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Remembering the West Ham pals

This Remembrance Sunday at 11am please remember the 1,000 West Ham Pals killed in the first world war.

upthehammersOne of the reasons why the First World War was so traumatic an event to British society was that so many of the new infantry Battalions formed to fight in the trenches were the so called “Pals Battalions”. Where men could serve with local friends, neighbours or workers.

The West Ham Pals were officially called the 13th Battalion of the Essex Regiment. Unofficially they were West Ham football team supporters who joined on mass with their mates and whose battle cry (and bayonet charge) was “Up the Irons”.

recruitThe Battalion fought in some of the worse battles in the Somme, Vimy Ridge and Cambrai during the War and suffered many causalities with many killed, wounded or missing.

The impact of all these deaths and casualties in battle on the local community was therefore immense. About one quarter of the original battalion volunteers were killed and nearly half were returned to UK with severe injuries

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This poster on the right was issued to help recruit for the Reserve Company of the West Ham Battalion. Formed at Brentwood in September 1915 they undertook their training in Cambridge and after a few men were initially sent as replacements to those men who had been killed in Laurie LeggDecember 1915, the unit became the 14th (Reserve) Battalion of the Essex Regiment under the command of the Mayor’s son, Captain Leo Dyer.

Sergeant Laurie Legg MM (right) was an Original volunteer to the West Ham Battalion. Born in Leytonstone and growing up in Wathamstow, he lived at home with four sisters in Forest Road

The West Ham Pals website can be found here 

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About Sean Whetstone

I am Season Ticket Holder in West stand lower at the London Stadium and before that, I used to stand in the Sir Trevor Brooking Lower Row R seat 159 in the Boleyn Ground and in the Eighties I stood on the terraces of the old South Bank. I am a presenter on the West Ham Podcast called MooreThanJustaPodcast.co.uk. A Blogger on WestHamTillIdie.com a member of the West Ham Supporters Advisory Board (SAB), Founder of a Youtube channel called Mr West Ham Football at http://www.youtube.com/MrWestHamFootball, I am also the associate editor here at Claret and Hugh. Life Long singer of bubbles! Come on you Irons! Follow me at @Westhamfootball on twitter

7 comments on “Remembering the West Ham pals

  1. Great post, thank you. I’m reading ‘Up the Hammers’ and ‘Join the Hammers’ but see no mentions of ‘the Irons’. Does anyone know when the nickname “the Irons’ came to be used generally by the fans? I don’t remember hearing it in the 60s or 70s but may be wrong…

    • Allmost certainly the cry was used in the days when we were thames Ironworks FC but unfortunately my Father, born in 1891 is no longer around to confirm or deny this. I cannot remember the chant specifically from the 1960s but am pretty certain I used it when attending matches in the 70’s and most certanly from the North Bank in the 80s.

      • The nickname the Irons pre dates West Ham to the days of Thames Ironworks in 1895. He pre dates the use of the Hammers

      • You’re right David, I found an Alf Garnett clip from the early 70s where he shouts COYI…I didn’t remember hearing it when I first went in ’72, just wondered if it went out of vogue for a while. But it doesn’t seem so!

  2. This reminds us of the insane tradegy of this war. That 1,000 West Ham supporters were killed in action along with all the others who suffered grievous bodily and mental harm is hard for the modern mind to conceptualise. This was a hidden atrocitys alongside all the other atrocities of war. We were rightly horrified when just 96 Liverpool supporters died needlessly at Hillsborough but Sean reminds us of even deeper and more horrific loss of life in times past. These men were all Hammers just like us and we should remember their heroism.

  3. Yes i have had a good moan over our team this weekend,but when you put it into perspective and remember all the Pals regiments that were decimated in the Great War we are very lucky we were not born in that era destined to fight and be slaughtered in their thousands during the industrialised horror that was WW1.

    • How right you are. My father got malaria fighting the Japanese in Burma and my grandfather was shot in no-man’s land at the Somne fixing a phone wire. Both survived and to make the world a better place. We baby boomers were so fortunate!

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