golfers Albert Tingey, Sr., Charles Mayo, and James Bradbeer joined Pals battalions. [1]

Grimsby Chums

The Grimsby Chums was a British First World War Pals battalion of Kitchener's Army raised in and around the town of Grimsby in Lincolnshire in 1914. When the battalion was taken over by the British Army it was officially named the 10th (Service) Battalion, The Lincolnshire Regiment. It was the only 'pals battalion' to be called 'chums'.

Middlesex Regiment

The Middlesex Regiment was a line infantry regiment of the British Army in existence from 1881 until 1966. The regiment was formed, as the Duke of Cambridge's Own , in 1881 as part of the Childers Reforms when the 57th and 77th Regiments of Foot were amalgamated with the county's militia and rifle volunteer units.

McCrae's Battalion was the affectionate name given by the people of Edinburgh to the 16th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Scots in World War I, raised from volunteers in 1914 as part of the New Armies called to the Colours by Lord Kitchener. The unit was named after its charismatic colonel, former Liberal MP for Edinburgh East, Sir George McCrae.


While the majority of Pals units were infantry battalions, local initiatives resulted in the raising of forty-eight companies of engineers, forty-two batteries of field artillery and eleven ammunition columns, [2] drawn mainly from groups with common occupational backgrounds. The relatively high skills and educational levels of many Pals battalions meant an outflow of potential officers for commissioning elsewhere, from 1915 on.


Many of these locally raised battalions suffered heavy casualties during the Somme offensives of 1916. A notable example was the 11th (Service) Battalion (Accrington), East Lancashire Regiment, better known as the Accrington Pals. The Accrington Pals were ordered to attack Serre, the most northerly part of the main assault, on the opening day of the battle. The Accrington Pals were accompanied by Pals battalions drawn from Sheffield, Leeds, Barnsley, and Bradford. [4] Of an estimated 700 Accrington Pals who took part in the attack, 235 were killed and 350 wounded within the space of twenty minutes. [5] Despite repeated attempts, Serre was not taken until February 1917, at which time the German Army had evacuated to the Hindenburg Line.

Termination of regional or group recruiting

The Battle of the Somme marked a turning point in the Pals battalion experiment. Many were disbanded or amalgamated after the scheme effectively came to an end following the summer of 1916. Others retained their titles until the end of the war but with recruitment dependent upon drafts from a common pool of conscripts rather than from those with regional or other common ties. The Sheffield City Battalion (12th York and Lancaster Regiment) had lost 495 dead and wounded in one day on the Somme and was brought back to strength by October only by drafts from diverse areas. The practice of drawing recruits from a particular region or group meant that, when a "Pals battalion" suffered heavy casualties, the impact on individual towns, villages, neighborhoods, and communities back in Britain could be immediate and devastating. With the introduction of conscription in March 1916, further Pals battalions were not sought. Voluntary local recruitment outside the regular army structure, so characteristic of the atmosphere of 1914–15, was not repeated in World War II. [6]

See also

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The Tyneside Scottish Brigade was raised in 1914 as part of Kitchener's Army. Officially numbered the 102nd Brigade, it contained four Pals battalions from Newcastle-on-Tyne.

The Accrington Pals, officially the 11th (Service) Battalion (Accrington), East Lancashire Regiment, was a pals battalion of Kitchener's Army raised in and around the town of Accrington during the First World War.

Public Schools Battalions

The Public Schools Battalions were Pals battalions of the British Army during the First World War. They were raised as part of Kitchener's Army, originally made up exclusively of former public schoolboys. When the battalions were taken over by the British Army they became variously the 16th (Service) Battalion, Middlesex Regiment and 18th (Service) Battalion , 19th (Service) Battalion , 20th (Service) Battalion and 21st (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers.

Leeds Pals

The Leeds Pals were a First World War Pals battalion of Kitchener's Army raised in the West Yorkshire city of Leeds. When the battalion was taken over by the British Army it was officially named the 15th Battalion, The Prince of Wales's Own.

Royal Munster Fusiliers (New Army)

The Royal Munster Fusiliers was a regular infantry regiment of the British Army. One of eight Irish regiments raised largely in Ireland, its home depot in Tralee. With the outbreak of World War I in August 1914 the immediate need for a considerable expansion of the British Army resulted in the formation of the New Army under Lord Kitchener. The war target was seventy divisions in all, the New Army to have thirty volunteer divisions separate and under Army Order 324, as additional from the Regular Army, with a planned period of service of at least three years. On 7 August a general United Kingdom-wide call for 100,000 volunteers aged 19–30 was issued. The battalions were to be distinguished by the word ‘Service’ after their number.

The Sheffield City Battalion was a Pals battalion during the First World War.

The Barnsley Pals were two Pals battalions during the First World War.

Charles Wilson, 2nd Baron Nunburnholme British politician

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The Sportsman's Battalions, also known as the 23rd (Service) Battalion and 24th (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers were among the Pals battalions formed by the British Army in the early stages of the First World War (1914–1918). Rather than be taken from a small geographical area, these particular battalions were largely made up of men who had made their name in sports such as cricket, golf, boxing and football or the media.

The Preston Pals — officially 'D' Company, 7th (Service) Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment — were a group of men from the town of Preston in Lancashire, England, who volunteered to fight in France during World War I, and took part in the Battle of the Somme.

British Army First World War reserve brigades

The article lists British Army reserve brigades in the First World War. At the start of the war, British Army volunteers in the vast majority of cases joined their local infantry regiments reserve battalion.

The 92nd Brigade was an infantry formation of the British Army during World War I. Composed of battalions of volunteers raised in the city of Kingston upon Hull for 'Kitchener's Army', it formed part of 31st Division, It first served in Egypt defending the Suez Canal between January and March 1916. It then left for the Western Front where it was at Serre on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916, though its battalions escaped the worst of the disaster. It continued to serve on the Western Front for the rest of the war, including hard fighting at Oppy Wood, against the German Spring Offensive and in the final Hundred Days Offensive.

Hull Pals

The Hull Pals were a brigade of four battalions of the East Yorkshire Regiment raised as part of Kitchener's Army in 1914. They served in 31st Division at Serre on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916, though they escaped the worst of the disaster. However, they suffered heavy casualties in the same area later in the year, and again at Oppy Wood in early 1917. They continued to serve on the Western Front for the rest of the war, including hard fighting against the German Spring Offensive and in the final Hundred Days Offensive.

Reginald St John Battersby youngest known commissioned officer of the British Army of the First World War

Reginald St John Beardsworth Battersby was, at the age of 15, the youngest known commissioned officer of the British Army of the First World War. He enlisted in the Manchester Regiment at the age of 14 and was promoted to lance corporal within a week. When his father realised what Battersby had done, he intervened and had him commissioned as an officer in the East Lancashire Regiment. Battersby was wounded in action leading a platoon over the top on the first day of the Somme but returned to duty to fight in the 1917 Operations on the Ancre. It was here that he was struck by shrapnel from a German shell, resulting in the amputation of his left leg. Battersby was asked to resign his commission owing to disability but insisted he could still be of use to the army if fitted with a prosthetic leg and successfully returned to duty with a Royal Engineers transport unit. After the war he studied theology and became a vicar at Chittoe, Wiltshire. During the Second World War he organised the local Home Guard unit and between 1943 and 1945 served as a chaplain to the Royal Marines at Chatham Dockyard.


  1. 1 2 Robinson, Bruce (10 March 2011). "The Pals Battalions in World War One". BBC . Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 Chandler, David. The Oxford History of the British Army. p. 241. ISBN   0-19-285333-3.
  3. War Memorial Site [ permanent dead link ]
  4. "Serre". World War One Battlefields. 2006. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
  5. "Carnage as 235 Pals died in 20 minutes". Accrington Observer . 30 June 2006. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
  6. Chandler, David. The Oxford History of the British Army. p. 242. ISBN   0-19-285333-3.