©National Archives

The Battle of the Somme, 1916 Unit War Diary entry for the 11th (Service) Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment - the 'Accrington Pals' - on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916.

The Battle of the Somme was supposed to be the 'big push' that would destroy the German defences and leave the way clear for a massive cavalry advance. The result was very different. More than 100,000 British soldiers went 'over the top' on the first day. By the end of the day 57,470 of these had been killed, wounded, were missing, or in a very few cases, had been captured by the enemy. Of the Accrington Pals, 234 died - 131 with no known grave, and at least 360 were wounded. One Accrington Pal, Lance Corporal Marshall, succinctly wrote, 'I need hardly say what it was like - but if hell is like a battlefield, then God help the sinner'.

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