When World War I broke out, the British Army faced a significant challenge – their small professional army was insufficient for a global conflict. To win the war, they had little alternative apart from mobilizing manpower to its fullest extent. Later, General Sir Henry Rawlinson (1864 – 1925) suggested that men would be more inclined to enlist in the army if they understood that they were going to serve alongside their friends. This led to the concept of the “Pals Battalions”, where groups of men from the same city would join up together to serve alongside their peers. London stockbrokers were among the first to raise a battalion from their colleagues, which resulted in the formation of the “Stockbrokers’ Battalion” of the City of London on August 21, 1914. This patriotic fervor led to thousands of men volunteering for service in these new armies, and it was realized that local ties of affiliation could be harnessed for national gain.
“Pals” departing from Preston railway station, August 1914 ( Public Domain )
Pals Battalions were subsequently raised in various cities, including Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Hull, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, and Cardiff. Although the first Pals Battalions began arriving on the Western Front from mid-1915, many did not see their first major action until the first day of the Battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916. Many of these battalions suffered heavy casualties, which had a significant impact on their communities. Conscription was then implemented in 1916, and the Pals Battalions’ close-knit nature would never be recreated.
Lion of Chaenorea the monument stood at the edge of a quadrangular enclosure where the skeletons of 254 men laid out in seven rows were found buried within it. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )
The Pals Battalions were far from being a new idea. Thousands of years prior, in the fourth century BC, King Philip II of Macedon erected a tribute at Chaeronea to commemorate the bravery of a battalion he conquered whose soldiers had ties to each other that were more intense and passionate. This memorial commemorates the Sacred Band of Thebes, marking the communal grave where they were buried. The Sacred Band of Thebes was an elite force of the Theban army consisting of 150 pairs of male lovers, and they played a crucial role in ending Spartan domination.
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Martini Fisher is an Ancient Historian and author of many books, including “Horatio’s World” / Check out MartiniFisher.com
Top Image : Death of Pelopidas, by Andrey Ivanov (1805-1806) ( Public Domain )
By: Martini Fisher
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