Crowds gather at Preston Pals memorial
Crowds gathered at a special service held to commemorate 100 years since the Preston Pals took part in the Battle of the Somme.
The Preston Pals war memorial trustees organised the centenary event at the city’s railway station, attended by civic dignitaries, clergy, military representatives and musicians.
The service was held to commemorate the soldiers killed at Bazentin-le-Petit in 1916, with scores of people observing a minute’s silence in the middle of the busy station.
Trustee Aidan Turner-Bishop said: “It’s the 100th anniversary to the week when the Preston Pals went into action at the Battle of the Somme.
“Because they left this station, which hasn’t changed much since those days, it just felt right.
“We’ve got trains coming in and people blowing whistles, and that’s how it would have been then.
“There’s the young sweethearts who were trying to say goodbye and there are whistles blowing and trains and that’s what it brings home here.
“It doesn’t matter if there’s an old diesel train rumbling on the platform because that’s how it felt then, and that’s the last contact with your home town you’ll probably ever see.”
Chairman of the trustees group Andrew Mather said he was pleased with the event, and said everybody had played their part.
The military band from Weeton Barracks played the rediscovered Pals March, and Mr Mather said: “I came across this music some years ago and thought it would be very appropriate for the band.
“But they didn’t know it, so they’ve been practising like mad for the last week and I think they did superbly.”
Chelsea pensioners Steve Allen and Jack Pilkington were also at the ceremony.
Mr Allen said: “My uncle Jim was the last surviving member of the Preston Pals to die, he died in 1988 aged 96.
“And I’m one of the trustees of the Preston Pals.
“I think it’s an important occasion - it’s the 100th anniversary of the Pals going away.
“We’ve done different things for the Somme and these people should be remembered.” Mr Pilkington added: “Being both Lancashire lads we had to come along and support it.
“The lads were just the same as us.
“And being ex-services and pensioners, it makes the occasion more special for us.”
Guests also included the Vice Lord Lieutenant Colonel Alan Jolley, along with the mayors of Preston and Penwortham, and the chaplain from the Royal Chelsea Hospital.
The service saw hymns, prayers and the national anthem, as well as a minute’s silence and the Last Post.