The Chorley Pals Memorial, a registered charity set up by the town’s MP, Lindsay Hoyle and Brindle historian Steve Williams have been awarded a grant of £10,000 from the National Lottery ‘Awards for All’ scheme.
The appeal aims to raise £55,000 for a suitable memorial to the 215 men from the town who joined up as ‘Pals’ in the First World War, becoming Y Company of the 11th (Service) Battalion (Accrington) East Lancashire Regiment – the famous ‘Accrington Pals’. On the 1st July 1916 the Battalion attacked the village of Serre in northern France, at the start of the Battle of the Somme. Like many others on that day, the Chorley Pals suffered a high number of casualties with 31 men being killed and three eventually dying from their wounds. Many have no known grave and are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, close to the battlefield. A further 59 were wounded that morning, making a total casualty list of 93 out of approximately 175 from the Company who went over the top.
In the now filled in trenches from where the Chorley attacked is the only memorial to the men – a small brass plaque on a concrete plinth, placed there in 1998 and paid for by private donations. Surprisingly there is no memorial to the men in the town, although there is a room in the Astley Hall museum which has the roll of honour of the original Pals who joined up in September 1914.
The appeal is to raise funds for a memorial to the men, by way of a seven foot statue of a soldier in full kit, to be placed in a prominent position close to the town’s market. The project will be unique as it has been many years since a war memorial has been commissioned on this scale in the U.K.
The Trustees have already appointed a sculptor, local artist Peter Hodgkinson from Preston who did the ‘Splash’ statue of Sir Tom Finney erected outside the National Football Museum at Preston North End’s ground in the city. He has also recently completed a statue to northern comedian Les Dawson and one of duo Wallace & Gromit. Part of the ‘Awards for All’ money will go to pay for initial design work – the drawings and subsequent model will be the launch pad for the appeal, giving local people and potential donors an idea of the finished statue.
A major portion of the £10,000 of the Lottery award will go to publishing a new book about the Chorley Pals. It is to be written by local author John Garwood, an expert on the Chorley Pals and Steve Williams, the Appeal Secretary, who is also a World War One historian having assisted BBC Television in the North West with several WW1 projects over the last eighteen months. The basis of the book will be John Garwood’s extensive archive on the Chorley Pals, as well as a book he wrote and last updated in 1992. The intention is for a limited edition of 1,000 books to be printed and sold to raise £12,500 for the appeal; it is hoped they will be available by Remembrance Day in November.
The remaining money from Awards for All will be spent on publicising the appeal to the people of Chorley and surrounding area, as well as maintaining this website – a vital resource for the appeal, at the same time making the history of the Chorley Pals available to a global audience.
Steve Williams said “The award is so vital to us and will definitely help in getting the appeal off the ground”.
It is hoped that the statue will be unveiled in July 2009, 93 years after the Pals went over the top on that fateful morning.