July 1st marked the 99th anniversary of one of the bloodiest days in world history, and the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of WWI troops who laid down their lives for King and Country is being kept alive by modern technology.
The opening day of the infamous Battle of the Somme is remembered as the worst day in the history of the British Army, with 60,000 men killed or wounded. Nowhere was the impact more keenly felt that in Accrington and its surrounding district.
Among the vast number of casualties was the majority of the11th (Service) Battalion (Accrington) East Lancashire Regiment – better known as the “Accrington Pals”. Of the 720 Pals who participated, 584 were killed, injured or reported missing, sending the town of Accrington into a collective state of grief as almost everyone in the town had a friend or relative who had joined the Accrington Pals.
The recruiting ethos of the “Pals” battalions was that men were more likely to enlist if they knew they would be fighting alongside their friends and neighbours. But the catastrophic losses of the Somme Offensive and other battles led to the scrapping of the system, as towns and districts saw a whole generation of their menfolk killed or terribly injured.
Yet their sacrifice lives on, and now social media is strengthening the message that “we will remember them”.
Burnley-based Scott Dawson Advertising runs an Accrington Pals Twitter account (twitter.com./accrington_pals), regularly posting messages – known as “tweets” – on the popular online social networking service.
To commemorate the 99th anniversary there was a special push on Twitter, with a series of tweets recounting the days’ events and telling the stories of individual soldiers present at the first day of the Somme.
It was extremely well received by people who follow the Accrington Pals Twitter feed. Throughout the day the tweets were “retweeted” – passed on so that many more people see them – 150 times and were “favourited” 53 times, spreading the account and its commemorative tweets all over the world.
Accrington Pals’ historian Andrew Jackson took notice of the attention the posts were receiving, commenting “Great tweets today”. Jackson also wrote the book “Accrington’s Pals: The Full Story” which was used as a research source for a number of the tweets sent out on the day.
John Williams, who manages social media output for Scott Dawson, commented: “Although the history of the Accrington Pals is well-known locally, telling that fascinating story on social media means the experiences and events of that historic day can quickly reach new audiences worldwide.
“It also means that younger generations, who use social media all the time but might not have known much about the Accrington Pals, can find out about the incredible sacrifices their ancestors made 99 years ago and ensure their story lives on.”
Scott Dawson Advertising manages a number of different social media accounts for commercial clients and as a way to help and promote local communities.