Pals Remembered On The Somme

A visit to the WW1 trenches on the Somme in France at the start of July had an added poignancy for local historian, Steve Williams.

Private Benjamin Balme

Private Benjamin Balme

Besides laying a wreath on the Chorley Pals plaque at Serre, he paid respects to one of his relatives who was killed in action in the adjoining trenches.

21 year old Private Benjamin Balme was killed in action attacking the small French village of Serre on the 1st July 1916, going over the top with the 1st Bradford Pals battalion to the right of the Chorley Pals, at the start of the Battle of the Somme.

He died almost immediately and has no known grave being commemorated, like thousands of others, on the Thiepval Memorial.

Steve only found out about his relative (he was his Grandmother’s nephew) when doing some research into his family tree earlier this year.

Steve Williams laying a wreath at the Chorley pals memorial at Serre

Steve Williams laying a wreath at the Chorley pals memorial at Serre

However, the power of the Internet brought a twist to the story. He put a few lines about his relative on the Chorley Pals website – Steve is Co-Founder of the Chorley Pals Memorial Appeal, and was amazed to be contacted by Dan Eaton from the village of Clayton, near Bradford.

Mr. Eaton is writing a book about the men from his village who fought in the Bradford Pals during the Great War – he supplied Steve with a photograph and details of Pt. Balme. Steve placed a poppy close to his relative’s name on the Thiepval Memorial and left a few lines in the memorial’s register.

During his four day trip to northern France Steve Williams visited a number of graves and memorials of Chorley Pals. Memorials at Loos and Arras record the names of Pals who survived the Somme but died later in the War, whilst the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme records the names of 21 Chorley Pals who were killed on the morning of the battle.

However, it was at the small Chorley Pals plaque at Serre that he laid a wreath of red poppies, supplied by the Chorley Pals Memorial appeal Co-Founder, MP Lindsay Hoyle. Steve said “I have been to the Somme many times over the last few years but this trip had a special meaning to me, not only to pay respects to the Chorley Pals but to remember my own relative”.

Steve Williams