Monday 14 November 2011

32: Tommy's Lot

I'd meant to put this song up during the Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday weekend, but I was delayed by work. Still, I think it's worth putting up now. It's a song about the First World War written by Dominic Williams in the early 1980s. Apparently Dominic Williams was a former teacher at the Liverpool Institute, and a well-known performer on the folk club circuit in the north west of England. I personally learned this after hearing it performed by Liverpool folk singers Alun Parry and Vinny T Spen (organisers of the Woody Guthrie folk club at the Ship and Mitre), who said that they heard Dominic Williams performing it at a coffee shop on Smithdown Road.

The picture above is of the Liverpool "Pals' Battalions" on parade outside St George's Hall before the first world war. It was figured that people would be more likely to volunteer to serve in the War if they could sign up to fight alongside their friends - Liverpool was the first city to test the theory, with Lord Derby mounting a vigorous recruitment campaign for people to join up together with their mates and work colleagues. Within days, Liverpool had enlisted enough men to form four battalions.

Derby addressed the massed troops outside St George's Hall as they waited to depart: "This should be a Battalion of Pals, a battalion in which friends from the same office will fight shoulder to shoulder for the honour of Britain and the credit of Liverpool. I don’t attempt to minimise to you the hardships you will suffer, the risks you will run. I don’t ask you to uphold Liverpool’s honour, it would be an insult to think that you could do anything but that. But I do thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming here tonight and showing what is the spirit of Liverpool, a spirit that ought to spread through every city and every town in the kingdom."

Thousands of these volunteers would die on the battlefields of the Somme and Passchendale.

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