The hustle and bustle of Preston railway station came to a standstill this week as Prestonian’s paid their respects to the city’s wartime fallen.
Andrew Mather, Chairman of the Preston Pals War Memorial Trust, welcomed servicemen, veterans, schoolchildren and the public to the service to commemorate the 250-strong 7th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, known as the Preston Pals.
Taking place on Monday, July 23, the date was chosen to mark the date in 1916 that 70 per cent of the Preston Pals were killed or wounded in the battle of Bazentin-le-Petit on the fields of the Somme in northern France.
Andrew said: “It was a very moving morning with a very good crowd full of young and old.
“It was a fitting tribute and a big thank you to everybody who took the effort to attend.”
Six wreathes were laid by The Lord Shuttleworth, Preston Mayor Trevor Hart, Colonel Nick Medway, British Transport Police Inspector Neil Hubbs, Andy Clare of Virgin Trains, and Sgt Aryton Mills from Rossall School.
“They all played a very special part in the day,” 80-year-old Andrew added.
Shirley Ross, Virgin Trains Station Manager at Preston, said: “We’re proud to have worked in partnership with Preston Pals War Memorial Trust, railway partners and the local community to host the last commemorative centenary service to remember the Preston Pals, on what is a significant date in their history.”
Readings were also given by the acting Vicar of Preston, The Ven. Michael Everitt, and Fr Paul Fletcher from Sr Wilfrid’s Church Preston.
At the event Mr Mather, a former printer by trader, acknowledged how the Pals remembrance memorial and services have all come from a letter sent to the Lancashire Post in 2008 by a Mrs Rita Finley asking why there was no memorial at the station – a gateway for soldiers leaving the city to go to the front line in the First World War.
Andrew continued: “For years it was overlooked but I am hoping it will now last for another 100 years. The memorial is a beautiful piece of artwork.
“In 1918 no one would have imagined that 100 years later there would be a memorial to the Preston Pals and which may still be here on Preston station in 100 years, just as long as trains, in whatever form, are running through here.”
Ms Ross from Virgin Trains added: “2018 marks the final year of the centenary of the First World War and whilst this is the last major event to remember the Preston Pals, the permanent memorial here at the station provides a fitting backdrop for future services and ensures the Preston Pals will never be forgotten.”
Acting Chief inspector Neil Hubbs said: It is an honour to remember those from the Preston Pals who served and lost their lives in the Great War and is especially significant for ourselves, as part of the railway family, as the memorial is at the station, given it was the last piece of home that many ever saw.”
The service concluded with The Last Post and two minutes silence, both of which were well respected.
Schools tributes to First World War soldiers
A project to commemorate soldiers involved in the Mesopotamian campaign in the First World War has been completed by pupils from four Lancashire schools.
Schoolchildren from Walton-Le-Dale High School, Hogdson Academy, Carnforth High School, and Central Lancaster High School have created a textile wall about the conflict, which involved the 6th Battalions of four Lancashire Infantry Regiments.
Lancashire County Coun Peter Buckley, cabinet member for community and cultural services, said: “This fabulous project has enabled pupils to research some individual stories and reveal a truly fascinating insight into how some men from Lancashire participated in one campaign of the First World War.
“The multicultural element of the war is often overlooked, but we have to remember that it was an empire then and we have a Commonwealth now.
“There were many Indian troops on the Western Front, and we are still immensely proud of our ongoing links with the battalions of the Indian army, who are the heirs to our comrades from the First World War.”
Pupils started to work on the project last summer, initially to understand why British and Indian troops had been sent to Mesopotamia to fight the Ottoman forces.
The stories picked include a Lancashire and an Indian soldier who received the Victoria Cross, a lamplighter from Preston who lost his life in Mesopotamia, two cousins who joined the army together and a young officer who travelled from a plantation in South America to join a Lancashire battalion.