On 7th September 1914 the Mayor of Accrington, Captain John Harwood, received authorisation from the War Office to raise a local volunteer battalion of 1,000 men. Harwood was perhaps already starting to appreciate the difficulties in finding sufficient men in the town capable of meeting the Army's strict physical requirements when, on the following day, he was contacted by Captain James Clymo Milton with an offer to provide 250 Chorley men for the Accrington battalion. At any rate, the offer was gratefully accepted and a recruiting station in Bolton Street, Chorley opened at 9am on Tuesday 15th September. By the end of the month, a Chorley Pals company of over 200 men had become a reality. In the company's ranks were two brothers who had joined up together, James and Percy Allsup.
The two brothers were separated in age by a little under two years, James having been born on 22nd September 1895 and Percy on 28th July 1897. They were brought up by their parents, James and Susannah, at Pear Tree Cottage in Clayton Green, then a tiny village some 3½ miles north of Chorley. Both boys were educated at the village school, and both went on to find employment at Swansey textile mill before joining the Pals. (For 17-year old Percy to enlist alongside his elder brother, he had to give a false age.) Two younger brothers, Arthur and Charles, were also to serve in the war.
Above: Percy Allsup (front row, second from left) at Sergeants' School.
James and Percy served together in the Chorley company of the Accrington Pals battalion from 19th September 1914 until 1st July 1916, the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. As the battalion left England in December 1915, Percy began a diary which he was to keep up-to-date until he was wounded during the summer of 1917. The diary is now an invaluable record of an infantryman's day-to-day life on the Western Front.
In the battalion's 1st July 1916 attack on Serre, James was wounded in the shoulder and invalided back to England. On recovering, he was sent to Officers' School from where he gained a commission in the Machine Gun Corps, an appointment which the family took great pride in. Percy was held back from the 1st July attack but still sustained a slight injury from artillery fire when the battalion's reserves were sent forward in the evening to man what remained of the British front line.
Above: Percy Allsup (standing centre, with hands resting on his shoulders) at hospital in Perth, Scotland.
Aside from a week's home leave in January 1917, Percy saw continuous service with the Pals until he was sent home to recover from the effects of mustard gas in early August 1917. After hospitalisation in Scotland, Percy passed through Sergeants' School before returning to the Western Front. In the remaining months of the war, he survived a wound from machine gun fire sustained while on night patrol.
Above: Percy Allsup with his children (Pawtucket, Rhode Island, U.S.A., 1937).
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Permission to publish the transcript of Percy Allsup's diary is by kind courtesy of Percy B. Allsup. All photographs are courtesy of the Allsup family.