Memorial to the Pals Battalions

A new memorial to the brave Liverpool men who formed the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th Pals Battalions of the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment

Before World War I, the British Army had relied on professional soldiers to fight for king and country. But from the outset, Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, believed that the way to victory lay in superior manpower. He began a massive recruitment campaign and one of the most successful contributions came from Liverpool. At Edward Stanley, the Earl of Derby’s suggestion, men were encouraged to volunteer alongside their friends and work colleagues, their ‘pals’.

Liverpool Pals on St George's Plateau

Liverpool Pals on St George’s Plateau

Liverpool set the example for the rest of the country. Within a few days of Lord Derby’s proposal, thousands of men had enlisted at St George’s Hall alongside friends, colleagues and workmates. The overwhelming response saw the creation of four new battalions: the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th.

The newly formed Pals Battalions swelled the ranks of the King’s Regiment (Liverpool), which itself had a proud history as one of the British Army’s oldest infantry regiments, founded in 1685. In recognition of Lord Derby’s role, the Pals volunteers wore an Eagle and Child cap badge, his family crest, rather than the King’s Regiment’s usual White Horse of Hanover.

Training was tough – equipment was scarce, and much time was spent digging on Lord Derby’s estate in preparation for the trench warfare was to come. In early November 1915, all four Liverpool Pals Battalions were sent to France. They acquitted themselves well, for example playing a significant role in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. But it came at a price. Over 200 Liverpudlians were killed on the first day in the capture of Montauban – one of the very few victories on a day which saw the British Army lose 19,240 soldiers in total. Five hundred more Liverpool Pals died in a subsequent failed attack in the village of Guillemont.

In all, the Liverpool Pals Battalions suffered more than 2,800 casualties during the course of the Great War. However, wherever these men fought, they maintained their reputation for bravery, toughness and camaraderie in the face of the enemy.

The tragedy of Pals Battalions was that, although men served with friends and colleagues, they also died alongside them, leaving home towns and cities decimated and devastated. By January 1916, conscription had been introduced instead; and many Pals Battalions, struck by such heavy losses, were amalgamated into other regiments.

But Liverpool’s brave men were among the last to be stood down at the end of the war, just as they had been among the first to step forward and fight for peace.

To commemorate the day when thousands of Liverpool workers volunteered to fight for the freedom of their fellow men, a 30ft bronze memorial frieze created by Tom Murphy will be unveiled at Lime Street Station on 31 August 2014. The memorial to the Pals Battalions has been commissioned by the Liverpool Pals Memorial Fund. We look forward to seeing this special monument to commemorate some of Liverpool’s bravest and finest sons.

Louise McTigue is a freelance writer and researcher, writing on behalf of Sarsfield Memorials.