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Some time ago we were made aware of a series of films that were made by Will Onda (Preston) during 1914-18. Five of the films are Rolls of Honour showing images of local soldiers who had been killed or wounded at the front; however the 10th film was quite different and showed moving footage of men departing Preston train station saying their farewells to their loved ones.

Since then work has been underway to identify which battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment these men belonged to.

(The link to the film is at the end of this article)

The article below was published in the Preston Herald on 17th July 1915; and strongly suggests that the men on the platform were in fact the Preston Pals (D Coy, 7th Bn.) on Wednesday 14th July 1915.



Great Scenes at Preston Station

A most enthusiastic ‘send-off’ was accorded the Preston ‘Pals’ (D Company of the 7th Batt. Loyal North Lancashire Regiment), on Wednesday, when, after a four days’ leave, they returned to Tidworth, whence they are “under orders”. Nothing quite like it has been seen in Preston during the present war; rather it was reminiscent of the scenes which were enacted throughout the country during the Boer War, when the men were gathered together and despatched right from the Depot to the port of embarkation.

Since the men, over 200 in number, had come home on Sunday, they had impressed every one by their soldierly bearing and obvious fitness. Their then months’ hard training – and it has been hard – has been cheerfully undertaken, and their bronzed faces and improved physique bore eloquent testimony to the benefit they have derived therefrom.

An impression had got abroad that, prior to their departure, the company would parade to the market square, and this was heightened when the boys’ band of St. Vincent’s Home drew up at the rear of the Town Hall. After a brief halt, however, the band continued its way to the railway station. Large, eager crowds followed, and very soon the station entrance was besieged by people anxious to secure tickets. Then they crowded on to the platforms and bridge while the departing soldiers assembled informally on No. 6 platform to await the train, each surrounded by relatives and friends – wives, parents, sisters, brothers, sweethearts, and chums. Many of the men’s employers and numerous public men were also there.

The Mayor, who was accompanied by the Mayoress and Town Clerk (Mr. A. Howarth), attended at the station in the hope of having some opportunity of addressing the men, but this was not found to be possible owing to the men being scattered all over the platform. When the troops had boarded the train, however, the Mayor visited each carriage, and shaking hands with the occupants, wished them the best of luck. The Mayoress also distributed cigarettes amongst the men.

Meanwhile the boys’ band continued to play martial music, and, in the midst of many pathetic scenes, the ‘Pals’ maintained a cheerful mien, and strove to keep up the drooping spirits of the near and dear ones who could not always suppress their emotions. The warning of the station officials to “stand clear, there” the whistle of the guard, and the answering shriek of the engine put an end to the kissing and the handshaking at 1.15, and the train moved out with the soldiers’ caps waving from the windows, the platform being a sea of fluttering handkerchiefs and having hats, while fog signals placed on the lines sent their detonating sounds through the station like so many cannon.

But this did not put an end to the affecting scenes amongst those left behind; the emotions of the huge crowd were stirred as some had never been for years, and even the most stoical mere spectator required to call up some reserve force to keep them in check.

The excitement of the moment, which had upheld most of the men’s relatives and friends, having passed, the floodgates released, and the fluttering handkerchiefs were required for another purpose. A few ladies there were who, completely overcome, quietly found a brief oblivion as the thread of consciousness snapped for a space.

For men must fight and women must weep.

The film is available to watch on the British Film Institute website – click here

Janet Davis
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