AN online donations page to honour the heroism and sacrifice of County Durham soldiers during the Battle of the Somme is launched today (Friday, July 1).

One hundred years to the day after the 18th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry – better known as the Durham Pals – were slaughtered on the opening day of the battle, we are launching a Crowdfunding campaign to honour their memory.

The battalion, made up of friends and workmates from across County Durham, went over the top on July 1st, 1916 and suffered appalling losses - with 300 young men killed or wounded in a single day.

Now Durham County Council, The Northern Echo, the Trustees of the DLI and Durham University, with support from Durham Cathedral, have joined forces to raise money for a lasting tribute to their bravery on the battlefield where they gave their young lives.

Durham Remembers will mark the anniversary year by raising £20,016 to pay for a battlefield memorial to the Durham Pals, to be unveiled in time for November's Armistice Day commemorations.

We are asking for your help in pledging £10,000 towards the total through our donations page which gives the public a chance to pay their own lasting tribute to the county’s fallen heroes.

Durham County Council leader, Simon Henig, said: “It is on days like today, 100 years on from the start of that most momentous of battles, that the enormity of what happened and the sacrifice of County Durham soldiers really hits home.

“Fathers, brothers, sons and friends all signed up to serve, and I doubt there would be one family in our county that would not have been affected by the First World War.

"Collectively we have a long and proud military heritage, of which the story of the DLI plays a central part, and many people make the pilgrimage to the Somme each year to pay their respects - yet currently they will find no memorial dedicated uniquely to the Durham Pals.

“That is why this appeal is so important, so we can have a fitting tribute both here and, for the first time, in France. By working together we will be able to do just that.”

The Durham Pals were formed during the opening days of the war, as ordinary young volunteers from County Durham’s farms and pit villages, steel towns and market towns selflessly answered their country’s call to arms.

They joined up together, trained together and, ultimately, died together on the bloodiest day in British military history.

Today, we are marking the anniversary with a special wraparound and eight-page commemorative supplement retelling, in their own words, the courage and horror of that terrible day.

Throughout the summer, Durham County Council is holding a series of tributes to their bravery under the Durham Remembers banner, including an exhibition at Palace Green Library, a performance of specially-commissioned musical work at Durham Cathedral and a walkthrough experience at the Gala Theatre, bringing the reality of the trenches home to a new generation.

Andy Richardson, editor of The Northern Echo, said: “The Northern Echo believes passionately that the memory of the soldiers from our region who died on the Somme should never be forgotten.

“We have therefore marked the 100th anniversary of the battle with special features in the Echo, The Durham Times and on our website, but it is also important that a permanent memorial is established to honour the huge sacrifice made by so many.

“When we remember the Somme we should be thankful that peace has reigned over Europe in recent years.

“A battlefield memorial will ensure that the peace won by the fallen is remembered by generations to come.”

• To support the appeal donate via or send cheques payable to Former Charities Of The Durham Light Infantry and send them to: The Rifles Durham Office, Elvet Waterside, Durham DH1 3BW.