A HUNDRED years after they paid the ultimate sacrifice at the Somme, The Northern Echo is today launching a campaign for a battlefield memorial to finally honour the ordinary County Durham soldiers who answered their country’s call to arms, never to return.

A century ago, the young volunteers of the 18th Battalion Durham Light Infantry – better known as the Durham Pals – were met with slaughter at the Battle of the Somme.

As the anniversary of their sacrifice approaches, it emerged that 18DLI is the only one of the Pals battalions whose bravery is not honoured with its own memorial on the battlefield of the Somme.

Now Durham County Council, The Northern Echo, the Trustees of the DLI and Durham University, with support from Durham Cathedral, are joining forces to launch an appeal to fund a lasting monument to their bravery.

Durham Remembers will mark the anniversary year by raising £20,016 to pay for a battlefield memorial to the Durham Pals to be installed in time for the Armistice Day commemorations in November, which this year coincide with the centenary of the end of the bloody battle which cost more than one million lives.

Peter Barron, editor of The Northern Echo, said: “We want to put right an historic oversight.

“The DLI is the only one of the Pals battalions not to have its own memorial on the Somme battlefield in France.

“The soldiers who died at the Somme deserve a fitting memorial”.

The Durham Pals were formed in September 1914, in the first few days of the war as friends from across County Durham’s farms and pit villages, steel towns and market towns came forward to do their duty for king and country.

After training, they were sent to France and on July 1, 1916, formed up on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

The young recruits were part of the planned attack on the village of Serre, but D Company was cut to ribbons by German artillery before they had even reached No Man’s Land and the rest of the battalion held the shattered trenches under intense bombardment for four days, while rescuing the wounded and the dying.

By the time the Pals were relieved, 300 of them were dead or wounded.

The Northern Echo:

James Ramsbotham, pictured above, chairman of the DLI Trustees, said: “The 18th Battalion of the DLI was a truly countywide regiment and a lot of those Durham lads are still lying in France where their blood was spilled.

“There is no memorial in France to them and their sacrifice and it’s time to put that right. It would be nice to see something that represents County Durham and the young men who gave their lives”.

Cllr Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council, said he visited the Somme for the first time several years ago and was moved by a visit to the Thiepval Memorial, which commemorates the 72,000 UK and South African soldiers, including many from the DLI, who have no known grave.

Cllr Henig said: “Thiepval Memorial has an impact on everyone who sees it. It’s that sort of thing which brings home the enormity of what happened and how important it is to mark what was such a brutal conflict.

“Many people from County Durham make that pilgrimage to the Somme and that’s why it is important to have this campaign now to provide that fitting memorial.

“By everyone working together, we will be able to do that.”

Anyone wishing to support the appeal should make cheques payable to Former Charities Of The Durham Light Infantry and send them to: The Rifles Durham Office, Elvet Waterside, Durham DH1 3BW.