The Salford Pals

On the eve of the anniversary of the start of the battle of the Somme, I was reminded of this:


Waiting for the whistle blast
In a war they said would never last
The counting down from ten begun
Nervous feet on the bottom rung

From the bowels of their dirty trench
Leaving safety, leaving stench
Thiepval Wood the final plan
The aim of every Salford man

The Pals as one rose up
To head across the field
Crossing no man’s unforgiving land
To meet with German steel

This first taste of the Somme
Would live in minds so very long
At least of those who stayed alive
As most this day would not survive

A week of shelling enemy lines
They thought would ease the job
But their sheltering foe hid well below
Till the deadly barrage stopped

It was to prove a dreadful dawn
As at 7.30 that terrible morn
The whistle blew as the bombing ceased
The enemy rose like an awakened beast
The guns spat fire from the German side
Scything down Salford’s pride

So many men died that day
The worst in British history
The Somme’s story written
In young men’s blood
Here in the thick Thiepval mud

So long to that youthful zest
So long to those put to the test
Many stood so tall in hell
So many brave young men fell

The Salford family died this hour
A dreadful loss of our youthful flower
A war to end all wars they said
Not much comfort to the dead

As long as man will still pretend
That war’s the way to fix and mend
We will never see the end
To the loss of brother, son or friend
Alas there’ll be more to satisfy
The politician’s battle cry.

By Bill Clayton
© 2018

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