The idea for a permanent memorial to the Chorley Pals came from a chance meeting at the start of 2007 between local Historian and WW1 enthusiast Steve Williams, and Lindsay Hoyle (the town’s Member of Parliament).
Both of us recognised that, nearly 90 years after the end of The Great War, no permanent memorial existed in the town.
We launched an appeal on the 23rd February that year – 92 years on from when the local Pals unit left Chorley railway station to go off to war. In less than three years, we and fellow Trustees, are close to achieving our aim.
For some, the road to erecting a memorial to the Pals started back as early as late 1916 when Miss Knight, a local School-teacher, muted the idea but no support was forthcoming. Eight years later, in 1924, Astley Hall was given by the Tatton family to the Borough of Chorley as a memorial to all the men from the area who fought and died in World War One. Whilst the Hall is now a museum and art gallery, there is a small memorial room to the fallen from 1914 to 1918 – upon its walls is an illuminated scroll listing the original Chorley Pals, donated by Miss Knight.
For nearly 60 years, the Pals were forgotten. In September 1985 local historian, John Garwood (now one of our Trustees) placed a small wooden plaque on a tree in the trenches at Serre on the Somme where the Chorley Pals went over the top for the first time on the 1st July 1916. That plaque was mysteriously removed in the summer of 1997 but John replaced it a year later with a new metal one, which is still on the tree today. John Garwood should be recognised for his work in keeping the memory of the Chorley Pals very much alive over the last 35 years.
On the 1st July 1998 a larger metal plaque on a stone base was unveiled in the trenches at Serre, paid for by Chorley Borough Council (although no Councillors or officials from the Council where there to see it unveiled). The plaque has on it the 1988 Chorley coat of arms and an inscription in both French and English. This small memorial was moved close to the main Accrington Pals memorial in the front line trench in June 2006. That larger memorial, constructed appropriately from Accrington Brick shipped from Lancashire, was dedicated at a service on the 29th September, 1991.
At the start of the new millennium, members the Chorley branch of the Royal British Legion looked to erect a plaque to the Chorley Pals on the wall of Booth’s Supermarket in the town. On the 1st July 2008 their plaque was unveiled. Whilst recognising the sacrifice of the Chorley Pals, the plaque did not list the names of the original men who formed the unit back in 1914.
In August 2008, the Chorley Pals Memorial obtained two donations totalling £95,000 – enough to pay for the project in full. Preston based sculptor Peter Hodgkinson was commissioned to design the statue – he designed the ‘Splash’ statue of Sir Tom Finney which resides outside Preston North End’s ground. The one and a third size bronze statue of a First World War soldier going “over the top” will sit on an eight foot high plinth, upon which will have upon it the names of the 225 men who formed the original Pals.
At the start of the appeal back in February 2007, we looked to make the dream of a memorial to the Chorley Pals a reality – on the 28th February 2010 that dream will be finally realised. The memorial will take pride of place in the town, proudly overlooking the ‘Flat Iron’ market – a place well known to all the Pals back in 1914.
We and fellow Trustees of the Chorley Pals Memorial wish to thank all those who have helped the appeal in so many ways. Special mention goes to the families of Chorley Pals for their unwavering support and to all those who have contributed financially – large or small. Thanks also go to Chorley Building Society for publicity and marketing of the Chorley Pals book which, to date, has raised over £3,000 for the appeal fund. The memorial certainly would not have happened without the Sculptor, Peter Hodgkinson, nor the work and support of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and Eric Wright Civil Engineering Limited.
Thank you, all.
Lindsay Hoyle MP & Steve Williams
Chorley, 18th January 2010