IN JUNE 1917, while serving as a volunteer soldier on the Western Front, George Broadhead was sent on an errand by his colonel.

When he returned to the orderly room tent, he found carnage. A long-range shell had fallen there, killing his three best friends.

‘Three of the orderly room staff had been literally blown to pieces’ an official account of the incident, in the Gavrelle trenches near Arras, reads.

The shell killed lance Corporal Cyril Burgoyne and Privates Walter Kellett and Sam Tweedale, and wounded Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Carter.

In later years, George would tell his son John about the traumatic even and of how he had left the tent just moments before the shell struck. The orderly room sergeant ‘Jackie’ Mallet, has also just left the tent.

George was serving with the 18th Battalion West Yorkshire regiment, the Second Bradford Pals.

The members of the Pals Battalions are among the most well-known of the millions of British men who fought in the Great War. The Bradford Pals, like the Leeds Pals, suffered great losses in the Battle of the Somme and in the Battle of Arras.

To a young man born and raised in Batley, who worked as head clerk at Batley Corporation Electricity Works, the sights George must have witnessed, and the deep shock of losing his friends in such a way, must have had a lasting impact.

Yet, like many old soldiers, he rarely spoke about the war. He did, however, keep a dairy, which, shortly before his death in 1980, he handed to his son John, saying “Here, lad, you might be interested in this.”

Using the treasured diary - which records George’s experiences between December 1915 and December 1916 - as well as official records, newspaper reports and memoirs, John has written a book revealing the stark horror of what faced the nation’s youth.

‘A Bradford Pal, From Mill Town to the Battlefields of France’ charts how thousands of young men from Bradford rushed to help serve their country, forming two Pals Battalions – the 16th and 18th Battalions Yorkshire Regiment.

The Pals served in the Neuve-Chapelle sector from July to October 1916. John describes a successful German trench raid in July 1916 in which Dickie Bond, a Bradford City and England footballer, was captured. He also includes the execution for desertion in September 1916 of two members of the battalion.

Thorough research by John brings the horrors of war to the pages of the hardback.

He extracts excerpts from The Battalion War Diaries, this one from the British troops position at Rossignol Farm, around four miles from the front line: 25 October 1916 - From 11pm to 11.15pm enemy opened rapid fire on orchards E and SE of Battn HQ, obviously searching for one of our batteries. About 500 shells fired, including 4.2inch HE, tear and gas shells. Gas shells caused several casualties. Our artillery very active all day.

George’s account of this period includes:

23 October 1916 - German shelling our batteries all day and night with gar tear shells, so pleased I’m not up there. New draft went up to the line. Felt sorry for them.

30 October 1916 - Left Sailly 9am and went to Coigneux. Billeted in huts in the muddiest place on God’s earth - raining something awful all day. 10 men to a loaf of bread.

14 November 1916 - Germans shelling our line all day causing many casualties. Left the trenches at 6pm and arrived back at Coigneux 10.30pm after the most awful journey I have ever had.

John covers in depth the battalion’s deployment to France, its preparation for the Battle of the Somme, the attack on Serre and the aftermath.

The hardback book also describes the Bradford Pals’ service in Egypt from December 1915 to March 1916, including an eventful passage through the Mediterranean when the Empress of Britain was chased by German submarines.

The Pals served in the Neuve-Chapelle sector from July to October 1916. John describes a successful German trench raid in July 1916 in which Dickie Bond, a Bradford City and England footballer, was captured. He also covers the execution for desertion in September 1916 of two members of the battalion.

The battalion returned to the Somme in October 1916 to face terrible trench conditions and heavy casualties in the final stages of the battle. George’s capture of a German deserter is documented, as well as his first leave in December 1916.

The diary from which George extracts such details is a ‘fine, leather-bound book which has withstood the rigours of war and the test of time’.

The layout is unusual in that all the Sunday entries are together at the back of the diary. ‘It displays my father’s fine handwriting and is written in indelible pencil,’writes John. ‘Keeping diaries in the field was against army regulations, for fear that sensitive information might fall into the hands of the enemy.’

A remarkable feature of the diary is that plans of the attack on the Somme, on July 1, 2016, which must have been of the greatest secrecy, are drawn on several pages at the back. It also includes details of weapon parts.

Born at home in Halifax Road, Batley, George was the fifth of eight children and first son of Armitage and Mary Ann Brandon Broadhead. He was named after his grandfathers.

When George enlisted in March 1915 he had a 21-year-old girlfriend Lily Parker, from Dewsbury. A note in his diary asks that should the dairy be lost or misplaced it should be sent to her.

Yet a union between the two was not to be. George’s posting to France led to him meeting his future wife. In April 1918 he married Suzanne Marguerite Levreux, the 19-year-old daughter of a mechanic, at a church in Rouen. The couple, who settled in France, had two children, Cecil and Robert, before divorcing in June 1936. Back home, Lily Parker never married.

Like many young men who joined the Yorkshire Pals Battalion, George was well-educated, with a responsible job. His skills were used by the military authorities - many pages of the Battalion War Diary are in his handwriting.

Living back in West Yorkshire, in 1941 George married Margaret Fox, a 28-year-old librarian from Batley. After sadly losing twin babies in 1943 - one stillborn and the other dying the day after his birth - a second set of twins, John and Janet were born in June 1945.

As well as his father’s family history, John also covers his service with the London Regiment from July 1918 to June 1919 and work with the Imperial War Graves Commission in France from 1920 to 1937,

He also explains his father’s connections with cricket and football in Bradford and his life in Yorkshire after he returned from France. His later life was spent as Batley Corporation’s housing manager.

*A Bradford Pal by John Broadhead is published by Uniform, an imprint of Unicorn Publishing Group; and costs £20.