The Lord Mayor Councillor Gerry Harper has unveiled a poignant tribute in a French village where the Leeds Pals were based for part of the First World War, as part of commemorations to mark the start of the Battle of the Somme 100 years ago.
Joined by local dignitaries and residents, the Lord Mayor was present at the local war memorial to reveal a new interpretation panel, which tells the history of the Leeds Pals during their time living in a wooded area of Bus Les Artois, before the Battle of the Somme on July 1 1916. As part of the tribute, the Leeds Rifles and all the citizens of Leeds who fought in the First World War are also remembered for their sacrifice during the conflict.
The day before the Somme offensive, soldiers from the Leeds Pals held a concert in the middle of the village to thank the people of Bus Les Artois for their hospitality. Some of the soldiers left their fingerprints on the stone wall of the church, which while altered by time, can still be seen today.
The Battle of the Somme resulted in the worst losses of British Army personnel during the First World War. The Leeds Pals was hit especially hard in the battle. Of the 750 members of The Leeds Pals who fought in the first day of the battle, just 72 were uninjured by nightfall.
The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councillor Gerry Harper said:
“It was an extremely moving occasion to be given the opportunity to unveil this tribute in Bus Les Artois to both the Leeds Pals and Leeds Rifles, which honours their sacrifice during the First World War.
“The Leeds Pals lived in the village before the Battle of the Somme, and their stay is still very much remembered by the people of Bus Les Artois. I would like to pay a special thank you to the people of Bus Les Artois for inviting us to be part of this very special occasion, and for ensuring that the contribution of the Leeds Pals and Leeds Rifles are never forgotten.”
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