This commemoration of our forebears is more personal

These were men who laid down their lives alongside their brothers. Lest we forget.

Monday, 5th September 2016, 6:02 am
The war memorial in Guildhall Square

It was the battle of River Ancre, and the 587 men belonged to the 14th Battalion Hampshire Regiment – better known as the 1st Pompey Pals.

Of the 587 men who went over the top that day, 440 were listed as casualties at the end of that one day.

Just one day.

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Not quite a fortnight later, on September 15 1916, the 557 men of the 15th Battalion Hampshire Regiment – the 2nd Pompey Pals – rose from their trench as the whistles blew at 6.20am.

It was their first full-scale battle at the Somme, and of those 557 men who fought their way to claim a little over 2,000 yards of front line, 305 were killed or wounded.

In just one day.

The pals battalions were formed on the premise that people would fight harder if they fought beside friends, neighbours and brothers. They were recruited directly from communities, many at the gates to Fratton Park.

And in those two days those communities were devastated, with 745 killed or wounded in just two days of fighting.

I took a stroll through Kingston Cemetery last week, stopping to read the inscription on the First World War memorial standing strong and proud.

I wondered what we would be doing to mark the centenary of the 1st Pompey Pals going over the top. I’d heard of plans to hold an informal commemoration on September 10 at Guildhall Square, and a quick look at the Pompey Pals Facebook page, set up to raise awareness of those two brave battalions, told me it’s still going ahead.

From 10am people will gather in the square, and from 11am – that historic hour of armistice – the commemorations will be help.

We wear poppies in November to remember the lives lost in all wars, a tradition begun after the First World War.

But this is personal. These were our forebears. These were men who laid down their lives alongside their brothers. Lest we forget.