Memorial to the Leeds Pals
This simple Memorial is inscribed
THIS CAIRN WAS ERECTED BY THE
SURVIVORS, RELATIVES AND FRIENDS OF THE
15TH BATT WEST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT (LEEDS PALS)
TO MARK THE SITE OF THE FIRST CAMP (SEPTEMBER 1914)
AND IS DEDICATED TO ALL WHO SERVED IN THE BATTALION
UNVEILED SEPT 28TH 1935.
This Memorial is sited in Colsterdale.
"The 1st July is engraved deep in our hearts, along with the faces of our 'Pals', a grand crowd of chaps. We were two years in the making and ten minutes in the destroying." (Private A V Pearson, Leeds Pals)
The battalion was officially named the 15th Battalion (1st Leeds), The Prince of Wales's Own (West Yorkshire Regiment). It was formed in September 1914 and underwent training at Colsterdale in the Yorkshire Dales. It became part of the 93rd Brigade, 31st Division. The two Bradford Pals Battalions (16th and 18th Battalions, The West Yorkshire Regiment) were part of the same Division.
In December 1915 The Division was sent to Egypt to defend the Suez Canal. Then in March 1916 the battalion landed in France, in the buildup for the Battle of the Somme. On the first day on the Somme, 1 July 1916, the 31st Division attacked towards the village of Serre and the Leeds Pals advanced from a line of copses named after the Gospels. The battalion was shelled in its trenches before Zero Hour. When it advanced, it was met by heavy machine gun fire. A few men got as far as the German barbed wire but no further. Later in the morning the German defenders cleared the bodies from the barbed wire, killing any that were still alive. The battalion casualties, sustained in the few minutes after Zero, were 24 officers and 504 other ranks, of which 248 had been killed.
In December 1917 the Leeds Pals were amalgamated with the 2nd Leeds Battalion (17th Battalion, The West Yorkshire Regiment) to form the 15th/17th Battalion, The West Yorkshire Regiment.
This is to give a flavour of the terminology.
An Infantry battalion consisted of about 1,000 men and 36 officers.
The men were in four companies of about 240 each, usually known as A, B, C and D.
Each Company was commanded by a Major and with the losses a Captain or even a more junior officer would be in command.
Each Company comprised four platoons of 60 men commanded by a Lieutenant or 2nd lieutenant.
Some soldiers had specialist roles clerks, signalers, men who looked after the horse and carts, cooks etc. Under normal circumstances these men never went into the trenches. So the fighting strength of the Battalion was about 850 men plus officers.