NORTHALLERTON'S DARKEST DAYS

A feature of the call to arms which took place in 1914 and 1915, was the way in which many men chose to join their local territorial battalions or newly formed battalions of their local Regiments. The most famous products of this trend was the "Pals Battalions" in which the young men from the same towns and even the same walks of life joined the same Battalion. Although the Army gave these Battalions official names, they would always be known by their members as The Leeds Pals, The Grimsby Chums, The Newcastle Commercials etc. In the heady days of 1914 it seemed like a wonderful idea that friends and neighbours should all join up and fight together for the cause.....In the euphoria of the time, nobody considered what the effects would be if they all died together.

The 4th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment (now called The Green Howards Regiment) was Northallerton's local territorial battalion which had its headquarters at the newly completed Drill Hall on the Thirsk Road. Men from Northallerton, Romanby and Brompton as well as many of the surrounding farms and villages, flocked to join the local Yorkshire Regiment and while it was never called such at the time, it would not be too unreasonable to look upon the 4th Yorkshires as the "Northallerton Pals".

The day of reckoning for many of the Pals Battalions was 1st July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, when many of them took part in an attack which cost nearly 60,000 British casualties, with almost 20,000 of them killed. Fortunately for the Northallerton area, the 4th Yorkshires did not take part in this attack and so it was spared the long casualty lists which were published in the local papers in so many towns and cities throughout the North of England. It did not, however, escape "bad times". The 4th Yorkshires had a very active part in the War almost from the moment they landed in France in April 1915, when they were rushed up to the front line at Ypres to counter attack the Germans, who had broken through the Allied trenches after using poison gas for the first time.

The first of Northallerton's "bad times" took place shortly after this attack, on 2nd May 1915, and the second occurred on 23rd April 1917, during the Battle of Arras.