IN THE early days of the First World War two volunteer Pals Battalions were raised in Bradford.

As a child David Raw heard stories of the Bradford Pals and was affected by the sombre gloom of the war memorial at his school, Bradford Grammar.

In a new book, Bradford Pals, David, who now lives in Cumbria, tells how the battalions were recruited and trained. He describes in vivid detail their service in Egypt and on the Western Front in France between 1916 and 1918.

His stirring account is based on memoirs, letters, diaries, contemporary newspaper reports, official records and archives, and it is illustrated with many maps and previously unpublished photographs. He recaptures the heroism and stoic humour displayed by the Bradford Pals in the face of often terrible experiences, but he also recounts the tragedy, pain, suffering

and grief that was the dark side of war.

Here he writes about Bradford Pals

On the 1st July this year it will be exactly one hundred years since the British Army suffered its biggest number of casualties in any one day, over 58,000, a third of whom were killed.

Many had volunteered at the outbreak of the war in 1914. They answered Kitchener’s call, “Your King and Country Need You”, joining up with their friends, workmates and relations in what were known as the Pals Battalions.

Well over three thousand did so in the city of Bradford and joined the Bradford Pals (the 16th and 18th Battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment). Some of them were as young as 14 though they pretended to be older. They included professional footballers and cricketers from Bradford City and Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

Four years later over 90 per cent had become casualties with over a third killed. Only 10 per cent came through physically unscathed although many suffered mentally for the rest of their lives.

On the July 1, 1916, the two Bradford Battalions went over the top with other northern Pals Battalions at Serre at the northern end of the Somme front line. Over 75 per cent of the first Pals became casualties and over 70 per cent of the second Pals.

The survivors had to endure two more years of trench warfare having to face death, rats, lice, and mud. Some, like the Bradford City and England footballer Dickie Bond, were taken prisoner.

Walter Hare and his brother Harold walked 200 miles back from Germany to the British Front Line after The Armistice, while their mother back home believed them both dead.

A father and son serving together on the Somme were killed - two weeks later their wife/ mother committed suicide in the canal at Shipley.

Some, remembered the horror of the execution, ‘Shot at Dawn, of two Pals who had got lost and wandered off after a drinking spree - the Divisional General had kicked the flowers off the graves of the two men remarking: “These men are best forgotten”. They were not forgotten and the words, ‘Not forgotten by those who loved him best’ appears on the headstone of one of them.

I was lucky to meet and record the memories of many of the surviving Pals long after the event. My book on the Bradford Pals contains many of their reminiscences, those of their relatives and a great number of never-before-seen photographs. The Pals were, indeed, ordinary men who did, and experienced, extraordinary things. It is right that we respect their memory one hundred years on.

*Bradford Pals by David Raw is published by Pen and Sword books priced £16.99; or 01226 734222 or from Waterstones in Bradford.