THE poignant connection between Bradford and the village of Serre in northern France goes back to the battlefields of the First World War.

Many Bradford Pals lost their lives in fields around the village, along with countless French soldiers.

This month members of the Bradford WW1 Group visited places in France and Belgium linked with men from the district who served in the Great War. They visited the grounds of a little chapel at Serre Road, where a Bradford Pals memorial overlooks the fields. The memorial stone was installed last November, following the T&A's Honour the Pals appeal which raised more than £5,000, match-funded by Bradford Council.

Mayors of local villages and representatives of French regiments laid flowers, accompanied by veterans marching with standards and a crowd of French and British visitors.

"In 1915 three regiments of French Infantrymen made a succession of costly but unsuccessful attacks," said Tricia Restorick, president of the WW1 Group. "In 1916, British troops occupying the line at the same point included many Pals' Battalions. The action on July 1, 1916 against the German stronghold at Serre suffered similar casualties as the French in 1915. As the British wounded and dead were gathered, many French bodies were also recovered and given proper burials by our men in what today is the French Necropolis opposite Serre Road Chapel.

"Last Sunday, French troops and the Bradford Pals were remembered with flowers and poppy wreaths laid in the British and French Cemeteries and at Serre Road Chapel. The Lord Mayor of Bradford's wreath was laid at the Pals' Memorial. The Parade Marshall, M. Deneuville, proudly wore his City of Bradford tie presented by Councillor Geoff Reid last year."

Tricia and Gerry Reeves laid a wreath from the Bradford Mechanics' Institute, the Pals' recruiting station in 1914. A further wreath was placed at the Pals' Memorial Plaque in the village of Hébuterne. Installed by the WW1 Group in 2001, it recalls the long, bitter winter of 1916 -1917 when the Pals were billeted there. In February 1917, 47 Bradford Pals died at nearby Rossignol Wood. They now lie in a mass grave known as Owl Trench.

The WW1 Group made a recce of places to be visited on a coach tour in June, 2018. The engagements of the four Bradford battalions will be followed, including the Pals at Oppy and Gavrelle during the Battle of Arras and the 6th Battalion which was surrounded on April 25, 1918 near Kemmel. Members will follow in the footsteps of Harry Hartley of Undercliffe, who enlisted as a Pal but was commissioned into the West Riding Regiment. "His diary and other papers have helped build a vivid picture of his time near Havrincourt and Bourlon Wood," said Tricia.

* Details of the visit will be available shortly from