Irishmen - To Arms recruitment poster for Tyneside Irish Battalion, c. 1914. This poster demonstrates how the recruitment of Pals battalions could appeal to both local and ethnic identities. This recruitment drive in Newcastle-upon-Tyne raised four Tyneside Irish battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers. Four Tyneside Scottish battalions were also raised. All eight units later joined 34th Division. The poster bears an image of Field Marshal Sir John French, Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force
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Within weeks of the outbreak of war it became clear that the manpower of a small professional British Army was insufficient for a major global conflict. In a wave of patriotic fervour, thousands of men volunteered for service in Kitchener’s New Armies. The War Office realised that local ties could be harnessed for national gain. Many more men would enlist if they could serve alongside their workmates, friends and relatives.
On 21 August 1914, the first Pals battalion began to be raised from the stockbrokers of the City of London. In a matter of days 1,600 men had joined what became the10th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. Lord Derby first coined the phrase 'battalion of pals' and recruited enough men to form three battalions of the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment in only a week.
Pals battalions became synonymous with the towns of northern Britain. Men from cities including Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Hull, Glasgow and Edinburgh all enlisted in their thousands in 1914 and 1915. But Pals battalions were also raised from Birmingham to Bristol and from Cambridge to Cardiff.
After training, many of the Pals battalions saw their first major action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916. Many of these units sustained heavy casualties, which had a significant impact on their communities. Conscription was introduced in 1916 and the close-knit nature of the Pals battalions was never to be replicated.
Interview with James Snailham, a Private in 11th Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment (Accrington Pals). In this interview Snailham outlines how and why he came to join up. He was motivated to enlist by the teammates of his football team, who all joined up together. They enlisted in the Chorley Pals, which became one company of the battalion that famously became known as the Accrington Pals.
Recruits of the 'Grimsby Chums' (10th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment) pose with rifles, September 1914. Access to rifles so soon after joining up was rare due to the shortage of equipment, with new recruits often having to go without khaki uniform for several months. After training, this battalion joined 34th Division and saw major action for the first time on the first day of the Battle of the Somme at La Boisselle.
Unit lapel badge of 16th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (1st Bradford Pals). This gilt and enamel badge was to be worn on civilian clothing before Army uniform was issued, partly as a result of the shortage of equipment. The battalion was raised by the Lord Mayor of Bradford in September 1914. It later became part of 31st Division, seeing major action for the first time at Serre on 1 July 1916.
uniforms and insignia
Infantrymen of 10th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment (Hull Commercials) marching near Doullens, 28 June 1916. Whilst this photograph shows men of a Hull Pals battalion clearly having been encouraged to smile for the camera, it does reflect the sense of optimism among the troops of the British Army on the eve of the Battle of the Somme. The Hull Commercials did not take part in the first day of the battle.