9 November 2014

Pals

Some of  The Accrington Pals before The Battle of the Somme
Shirley and I stayed in darkest Lancashire last night and have survived to tell our story! Everything was in sepia. There were women in shawls and flat-capped men in clogs, their backs bent as they moved between satanic cotton mills and cramped rows of terraced houses. Their vowels were so rounded  that we could hardly understand what they were trying to say. That's Lancashire for you.
Typical housing in Lancashire - Burnley
We had travelled over the forbidden hills to watch Hull City play Burnley at their Turf Moor stadium. Their supporters huddled outside fish and chip shops and pubs, taking in their customary fuel before the match commenced. Sadly we lost by one goal to nil and I am starting to see challenging times ahead for my beloved Tigers. It was Burnley's first victory of the season.
Before the match at Turf Moor, Burnley
We stayed in a little guesthouse in Clayton-le-Moors, drank beer in "The Albion" and had a very good curry meal in the "Balti Stan " restaurant before rising this morning for a full English breakfast. After this, we drove into Accrington where I had planned that we would attend the town's Remembrance Day Service in Oak Hill Park..
Curry in "The Balti Stan"
Accrington is quite famous in Britain's long history of warfare. In late 1914, the town sought to recruit an entire battalion of volunteer soldiers who would become known as The Accrington Pals. They gathered with hope and with pride in their country and spent the next year training to go to war. It wasn't until the early morning of July 1st 1916 that The Accrington Pals entered that awful war.

That morning, the very first day of The Battle of the Somme, 584 Accrington men were slaughtered in their quest to take the German position at Serre. All that hope and all that national pride had ended in a hellish bloodbath on a day when 60,000 British troops in total died. 

Back in Accrington, when the terrible news broke, not one street was unaffected and of course everyone knew someone who had died. Curtains were drawn and there was much weeping and wailing. A generation of largely young men had gone. So much for hope and pride and so much  for benign and omnipotent deities. The killing of The Accrington Pals was emblematic, capturing in smallscale the entire nation's horror.

So we stood with the townsfolk, sang "Abide With Me" and observed two minutes' silence in the shadow of a magnificent cenotaph that was funded entirely by public subscription. An old soldier called Gordon collapsed and looked so still and grey that you thought he was dead but thankfully he recovered with the help of St John's Ambulance folk. He had come to pay his respects to The Accrington Pals and all the other young men and women who lost their lives in these seemingly endless wars. 
Old navy man waiting to place his wreath on the cenotaph
Female figure on Accrington Cenotaph
Lest we forget.

17 comments:

  1. May we never forget....nor the future generations. Lest We Forget....

    I'm constantly reminded...and will never forget....my birthday is 11th November...and I was born on or about the 11th hour....around five minutes past the hour!!!

    I think it's time I made myself a curry!

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    1. Born at eleven on the eleventh of November but surely not in 1911? Come on Lee, get currying!

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  2. These stories are all so sad, how could we ever forget them. Such an awful time. I'm so glad I wasn't born then!

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    1. For our tomorrows they gave their today. I wish that wars were fought by the politicians and leaders who make them. This would make casualty figures so tiny as to be negligible.

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  3. That female figure is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen....lovely

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    1. Accrington's lovely cenotaph is the largest one outside London. The female figure with palm and wreath in hand has an enigmatic expression - at once accusing and consoling.

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  4. Too sad for words, and I don't mean living conditions in Lancashire.
    As for the curry meal - that naan bread looks very good!

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    1. It was so light it might have floated away from our table. Be grateful you married a Yorkshireman and not a Lancastrian!

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    2. I deeply resemble that remark!

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  5. I agree with you YP. I think we should send Cameron and Obama to Iraq or Syria with one weapon of choice each.

    What's happening to your footy team? Brucie sometimes looks extremely p***d off when he's doing his little press conference afterwards (I only watch the bits on Look North). Is it a case of too much money and not enough hunger to win?

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    1. No it is a question of key injuries that disrupted our momentum and impaired confidence. Mind you - we drew at both Liverpool and Arsenal so we can't be too bad but I am a bit anxious now. Can you please ask Tom Huddlestone why Brucie took him off against Burnley? Thanks in anticipation.

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    2. If I bump into him in the local inconvenience store, I will ask him.

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  6. Congratulations.
    We are one of the few in the world of blog who bother to remember this day. I wish I knew why. Beautifully written.

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    1. How could we possibly forget or ignore the cruel sacrifice of so many young men just a couple of generations ago? I feel their loss in my bones Adrian - in my bones.

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    2. I think your (Adrian and Neil) posts on this deeply moving day are excellent reminders but for me the horrors of war never go away and, whilst I think it is essential that we do have a focus for that remembrance, I do my reminding whenever I get an appropriate opportunity on days when other people may not have it in mind. I think we compliment each other.

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  7. You've referred to 'curry' before....I only know curry as a spice/combination of spices. What is your 'curry' and is that a loaf of bread???? Looks YUMMY! Makes me want to drink milk from a thick mug, eat rustic cheese and tear bread into chunks...

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    1. In England we have thousands of curry restaurants. We think of "curry" not just as the spice but as the prepared meal which may be vegetarian or meat-based. There are many different curry flavours. The bread you can see is flatbread - very .light and called "nan" or "naan". To get a sense of what we were eating please look at the Balti Stan menu. Go to:- . http://baltistan.co.uk/our-menu/

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