In a time when 30 nations declared war and over 70 million military personnel were mobilised it was known as the “Great War” and by others a “War to end all Wars”.
One such battle was that of the Somme, which during the capture of the fortified town of Sevres lasted 8 months resulting in 1.2 million deaths and had a devastating effect not only on the nation but on communities at large.
Britain at this time did not have a conscript army unlike many others and soon it was realised that volunteers would be needed. Following a plea from the then secretary of state Lord Kitchener, many men enlisted but more willing to serve alongside friends’ colleagues and family the “Pals” battalion were formed.
One such battalion was the 12th service battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment, fondly known as the Sheffield City Battalion. This battalion made up from the men of Sheffield found their first action on the 1st July 1916 at the Battle of the Somme. On the first day British casualties exceeded 57,000 with over 90% of the Sheffield Pals fallen.
The devastation and lost was not only felt within the ranks but the communities back home with whole families losing generations of males.
The “Pals” regiment were mainly made up of volunteer friends, family and colleagues and after the end of WWI this was never repeated with most battalions, disbanded or amalgamated into other regiments.
To mark this sacrifice of the “Sheffield Pals” and the 100th year anniversary Sheffield City Council together with the Royal British Legion, Yorkshire Air Ambulance and Meadowhall Shopping Centre have arranged a charity bike ride to raise money to refurbish the Sheffield War Memorial which sits in the fields at the Somme in Northern France.
20 cyclists will be taking part which sees them travel 400 miles in 4 days leaving Sheffield City Hall on Wednesday 20th June and completing the final leg of Roeselare to the Somme on the 23rd June.
Darren Wootton Makers Operations Director has strong links to Sheffield and volunteered to join the ride much in the spirit of the “Sheffield Pals”. Darren a keen cyclist was willing to take part following his previous successful ride of Sheffield to Paris.
The 4 day ride will see the team cycle 100 miles on consecutive days travelling from Sheffield to Hull, then Rotterdam to Antwerp, Antwerp to Roeselare, before finally arriving at the Somme on Saturday 23rd June.
The Team will then attend a Remembrance Service lead by the Colonel I G Norton of the York and Lancaster Regiment at the Sheffield Memorial Park Sevres, France, attended by local dignitaries as well as the mayors of Sheffield, Bapaume, and Serres-Les-Puisieux.
“We are delighted for Darren and the team, when Darren brought the proposal to us we were happy to be involved and take up a sponsor opportunity”