Memorial to the Leeds Pals
Tim Just the 2 photos and this text. There is nothing about the individual soldiers
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.
May I display a quote from Historic England which tells us why survivors family and friends were moved to have this Memorial in what remains a remote place.
The memorial to the 15th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, 'the Leeds Pals', was unveiled on 28 September 1935 in commemoration of all those men who had served in the Battalion. It marks the site of the first camp in which they trained.
The recruitment of a ‘Leeds City Battalion’ was set in motion by Lt-Col J Walter Stead, a Leeds solicitor and former commanding officer of the 7th Battalion (Leeds Rifles), The Prince of Wales’ Own (West Yorkshire Regiment). In response to the example set in Liverpool, where in August 1914 over 3,000 men answered the call for friends to join up together for Kitchener’s New Army, the Leeds Pals formed the 15th Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment. 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.
Leighton Construction Camp (Colsterdale Camp), originally established for the various intended works resulting from the 1901 Act of Parliament for the storage of water for Leeds Corporation, was put at the new Battalion’s disposal by Leeds City Council. The recruits arrived in September 1914. In the Summer of 1915 the battalion became part of 93 Brigade in the 31st Division of the Fourth Army. In December of that year the men were sent to Egypt to defend the Suez Canal as part of the Imperial Strategic Reserve. They were relieved by troops being evacuated from Gallipoli, sailing for the south of France in March 1916 to play a part in the Battle of the Somme.
In the assault on the German lines on 1 July 1916, following an intense artillery bombardment, 31st Division (in which every Battalion was formed of ‘Pals’) was to attack and take the village of Serre. The 15th Battalion, advancing at 7.30am on 1 July, was decimated by German artillery and machine gun fire. Every officer was killed or wounded, 233 other ranks were killed or died of wounds, 267 were wounded and 181 were missing. There were only 47 uninjured soldiers. The dead and wounded were brought in from No Mans’ Land for several days. The Battalion was re-formed. In December 1917 it was amalgamated with the 17th Battalion to form 15/17 Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment.
The memorial at Colsterdale Camp, built close to the site of the camp’s chapel, was unveiled by Lt-Col Stead and dedicated by Reverend CR Chappell, padre of the Battalion from 1914 to 1918 and in 1935 Vicar of Skipton. The ceremony was attended by civic dignitaries and nearly 300 members of the Pals Association with relatives and friends. It was the twenty-first anniversary of the assembly of the Battalion at the camp.
The memorial is set back on the south side of the road at Breary Banks. It comprises a tall, broad, tapered pylon of rusticated stone blocks, square on plan. A rectangular bronze plaque fixed to the front face of the memorial, decorated with the York rose to each corner and the City of Leeds coat of arms, records the inscription.
"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.