Strong family ties in a march to remember

Some of the Todmorden men who will recreate the march of 1914
Some of the Todmorden men who will recreate the march of 1914

Events of a century ago were the main focus of an Armed Forces Day social event at the United Services Club, White Hart Fold, Todmorden, last Sunday.

Service veterans were among those attending an event to which all townspoeple are invited, and everyone was welcomed by chairman of the Todmorden branch of the British Legion, Bill Birch.

Bill thanked everyone for attending and said events that shaped the present were remembered this year, including the 100th anniversary of the start of the first world war and the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in the second world war.

“We remember national veterans like Harry Patch, the last ‘Tommy’, and Florence Green, who were the last first world war servicemen and women, who passed away in recent years. And at Normandy my dad landed at Sword beach on D-Day. We remember what they did for us in events that shaped the world we now live in and affected our lives in every way,” he said.

In August a group of Todmorden men will tread in the steps of their forebears when they mark the 100th anniversary of the Todmorden Territorial Army volunteers’ march to their mustering point at Rochdale when war was declared in 1914.

Armed Services weekend marked the anniversary of the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand, which set in chain the events of that year, and the horrors of the first world war which ensued.

As Territorials, they were not obliged to serve overseas but many did, of all ages, and the Todmorden men serving in the 1/6th Lancashire Fusiliers were first over the top at Gallipoli in 1915 - immediately thrown into a situation even their training could not have prepared them for.

Information boards displayed details and photographs about events then, at a reunion of Territorials in 1964, and about August’s march.

Steve Wright said many of those taking part had close family links to the original marchers and it was important to remember them.

“My great-uncle Ben Wright was there in 1914 and in 1964, when surviving veterans, by then pensioners, marked the 50th anniversary. If I do it, a Wright will have done the march on each of those occasions, spanning a hundred years,” he said.

The 2014 volunteers hope people will turn out to support them to wave them off when they recreate the march, as entertainingly as well as authentic as they can make it.

Darren Widdup said original 1914 forms had been found and used for the 2014 volunteers to sign up and all had been given “the King’s shilling.” James Kenworthy, who is a company sergeant major, had taken drill at the weekly sessions, where they aimed to recreate the camaraderie as well as get in good shape.

Darren said that on the day of the march there would be some banter between the new troops, in period uniforms, as there was likely to have been at the time, before they march away.