On Friday 1 July 2022 everyone is invited to attend two ceremonies in Hyndburn led by the Council and Royal British Legion. The First to commemorate the Battle of the Somme at St James’ Church in Accrington at 10:00am, the second to commemorate the centenary of the Oak Hill Park Cenotaph at 2:30pm.
The Accrington Pals are interweaved into the fabric of Hyndburn’s history. Forming a battalion to fight in the first world war. On 1 July 1916, during the fateful first day of the Battle of the Somme, they suffered severe losses and over 600 casualties. The Community back home was left shattered, and all were touched with so many losing husbands, sons, brothers, uncles, friends and neighbours.
We invite you to remember all those who lost their lives, their bravery and sacrifice.
Battle of the Somme Commemorations
Friday 1 July 10:00am start
Accrington Pals Memorial, Church Street Gardens
St James Church, Accrington, BB5 2ER
Itinerary includes welcome, address, prayer, laying of the wreaths and blessing
Centenary of the Oak Hill Park Cenotaph Commemorations
Friday 1 July (arrive at 2:15pm) 2:30pm start
Memorial, Oak Hill Park, Manchester Road
Accrington, BB5 2NY
Itinerary includes welcome, Hymn, rededication of the memorial, prayer, laying of the wreaths, concert band and blessing
Anyone connected to a person named on the Cenotaph is invited to bring a wreath or tribute to lay as part of the ceremony at Oak Hill Park. Members of the public will then be invited to lay a wreath/tribute following this.
About the Oak Hill Park War Memorial, The Accrington Pals and the Battle of The Somme (via historic England)
The stone obelisk has a female figure alongside eternal flames. Tablets of Westmoreland stone hold the names of 865 fallen for World War I and 170 from World War II.
The war memorial was unveiled on 1 July 1922, the sixth anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme, by Mr HH Bolton JP, a local industrialist who had lost three sons in the war, it cost £6,885.
The first wreath was laid by Captain Harwood, who when Mayor had raised the Accrington Pals Battalion. The 11th Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment raised in September 1914 was one of the ‘Pals battalions’, comprised of men who had enlisted together with the promise that they would be able to serve alongside their friends, neighbours and work colleagues (‘pals’), rather than being arbitrarily allocated to battalions.
This was one of 96 Pals and City battalions, units raised by private bodies and local authorities that provided the necessary clothing, billeting and food whilst the army provided weapons and training. After a brief spell occupied in the defence of the Suez Canal from late-1915, the soldiers sailed for France in the Spring of 1916 to participate in the Somme campaign, where 94 Brigade was tasked with taking the German lines in the environs of the village of Serre.
This was the first action seen by the troops of this brigade. At 7.20am on the first day of the Battle of the Somme,1 July 1916, some 720 men of 11th Battalion began the assault on the German lines: within half an hour, 235 had been killed and 350 wounded by enfilading rifle and machine gun fire. Small parties penetrated the German lines but no gains could be made. What remained of the battalion stayed in the front line until 1.00am on 2 July, when it was relieved.
Percy Holmes, the brother of an original Pal, recalled “I remember when the news came through to Accrington that the Pals had been wiped out. I don’t think there was a street in Accrington and district that didn’t have their blinds drawn, and the bell at Christ Church tolled all the day.”
Over the following six months the battalion was re-formed and continued in service until February 1918, when it was transferred to 92 Brigade. In all, Accrington lost 865 men during the First World War. The Second World War commemorative wall was built at the memorial and unveiled in 1951. One further name has been added, for Northern Ireland, and two from the Falklands Campaign.
The temple-like war memorial stands at the highest point of Oak Hill Park, overlooking Accrington. In fine-jointed sandstone ashlar, it comprises a wide podium with a projecting, pedimented, centre from which rises a tall obelisk, square on plan. To the rear of the podium an inscription carved in relief within a rectangular cartouche reads THIS LAND INVIOLATE,/ THEIRS THE GLORY. To the front the principal dedicatory inscription, in a similar cartouche, reads TO THE HONOURED MEMORY/ OF THE MEN OF ACCRINGTON/ WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE/ GREAT WAR 1914 – 1919.
Below this on the stylobate is carved THEIR NAME LIVETH FOR EVER MORE. he front face of the podium wings are decorated with wreaths suspended from swags, carved in relief.
To the front, overlooking the park, is a tall free-standing female figure representing Compassion and Piety, holding a wreath and palm leaf. Steps on each side in front of the plinth lead to a retaining wall bearing thirteen Westmoreland slate tablets, on which are commemorated 865 names of those from the town who fell in the First World War.
A separate pedimented stone wall in front bearing four more panels with 173 names from the Second World War, and with one name from Northern Ireland and two from the Falklands Campaign added, reflects the form of the main memorial. On the rear, underneath the pediment, the principal dedication reads LET US REMEMBER THOSE/ WHO IN THEIR LIVES/ FOUGHT AND DIED/ FOR US with, to the front, IN MEMORIAM/ 1939 – 45