I was able to go to Colchester’s Headgate Theatre on Friday night to see a play called The Accrington Pals. It was very well acted and brought back my own memories of the folk I met in my life who had fought in one of the two world wars. The area in Lancashire where I spent all of my schooldays was particularly badly hit as a consequence of the war. They were grouped together in what was named the Accrington Pals Battalion, (although I know from a Burnley man, who entered as a sergeant was sent to Egypt, Gallipoli then the Somme and survived to be demobbed as a lieutenant in 1919, that Burnley folk felt it demeaning to be grouped under the name). It was probably named Accrington as that is closer to the front of the alphabet, one of millions of bureaucratic stupidities. ‘Pal’ is the name we call our friends up north, “O’ reight pal ‘. Although the cast made valiant efforts at doing the ‘northern accents’ they didn’t stand a chance. The colloquial pronunciation I was lucky to hear in my youth either from the then OAPs who still lived there, or their grand-childers who would respectfully mimic them to maintain the wonderful sounds are very rarely heard anywhere today, a dying tongue, altho the accents around the area still are ‘northern’ and distinctive to each area. Oddly, the Burnley accent is much closer in sound to the Halifax one acrosst the border in sunny Yorkshire, and is very dissimilar to that of Blackburn and nay, dare I say, Accrington. Burnley folk do indeed hail from different settlers of old (owd) but here is not the place to ‘gu inta thet’.
Now I feel I understand the passion that drove me on through thick & thin to be the man I was to become, became, I Am.
and the surrounding towns saw the brunt of World War One with most of their youth slaughtered, or left bereft of brothers, lovers, husbands, fathers. Annihilated by the incompetence of the generals and the blindness of the political morons who manoeuvred the Brits into the mayhem and used the population’s (mostly) men (from all around the ‘Empire’) as if they were like subuteo players, only this was no game but it was a deadly reality!
Ironically they say that some of the ‘pals’ did indeed break thru the machine guns on the first day of the Somme, but on arrival they were leaderless and had no instructions on what to do next. They probably were killed when the Germans re-grouped once they realised the incompetence of the planners. (Didn’t history repeat with the invasion of Iraq that Tony Blair and Blackburner Jack Straw sent the Brits into? Yes, it repeated in at least 2 ways. It wer also a local politician, the mayor of Accrington apparently, whose idea it wer to put together the Accy pals battalion and secondly, the Yanks and Brits (?) had no follow up plan once they had so successfully ‘invaded’ Iraq, and we know the consequences of that, wasn’t that also another 5 year debacle, or was it 10? Nothing changes does it?)
I watched the documentary last Tuesday named, “http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01rp9vv/The_First_World_War_Shackled_to_a_Corpse/
This documentary shewed the horrific length men go to to kill each other. The fading and incompetent Austro-Hungarian Empire,( whom the Germans said were akin to a corpse shackled to their backs), held the high ground in the Alps and when the Italians chose to fight against them both sides seem to have used similar tactics to those in the trenches of France etc only their dig was into mountains! They created tunnels and runways in the mountains and fought a war vertically! Beggars belief. The above documentary came on air minutes after I had seen news that Putin had ordered a take-over of Crimea, it seems nothing changes. I had a nightmare that night for sure.
The documentary gave me the most incredible insight into that horrendous passage of near universal conflict but from the East of Germany where the ‘Germanic (Tuetonic)’ peoples took on their hated enemies the ‘Slavs’. It shewed me once and for all Britain really did have no need to enter the fray as it was Germany’s desire to deal with past hatreds in the east which drove their war machine. Although Britain’s entry into it would have seemed to the Germans an unnecessary intervention they had been developing a vastly superior approach to ground based war and it concomitant need for digging in deeply, so deeply that the British bombardments before the Somme were almost useless as the Germans were so well bunkered in they just waited for it to stop, thus they knew exactly when the charge would begin, then they came out from hiding an proceeded to slaughter thousands of ill-trained badly led Brits. Even the French fared better in that battle as they were able to radio their battery of big guns and give precise locations of the deadly machine gun posts and then these were hit directly, allowing the French to live and make more successful attacks and to die another day. The Brits had no such communication and allowed tens of thousands to run on to the machine gun fire. In 1961 my great uncle Ned who fought for the Bedlington terriers (not) told me that when he turned to tell his primary school friend the bloke on his right had copped it, his mate was dead too.
that’s me great uncle ned from Bedlington with my little sister on his knee back in 1963
Actually 61, but that don’t rhyme wit knee
And our parents of our generation, we wat wer 50’s born, were drafted into the forces to do it all over again, this time with the japs thrown in too. My dad wer in the Air Sea Rescue, his bro and Roy’s dad wer in Burma feightin Japs and Dunc’s dad wer taken when he was part of the rear-guard at Dunkirk in 1940 into slavery in a stalag in Poland for the duration. You may say ‘slavery?’ well cutting rocks for the rest of the war seems like slave labour to me. I just heard today that of the 76 men who escaped in the Trojan horse tunnel the Germans executed 49. Dunc’s dad didn’t escape as such. He was force-marched westward as the Russians approached, then when they came too close, for some strange reason, their captors scarpered (?) leaving him and his ‘pals’ abandoned east of germany! As the late great Kevin Ayres said, ‘Nice guys, meet em everywhere’.
I am going to be doing limited edition artist’s books on the two world wars about the parts played by Burnley folk I knew, certainly by the anniversary of Somme.
My grandpa in his 40’s at the outbreak of hostilities was put in the Irish part in Brit army then felt he had to leave Eire for Wales after being injured. He was blinded in one eye fighting in the trenches but the army said it wer nowt to do wit the war so he got no damages even tho he spent time in Bristol hospital in 1918.
By the time we arrived in Burnley in 1953 it was a microcosm of the whole of GB with its Irish Catholics and its Protestants. There was rivalry, sometimes fights but, thanks be, not the bombs and sectarian killings. But it was ‘hard’ in Burnley and you had to shape up or make yourself scarce and I learned the hard way, to shape up. So I came out (of Burnley) into the bigger (or smaller-minded?) world punching, weaving and dodging my way to the…bottom? To find there are some good folk down there, salt of the Earth, my background made me able to talk with most everybody from most walks of life and more importantly, to learn from what I found.
Luckily the powers that be did not join the yanks in Vietnam so I weren’t conscripted or I may not be sitting writing this now with the same mindset (and am a little old fer it now, altho, you never know, they may change the rules for the next bout). I never went to war but i was taught by veterans from both, 14-18 & 39-45 ‘conflicts’ (cos that’s what they call war now so we don’t ‘get’ that it’s really a war). Meeting and rubbing shoulders, indeed supping a pint or two, with ‘vets’ made me who i was. Their legacy was loud & clear and it drove me to strive to be different. Am still striving.
So to this week’s gallery visits? I went up to the big smoke and saw the Beyond El Dorado show at BritMuseum. Full of wonder. And even better cos I had read the catalogue, not cos it informed me, no but cos it shewed me the artefacts in full colour only to my great delight the actual ones were smaller than those illustrations. Almost tiny etc …
Previously I popped into the Swedenborg society to try persuade them to stock my book ‘G Batch’ and was persuaded by Richard Lines to buy a copy of ‘The Arms Of Morpheus’ which I couldn’t really afford but my gullibility and thirst for knowledge over-ruled my wife’s order NOT to buy any more damn books (don’t you go tell her now). It wer worth it when I read Richard’s article on Madame Guyon which gave me the best explanation yet of Wm. Blake’s parents influence on his tinking. Etc
Then finally I popped into the Baselitz bit in BM but I shall go on about all o that in my next blart. Time has run out and I want to post this blag now.
ps I have been told of this song by Mike Harding about the Accrington pals since I blarted yesterday so I am adding it to the post https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTpjOfEgPGk
You would find some of the comments made on utube by folk who listened to the son. In fact another ting which has had a major influence on my approach to life was when, as a kid of about 10 years old, I used to go into St Catherine’s (high) church on my own and I was fascinated by the paintings around the walls of the stations of the cross. I think I said to myself there and then that one day i should do art as good as them. Am still striving.
In the book I am planning to pay tribute to those who fought, on all sides, I intend to use an etching by a German artist. They suffered a bit as well and were led by men just as stupid as the Brits. Then it got worse and my dad, his brother, Roy’s dad and Duncan’s dad had to go and sort it out. The fact they survived is one reason I am typing this.
Ironically, some of my favourite artists are Japanese and German. But I shall leave those until another blart.