Regardless of heavy downpours, Todmorden’s “Pals” set out on their march to Rochdale this morning, honouring their Territorial Army forebears who made the march in August 1914, just days after Britain entered the First World War.
Spectators armed with umbrellas and waterproofs watched as Mayor and Mayoress of Todmorden, Coun Michael Gill and Nikki Gill, and Deputy Lieutenant for West Yorkshire, Virginia Lloyd, inspected the troops of the reformed 1/6th Lancashire Fusiliers before the strat of the march, which will end with a reception and short service of commemoration at the memorial garden near Rochdale Town Hall,
Todmorden Community Band led the parade, which also included Air Training Corps cadets and paraders dressed as first world war nurses, away from the old Territorial Amry Drill Hall on Dalton Street to cheers from those watching and the tune of It’s A Long Way To Tipperary.
A year in the planning, the marchers wanted to pay tribute to the Territorials from Todmorden who were summoned to muster at Rochdale just days after war broke out in 1914.
Together with men from Rochdale and Middleton, they comprised the 6th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers and although TA volunteers were only obliged to serve domestically, a great number of them volunteers to serve abroad.
They could not have known the horror of what awaited them as they were thrown into the disastrous Gallipoli campaign just hours after reaching it in May, 1915, being involved over the following weeks in the conflicts at Krithia, and casualties were high.
Following that they saw action in France and Belgium.
Their story is told in the book The Gallipoli Oak, by authors Martin Purdy and Ian Dawson - the tree in question was planted near the battlefield by the parents of a young Rochdale officer who was killed there and the now stout Lancashire oak still flourishes there in their memory.
Martin believes TA units like that from Todmorden were in effect the first “Pals” battalions, even though they did not bear that name.
This inspired the march, which has some direct links with 1914. For example, relatives of one of the Todmorden officers, who survivved the war, Captain Robert Barker, were to attend and some of those taking part also had family ties to it.
For example, Steve Wright’s great-uncle Ben Wright also survived and also met at Dalton Street with fellow veterans on the war’s 50th anniversary in 1964. Steve’s taking part means there has been a member of the Wright family on each of those occasions.