November 15th 1915. The Battalion which included 26 Officers and 869 other ranks proceeded to Ludgershall Station where they entrained for Folkestone Harbour Station arriving at 12 Noon.
With enthusiasm, Corporal FA Jenns, in his spidery handwriting records his first day’s entry in the 13th Battalion War Diary, oblivious to the horror and carnage that he will witness over the coming years. But lets rewind.
On a chilly, damp evening the newly elected Mayor of West Ham, Henry Dyer stood up, cleared his throat and addressed the hushed Council chamber. He informed them that he had just received a communication from the War Office announcing the “formal sanction” for the raising of the 13th (Service) Battalion (“West Ham”) of the Essex Regiment. It was December 29th 1914.
From the basic training on Wanstead Flats through to the deadly meat-grinder of the Somme and finally their epic last stand at Cambrai, the Pals of West Ham saw continuous duty until they were disbanded on 10th February 1918.
For some this is the first time they have left English soil – for all their lives would be changed forever.
Writer Jonathan Williamson
Producer / Director Simon Moorhead
A TBC Audio Original Production