Tony Kearney tells what the Durham Pals - volunteer soldiers from across the region - were doing 100 years ago, in the build-up to their date with destiny: July 1, 1916, and the Battle of the Somme

When whistles blew there was no turning back

June 30 - July 1, 1916

In the final part of his series tracing the battalion’s march to the Battle of the Somme, Tony Kearney finds the Durham Pals on the eve of slaughter.

‘You can do nothing but shiver and shrink’

June 15 - 30, 1916

IN the middle of June 1916, as the final preparations took place for the Big Push, the weather in France became miserable. Day after day it rained, filling the trenches with standing water and turning the battlefield to mud.

Pals under shellfire day and night

June 4 - 14, 1916

HISTORY books say that the Battle of the Somme began on July 1, 1916, but that was not the reality experienced by soldiers in the trenches.

Pals train for Big Push

May 29 - June 21, 1916

AT the end of May, the Durham Pals were pulled back from the Somme’s frontline trenches and placed out of harm’s way in a camp at Warnimont Wood.

Battlefield grave for fallen

May 23, 1916

LANCE-Corporal Frank Derwent Lockey was 34 when he was killed 100 years ago this week. He was part of a working party sent up to the frontline to repair the British barbed wire against German raids when he was hit …

Under constant fire

May 14 - 20, 1916

THE third and final time the Durham Pals went into the frontline trenches ahead of the Battle of the Somme was by far the toughest.

Pigeons keep the Pals in touch

May 14, 1916

ON the evening of May 14, 1916, for the third and final time before the fateful first day of the Battle of the Somme, the Durham Pals went back in the frontline trenches of the Somme.

Licking their wounds

April 28 - May 6, 1916

DURING the first few days of May 1916, the Durham Pals were able to enjoy some well-deserved respite after the traumas of Easter Week.

A watery grave

April 24 - 28, 1916

EASTER Week of 1916 saw the Durham Pals waist-deep in water and thoroughly miserable.

The woes of trench warfare

April 20 - 23, 1916

CONDITIONS in the Durham Pals’ sodden camp in the woods were so bad 100 years ago that most were relieved to go back into the trenches.

Out of the trenches

April 3 - April 20, 2016

AFTER their baptism of fire during their first five days in the trenches, the Durham Pals received the order to withdraw, and at 8pm on April 3, 1916 they were relieved by the 12th Yorks and Lancs.

Basking at ‘Ocean Villas’ dodging sniper bullets

March 29 - April 3, 1916

AT dusk on March 29, 1916, the Durham Pals silently filed into the battered frontline trenches to the east of Auchonvillers, in northern France, and under cover of darkness took over the posts from the Royal Irish Rifles.

Durham Pals suffer first casualty on foreign soil

March 25 - March 30, 1916

AT the end of March, the Durham Pals received the order to move up into the frontline trenches.

From sand to snow for Durham Pals

March 14 - 25, 1916

AFTER a 50-hour train journey across the length of France, the Durham Pals arrived at Pont Remy in northern France, in the early hours of March 14.

To Somme by cattle truck

March 12 - 14, 1916

THE Durham Pals had spent a week at sea but, 100 years ago this week, within six hours of their feet touching the steady dry land of the port of Marseilles, they were packed into trains for the long journey …

Exodus from Egypt

March 2 - 11, 1916

Tony Kearney tells what the Durham Pals – volunteer soldiers from across the region – were doing 100 years ago this week, in the build up to their date with destiny: July 1, 1916, and the Battle of the Somme.…