Aftermath - when the boys came home

Monday 28 February 2011

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The Accrington Pals
by Mike Harding

The Accrington Pals is probably the best remembered of the battalions raised in the early months of the First World War in response to Kitchener's call for a volunteer army. Groups of friends from all walks of life in Accrington and its neighbouring towns enlisted together to form a battalion with a distinctively local identity. In its first major action, the battalion suffered devastating losses in the attack on Serre on 1st July 1916, the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. The losses were hard to bear in a community where nearly everyone had a relative or friend who had been killed or wounded. The story becomes no less tragic with the passing of the years; you can find out the full story at www.pals.org.uk.

Mike Harding tells the story in his own way in his moving and poignant song.

Smoky town where they were born,
Down in the valley, smoky little streets.
They were pals from childhood days,
Climbing trees and running through the fields.
And they all played together through the turning of the years,
Sharing their laughter, sharing all their fears.
Seasons saw them growing and
Seasons passing turned them round
With the turning, turning, turning years -
The Accrington Pals.

Schooldays' end the lads all went
To work, some spinning, some weaving in the sheds,
On the land or down the pit,
Working hard to earn their daily bread.
And they all went walking up old Pendle Hill,
On Sundays the larks sang high above the dales.
Little Willie Riley played his mandolin and sang,
They were laughing, they were singing then -
The Accrington Pals.

1916 came the call,
"We need more lads to battle with the Hun.
Lads of Lancashire, heed the call,
With God on our side, the battle will soon be won."
So they all came marching to the beating of the drums,
Down from the fields and factories they come,
Smiling at the girls who
Came to see them on their way.
They were marching, marching, marching away -
The Accrington Pals.

Blue sky shining on a perfect day,
A lark was singing, high above the Somme.
Brothers, pals and fathers lay
Watching that sweet bird sing in the quiet of the dawn.
And they all went walking out towards the howling guns,
Talking and laughing, calmly walking on,
Believing in the lies that
Left them dying in the mud,
And they're lying, lying, lying still -
The Accrington Pals.

Smoky town which heard the news,
Down in the valley, smoky little streets.
Houses quiet and curtains pulled,
All round the town a silent shroud of grief.
And the larks were singing still above old Pendle Hill,
The wind was in the bracken and the sun was shining still.
A lark was singing sweetly as
The evening fell upon the Somme.

(spoken) For Edward Parkinson,
Bobby Henderson, Willie Clegg,
Johnny Molloy, Norman Jones,
Albert Berry, Willie Riley -
(sung) The Accrington Pals.
(drum-roll into brass band arrangement of "The Battle of the Somme")

Bombers MoonClick here to listen to the song which is included on the recently reissued CD Bombers Moon which is available here
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