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Heroism and tragedy of the Pals' battalions; Friends went 'over the top' together and died together.

ONE of the most moving aspects of World War One was the formation of the so-called Pals' battalions in which thousands of men volunteered to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with their friends and workmates.

There would be ultimately 134 Pals' battalions, including 19 from Northumberland and 11 from Durham.

Hailing from an idea by the Earl of Derby, the 17th Battalion, the King's (Liverpool) Regiment became the first true Pals' battalion.

Encouraged by this, the Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, promoted the idea of similar recruitment campaigns across the country.

By the end of September 1914, over 50 towns had formed Pals' battalions.

Such was the rush to arms that in Newcastle, recruitment of one battalion began without any form of official sanction.

In October 1914, the Chancellor Lord Haldane visited the city and, in front of a crowd of 8,000 people, announced more battalions could be raised in the city. The result was two of the most famous of all Pals' battalions - the Tyneside Scottish and the Tyneside Irish.

However, the policy of drawing "pals" into the same regiments meant that when one suffered heavy casualties, individual towns and villages suffered disproportionately. The introduction of conscription in 1916 meant Pals' battalions were no longer sought, and the end of 1917 saw the last of them.

But it was The Battle of the Somme that highlighted the tragic Pals' flaw. Thousands of friends and neighbours went "over the top" together, and thousands died together.

HEROES OF WWI William Bigley, born Christmas Day 1889, in Jarrow, sixth child of John Henry and Maria Bigley: He joined the 3rd East Yorkshire Regiment. His first major engagement was the Battle of Ypres in 1915. He was wounded in 1916, and promoted to corporal in 1918. William was awarded the Military Medal for his actions in the Battle of Polygon Wood . He was demobilised in February 1919.

Daniel Bigley, of Jarrow, born April 1892, died December 30 1915, aged 23: After working in Jarrow's Palmer's shipyard, Daniel joined the Tynemouth Royal Garrison Artillery Company, then the Royal Naval Voluntary reserve as an ordinary seaman. He was on board HMS Natal which sank after a blast while it was moored in Scotland. 400 died. Daniel's name appears on the Palmer War Memorial.

Thomas Caffery, born West Hartlepool, lived South Shields, born 1886, died 1924, aged 38: Thomas Caffery joined the Northumberland Fusiliers (Tyneside Irish) in 1914. He was injured in the Bede Train Disaster in Jarrow on December 17,1915. 19 people died and 81 were injured. In 1917 he was diagnosed with TB and was discharged at the end of the war. He died from TB aged 38.

CAPTION(S):

Above, a World War I memorial is unveiled in John Williamson Street, South Shields, in 1919, honouring the town's war dead; below, one of the many cemeteries at Ypres, in Belgium, for the tens of thousands of British soldiers killed in World War One...lest we forget

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 29, 2014
Words:494
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