Ormskirk Theatre Company

THE ACCRINGTON PALS

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Peter Whelan's powerful play uses fictional characters to tell the true story of the men who volunteered to serve with the 11th East Lancashire Regiment at the outbreak of the first World War in 1914.

In September 1914, a month after the outbreak of war, the mayor of Accrington, Captain John Harwood, approached the War Office and offered to raise a battalion of men for the war effort. Lord Kitchener gratefully accepted and in just ten days the full complement of volunteers - over 1,000 men - had 'taken the king's shilling' and joined the colours.


In the first days following the outbreak of war most of the recruits had come from the working classes - the army was for many a way of escaping the dreadful poverty of the times.


In the days when the class system was much more apparent than it is now, recruitment from the middle classes was slow. It was reasoned that if an appeal was made for new recruits with the promise that men would serve alongside their workmates, neighbours and family members - men of the same class fighting together - that men would be encouraged to enlist.


They became known as 'pals' battalions, and so it was that in Accrington brothers, cousins, friends and workmates - men who lived and worked together - came to fight together.


Around half the battalion was recruited from Accrington itself; the majority of the remainder came from Burnley, Chorley and Blackburn. Some even came from as far afield as Ormskirk.


After an extensive period of training, in Carnarvon and Ripon, the Pals saw their first major action on 1 July, 1916 - the first day of the Battle of the Somme. On that fateful day, 720 men from the battalion went over the top in an attempt to capture the town of Serre. Within half an hour, 584 of them were killed, wounded or missing.


Peter Whelan's play tells the story through both the eyes of the men who volunteered and the women who were left behind.


What happened in Ormskirk during the Great War? Click here