Insight in to Chorley Pals fate revealed ahead of WW1 conference

Stanley Holgate

Research by local WW1 historian & author Steve Williams ahead of a conference on the First World War in Preston this weekend, has revealed some fascinating facts and insight into the fate of the Chorley Pals Company.

Between September 1914 and June 1915, just over two hundred local men joined up to form a very close knit unit.

During the war, 54 of the original 221 were killed in action or died of wounds or illness, with 34 dying as a direct result of the attack on the Somme on the 1st July 1916.

A further eighty four of the original unit were wounded or were gassed in over four years of war; thirteen were discharged from the Army all together, with a further fifty were transferred to other units.

Five Chorley Pals were taken prisoner (all in 1918), with six men receiving gallantry awards – one, Corporal Esmond Nowell from Abbey Village, won the Distinguished Conduct Medal and a Military Medal within ten weeks on the Somme in 1916.

Just less than half of the original Chorley Pals were in the unit at the end the War. Three of the men who survived emigrated to North America whilst two, sadly, committed suicide in the 1940s.

The last surviving Chorley Pal died in October 1991, aged 93 years of age.

Commenting on the conference and research, Chorley Pals Memorial Secretary Steve Williams said: “I was really flattered to be asked to present a paper at the conference, which looks at Lancashire men in The Great War.

“Some of the statistics though are very sad, with one out of every four of the original Chorley Pals not surviving the war and just one in every three coming home supposedly unscathed.”

Over sixty delegates will attend the two day conference at the University of Central Lancashire and Steve’s theme is ‘Two years in the making (ten minutes in the destroying)’, reflecting the fate of many ‘Pals’ units on the 1st July 1916 – a day which saw nearly 20,000 men killed on the Somme.

The photo shows Private Stanley Holgate, who was wounded on the Somme, being eventually discharged out of the Chorley Pals and the Army the following year (his cap is covering his damaged hand).